2009 Opponent Preview: Western Michigan

First look, obviously. More extensive previews coming as the season approaches. Highlighted players return for 2009.

Update: Pritchard redshirted his (first) junior season in 2007. He has 1 year of eligibility remaining.

Western Michigan Offense

5th-year senior Tim Hiller returns to helm the Western Michigan offense for the third consecutive year. He also got spot time as a freshman, but redshirted his sophomore year after an injury caused him to miss the entire season. Backup Drew Burdi is a more mobile option at QB, but has received only limited playing time so far in his career with the Broncos. Robert Arnheim has 1 collegiate pass to his name.


Western QBs Passing 2008
Name Comp Att % Yds TD Int Yds/Att
Tim Hiller 339 522 64.94 3725 36 10 7.14
Drew Burdi 6 11 54.55 87 1 0 7.91
Robert Arnheim 0 1 0.00 0 0 0 0.00
Western Michigan QBs Rushing 2008
Name Rush Yds TD Yds/Rush
Drew Burdi 10 120 1 12.00
Tim Hiller 38 2 1 0.05

At first glance, the Broncos seem to have two options that both strike fear into the hearts of Michigan fans: an experienced, 5th-year QB who is a 2-time returning starter; a scrambler with passing ability that can gash a team through the air or on the ground. In all honesty, Wolverine fans should be scared about the ability of Hiller, as well as Burdi’s complementary skill set as a backup.

Brandon West is another 2-year starter coming back for his third go-round in the Bronco backfield for his senior year. The primary backup will be sophomore Aaron Winchester, who did the majority of his work last year towards the end of the season when West was injured. Glenis Thompson is a senior who got a pair of starts last year, but didn’t register more than 7 carries in any game. DeShazor is a walkon who will likely only contribute in garbage time.


Western Michigan RBs Rushing 2008
Name Rush Yds TD Yds/Rush
Brandon West 204 1026 8 5.03
Aaron Winchester 69 272 0 3.94
Kirk Elsworth 12 68 0 5.67
Glenis Thompson 14 47 0 3.36
Jaron DeShazor 1 1 0 1.00
Western Michigan RBs Receiving 2009
Name Rec Yds TD Yds/Rec
Brandon West 38 280 3 7.37
Aaron Winchester 9 96 0 10.67
Kirk Elsworth 10 61 3 6.10

West is actually a very capable running back, averaging 4.6 yards per carry in 2007, and over 5 yards per carry last year. He is also the biggest of the Bronco stable (pun entirely intended), checking in at a mere 5-10, 188 lbs. The rest of Western’s backs fall primarily in the “speedy little bastard” category, though most of them don’t have particularly great speed of note. With several returning producers at RB, they may lean a little more on the running game this year – so we might see the depth of the RB group when they visit Michigan Stadium

The top 2 players depart for Western, along with their top tight end. Juan Nunez is a 6-footer who actually averaged the best yards per catch out of any of the players with an appreciable sample size. He’ll have to make the transition from 3rd option to the man that the defense will key on. Will he be able to maintain that big play ability? Though the top TE departs, then next two returning players after Nunez are tight ends. Senior Matt Stevens and junior Anthony Williams might be a good security blanket for Hiller, who will be looking for new players to fill the roles vacated by the departing players. The Broncos will really need some unexpected players to step up on the edges. Sophomore Deshon Lawrence might be that guy, for lack of other options. Caleb Clark was only a junior last year, but is not listed on the 2009 Bronco roster.


Western Michigan Receivers 2008
Name Rec Yds TD Yds/Rec
Jamarko Simmons 104 1276 7 12.27
Schnieder Julien 59 712 6 12.07
Juan Nunez 57 701 7 12.30
Branden Ledbetter (TE) 45 464 6 10.31
Matt Stevens (TE) 6 93 2 15.50
Anthony Williams (TE) 2 28 0 14.00
Louis Delmas (DB) 1 19 0 19.00
Dervon Wallace (DB) 2 16 0 8.00
Caleb Clark 2 13 0 6.50
Deshon Lawrence 2 12 0 6.00
Austin Pritchard (LB) 2 2 2 1.00
Western Michigan Receivers Rushing 2008
Name Rush Yds TD Yds/Rush
Jamarko Simmons 1 1 0 1.00
Dervon Wallace (DB) 1 -2 0 -2.00

The Broncos are seriously thin at receiver, which might prevent them from adequately taking advantage of their senior QB. With tight ends looking to be the strongest position, and a good running back group returning, play action passing might be a good option for the Broncos. They don’t have a big group of receivers to return to, so it seems as though teams may be able to key in on what few guys they do have in order to slow down the passing game.

