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          ***** NCAA Football Preview - Western Michigan Broncos *****
 
 By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Football Editor
 
 Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
 2011 SEASON IN REVIEW: The Broncos played tough all season long despite a very
 difficult schedule and managed to finish 2011 at 7-6 overall, with a 5-3 Mid-
 American Conference record, good for third place in the league's West Division.
 
 Coach Bill Cubit's seventh season at the helm of the program began with a tough
 loss to Michigan (34-10) in a game that was called early due to weather. The
 Broncos took down Nicholls (38-7) and Central Michigan (44-14) at Waldo Stadium
 to earn their first winning record of the season, but they fell to .500 again
 after failing to shut down Illinois's rushing attack (23-20). WMU finished its
 non-conference schedule on the road with a triumph over Connecticut (38-31).
 
 The Broncos were a perfect 5-0 at home last season and will carry a seven-game
 winning streak at Waldo Stadium into 2012. WMU finished two games behind
 Northern Illinois and Toledo in the West Division standings.
 
 The Broncos were extended an invitation to compete against Purdue in the Little
 Caesar's Bowl. WMU came up short against the Boilermakers (37-32) to end the
 year.
 
 2012 ANALYSIS:
 
 OFFENSE: The Broncos may have the best quarterback and pro prospect in the
 conference in Alex Carder. The senior signal caller eclipsed the 400-passing
 yards mark on five separate occasions and finished the year with 3,783 yards
 and 31 touchdowns. His ability to dissect secondaries gave WMU the best passing
 offense in the MAC with 337.3 yards per game.
 
 Carder will not have his top three wide receivers from last season back as
 Jordan White, Chleb Ravenell, and Robert Arnheim all graduated. Replacing
 White's production will be especially difficult considering he led the nation
 with 1,911 yards, 140 catches, and 17 touchdowns. Wideout Eric Monette, who is
 a former walk-on, will be the first option in the aerial attack. Junior Josh
 Schaffer will bring some experience, while the freshman duo of Kendrick Roberts
 and Jaime Wilson will at the very least provide speed.
 
 "Guys are ready to go and excited," Carder said. "There's a real difference
 here and nobody is afraid to go out there, step up and make plays. The goal is
 to win the MAC title. We need to go into each game looking to come away with a
 victory."
 
 The offensive line which allowed 1.8 sacks per game in a very pass friendly
 scheme returns four of five starters. Cubit plans on using a running back
 by committee which will include Dareyon Chance, Tevin Drake, Antoin Scriven,
 and Brian Fields rather than have a feature back.
 
 DEFENSE: WMU's defense allowed 28.7 points per game and was one of the worst in
 the nation at stopping the run (219.7 yards allowed per game). The Broncos have
 to improve those numbers while attempting to replace Drew Nowak, who was last
 season's MAC Defensive Player of the Year.
 
 First-year coordinator Rich Nagy switched the defensive scheme to a 3-3-5 to
 maximize the effects of his secondary's experience.
 
 The good news is Nowak was the only starter lost from the defensive line. Paul
 Hazel and Freddie Bishop are both capable pass rushing defensive ends.
 Sophomore CB Donald Celiscar earned a starting spot late last year and provided
 enough energy to keep his job through the off-season. Lewis Toler, Demetrius
 Pettway, and Justin Currie will join Celiscar in the defensive backfield to
 form a strong secondary.
 
 Junior Johnnie Simon will be an important component again at the rover
 position. Simon was named to the Jim Thorpe Award Watch List after leading the
 Broncos with 114 total tackles.
 
 SPECIAL TEAMS: Junior RB Brian Fields is expected to assume both the kick and
 punt returning duties that were left vacant by departures. Redshirt freshman
 Andrew Haldeman will replace the four-year starter John Potter as WMU's
 placekicker. Haldeman is not the only rookie in the special teams game. True
 freshman J Schroeder is WMU's new punter.
 
 OUTLOOK: WMU's offense might not be as explosive as it was last season (35.3
 points per game), but the switch to a personnel friendly scheme on the other
 side of the football could provide a huge boost to the defense.
 
 Cubit's team will be seeking revenge on September 1 when it travels to
 Illinois. WMU will also face the Minnesota Golden Gophers on the road and
 Connecticut at home as part of its non-conference schedule.
 
 Broncos' fans have to be pleased that their team plays its top competition in
 the West Division, Toledo and Northern Illinois, at home where it has won seven
 straight.
 
 "We're trying to do one thing here, that hasn't been done during our time here,
 and that's win a championship," said Cubit.
 
 The Broncos will not be overwhelming underdogs in any game during the regular
 season thanks to Carder's leadership. WMU could very well be this year's MAC
 champion if a few of the underclassmen can manage to make an impact right away.
 
 
 
 08/20 10:45:48 ET

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