Offensive Line
The offensive line for the Broncos should be quite strong this year, with a number of returning starters. The tackle positions should be mostly locked down, with redshirt sophomore Anthony Parker, who started every game last year and was named all-MAC freshman, and Redshirt Junior Phillip Swanson, who made 13 starts last year, bookending the line. Redshirt senior Paul Wasikowski, redshirt junior Nick Clemens, and redshirt junior Nick Mitchell Manning the inside spots. The positions are a little flexible, obviously. Adding depth are redshirt sophomores Jonathan Jack and Lee Pathan. The only player the Broncos lost to graduation was Steve Ellingson.

The OL should be strong for Western, with a lot of game and starting experience coming back. They may not be the biggest line Michigan will face, nor the most talented, but they certainly make up for it in experience. They should be able to run the ball well and protect the passer adequately.

Offensive Analysis
The Western offense returns some key pieces, mostly every important QB and almost every important RB. The receiving corps will be a serious question, and as mentioned above, I expect the tight ends to be some of the main receivers, especially early in the year before new wideouts are able to step up and prove themselves as playmakers. With a presumed strong running game and tight ends, play action is a likely bet for the Broncos scheme.

Western Michigan Defense

Defensive Line
Defensive end Zach Davidson and tackle Nick Varcadipane led the line in stops last year, but they’ll both be gone in 2009. Senior tackle Cody Cielinski will become the main man in the middle. He will likely accompanied by sophomore Drew Nowak or Chris Pyant, whoever os bigger. The other, who had previously been a tackle, may slide outside to take on a strongside responsibility, and junior Weston Peiffer, who had very limited playing time last year, will be expected to step up as a pass-rushing option.


Western Michigan Defensive Line 2008
Name Tack TFL Sack
Zach Davidson 56 9.5 3.5
Nick Varcadipane 43 5.5 1.5
Cody Cielenski 36 10 4
Cory Flom 26 2 1
Greg Marshall 23 3.5 1.5
Drew Nowak 11 2 1
Chris Pyant 5 .5 .5
Grant Nemeth 2 0 0
Weston Peiffer 1 1 1

This is a super-weak group, with almost no depth at (actually, no depth beyond the starters). They’ll rely on guys who haven’t played a down of college football yet to be the backups. With Michigan’s offensive strength looking to be the running game, with 5 returning offensive linemen and Brandon Minor, they should be able to exploit this group.

Like the line, the Bronco linebacking corps loses its top two tacklers. Senior Justin Braska will have to take a huge leap forward for the Broncos, becoming the cornerstone of the position group. Sophomore Mitch Zajac will be expected to contribute as a starter for Western, and there is NOTHING other than those guys, based on the current roster. Porter and Krasinski both had eligibility remaining after last year, but neither is listed on the current roster.


Western Michigan Linebackers 2008
Name Tack TFL Sack Int
Austin Pritchard 86 12.5 2 0
Boston McCornell 72 3.5 1 1
Justin Braska 52 10.5 6.5 0
Dustin Duclo 35 3 0 0
Mitch Zajac 29 1.5 0 0
Harrison Porter 21 2.5 1 1
Dan Krasinski 3 0 0 0
Fernand Kashama 1 0 0 0

Wow, unless they have a true sleeper stud that redshirted last year, or coming in for the 2009 recruiting class, the Broncos have next to nothing at the linebacker position. Braska is your classic big ‘backer, while Zajac is more of a speedster who can play in space. This thinness of this unit (a theme on the defense so far, no?) should add to Michigan’s ability to pound the ball.

Defensive Backs
Louis Delmas, an NFL second rounder, is gone. So is corner EJ Biggers, who was also drafted by the NFL. Let’s add insult to injury by removing CJ Wilson, who exhausted his eligibility without being selected by an NFL team. The starters are probably up in the air, because that’s a lot of replacing to do. Strong safety Mario Armstrong, the only returning starter, has his spot in the secondary locked down. Junior Jamail Berry will probably be the other safety, though he is also listed at strong. Josh Price, a sophomore, will man one of the corner positions, and senior Andy Dorcely might step up to be the other. The defensive backfield will probably have more quality depth than the other defensive areas, but quality of the starters themselves is in question.


Western Michigan Defensive Backs 2008
Name Tack TFL Sack Int
Louis Delmas 111 4 0 4
CJ Wilson 70 1 0 3
Mario Armstrong 64 0 0 1
EJ Biggers 62 5 0 2
Londen Fryar 42 0 0 1
Desman Stephen 29 0 0 0
Josh Price 18 1 1 0
Jamail Berry 11 0 0 0
Andy Dorcely 4 0 0 0
Dervon Wallace 3 0 0 0
David Lewis 2 0 0 0
Scott Gajos 2 0 0 0
Ravelle Sadler 2 0 0 0
Keith Dixson 1 0 0 0

Like all of the defensive positions, secondary will be a weak point for Western this year. Forgive me for making assumptions, but something tells me it’s not likely that the Broncos replace two NFL draftees with players of similar ability. If it was Ohio State, I might not make such an assumption, but Western is more geared towards hopefully getting lucky with a sleeper than recruiting can’t-miss prospects. The Broncos’ corners should be fairly weak, along with one of the safety positions.

Defensive Analysis
Wow. This is not going to be a good defense at any level. With Michigan’s presumed leaps forward on offense, they should be able to tear right through Western up and down the field. 5 returning starters on the OL should be able to pound the ball right through the weak DL and linebackers (though the Bronco DL should have good size, which is important to note as far as not being crushed off the ball). In the secondary, I assume Michigan will keep the throws fairly simple for Tate Forcier in his first live college action, probably with lots of play action and screens to keep the throws easy. He probably won’t be run all that much, either, just enough to get his feet wet, so to speak.

Western Michigan Special Teams

The Broncos return all their kicking specialists from last year. In the return game, they loses every punt returner of note, but RB Brandon West was their top kick returner.


Western Michigan Kicking 2008
Name XPM XPA % FGM FGA Long %
John Potter 41 43 95.35 11 16 45 68.75
Western Michigan Punting 2008
Name Punt Yds Yds/Punt
Ben Armer 50 2032 40.64
Tim Balice 1 25 25.00

Expect more of the same next year, with perhaps improvements from Potter, because he was a true freshman who improved over the course of last year.

Overall Analysis

Western should be a pretty darn good offensive team this year, though it remains to be seen how well they’ll respond to losing the most important pieces of their receiving corps. The run game should set up the pass with experienced backs and linemen, and Hiller will look to decrease usage some, but increase efficiency with easier passing situations. Defensively, however, the Broncos look like they might be a wreck, unless a miracle happens. I would expect this game to be something of a shootout, but with Michigan’s defense able to key on the run and the tight ends, and no proven threat on the boundaries for Western, they should be able to hold the Broncos.

Posted under Analysis, Football

Behind Some Woodshed In Kalamazoo

There was finally a situation where I didn’t feel so scared about Jeff DeCarlo pitching for Michigan. That situation you may ask? That would be an 18-0 lead in the 7th inning of today’s game at Western Michigan. DeCarlo did give up a run in his one inning of work, but it obviously meant nothing.

The final score is 20-1.  I’ll link to the box score when it comes out.

Travis Smith started this game for Michigan. He pitched 6 scoreless innings, giving up 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out 2. Great start (and win) for Smith, but yeah, Western isn’t a good team at all. They are #244 in RPI according to Boyds World. Their batting average ranks #224 out of 288 teams ranked by the NCAA. Regardless, it’s nice to see a Michigan starter pitch to their level and not the opposing team’s.

Mike Dufek lead the real beating of the Broncos. While wearing the #25 jersey (not sure why), he destroyed WMU in every aspect of the game. Dufek went 6 for 6 on the day with 5 RBI and 4 runs. Holy crap. That means he’s on a 8 at-bat hitting streak including his two singles to close out the OSU series. That has to be approaching a school record. In those 6 hits were 2 homers and 4 singles. Monstrous day.

As if that wasn’t enough, Coach Maloney let him pitch the 9th inning. I guess Dufek was upset he got stranded on deck, unable to go 7 for 7, to end the top of the 9th inning. Dufek unleashed the heat in the 9th, striking out the side with almost exclusively the high heat. Someone don’t stop that man!

Other offensive performances of note:

  • LaMarre – 2/5  4 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB
  • Urban – 2/3  2 R, 2 RBI
  • Berset – 3/4  4 RBI, R, 2B
  • Oaks – 2/6 3 RBI, 2 R, HR
  • 12 Wolverines with a hit, 6 had multiple hits
  • 8 Wolverines with an RBI, 6 had multiple RBIs

We start up again tomorrow at the Fish.  6:35pm start time for those of you in Ann Arbor.  Hopefully we see this kind of game again tomorrow.  No starters have been announced yet.

Posted under Baseball

2009 Schedule: First Glance

With the 2009 football season looming a mere 4+ months away, it’s as good a time as any to take a first look at Michigan’s upcoming schedule, and determine whether the teams the Wolverines will face this year should get better or worse (or remain the same) from last year to this. I also reserve the right to be completely wrong.

Western Michigan
2008 Record: 9-4 (6-2 MAC)
Key losses: S Louis Delmas, LB Austin Pritchard, WR Jamarko Simmons
Key returning players: QB Tim Hiller, RB Brandon West
Projection: Same. Sure, teams lose players to the NFL every year, but it’s not fair to the Broncos (nor would it be to basically any MAC team) to assume they’ll be able to replace a second-round pick in the secondary. However, the offense should really continue trucking behind the QB play of Tim Hiller. The Broncos should be about the same as they were last year, though they’ll rely even more heavily on a high-flying offense to make up for a much weaker defense.

Notre Dame
2008 Record: 7-6 (0-1 Syracuse)
Key losses: WR David Grimes, S David Bruton
Key returning players: QB Jimmy Clausen, RB Armando Allen, WR Golden Tate
Projection: Up. Based on roster composition alone, the Irish should be pretty rockin’ this year. One impoortant caveat: you could say that about the last two years as well, and they were somewhere between terrible and mediocre over each of the previous two seasons. Is Charlie Weis just one big, fat FAIL, or will he start to get the talent he has assembled to perform? There’s no excuse (lol book title/disingenuous motto) for the Irish to not beat up on most of their schedule this year.

Eastern Michigan
2008 Record: 3-9 (2-6 MAC)
Key losses: RB Terrence Blevins, WR Tyler Jones, LB Daniel Holtzclaw, S Jacob Wyatt
Key returning players: QB Andy Schmitt, WR Jacory Stone, LB Andre Hatchett
Projection: Up. The Eagles return some key pieces, though they also lose some important ones, the upgrade at the head coaching position appears to be a substantial one. Eastern was terrible last year, save the upset of Central Michigan in their final game of the year, and even anything approaching competency would be a leap in the right direction.

2008 Record: 3-9 (1-7 Big Ten)
Key losses: RB Marcus Thigpen
Key returning players: QB Ben Chappell, QB/WR/? Kellen Lewis, WR/CB Ray Fisher
Projection: Same. You can tell the Indiana coaching staff is really grasping at straws in an effort to not get fired at the end of this year. They’re moving key players around (2nd-leading receiver Ray Fisher to corner, best offensive weapon Kellen Lewis all over the field, etc.), and completely revamping their schemes (reports say they’ve almost exclusively worked out of the pistol this spring). If it doesn’t work, Bill Lynch and co. are probably going to get the axe.

Michigan State
2008 Record: 9-4 (6-2 Big Ten)
Key losses: QB Brian Hoyer, RB Javon Ringer, S Otis Wiley
Key returning players: LB Greg Jones, WR Mark Dell
Projection: Down. The Spartans were beneficiaries of a bad Big Ten and some good luck last year. They were more like a 7-6 team than the 9-4 that they actually went. Take away 3 of their 4 most important players (the fourth is Jones), and they should be worse. Take away that luck, and they’re just a team. Adam Rittenberg will still predict that they win the National Championship.

2008 Record: 9-4 (5-3 Big Ten)
Key losses: RB Shonn Greene, DTs Mitch King and Matt Kroul,
Key returning players: WR Andy Brodell, LBs Pat Angerer and Jeremiha Hunter, QB Ricky Stanzi
Projection: Same. The Hawkeyes lose arguably their three most important players in Greene (no, Rittenberg, you can’t just baselessly say “I think Jewel Hampton will be at least as good as they guy who won the Doak Walker Award”) and the defensive tackles. However, they upgrade slightly at almost every other position, and assuming they can stay healthier than they have in the past couple years, they should be about as good as they were in ’08. Of course last year, they were something of an anti-MSU, and lost a couple games they shouldn’t have. The Hawkeyes will be about the same quality of team, but the record may improve.

Delaware State
2008 Record: 5-6 (5-3 MEAC)
Key losses: QB Vashon Winton, RBs Chris Strother and Kareem Jones, LB Kevin Conner
Key returning players: DB Avery Grant, WR Laronne Moore
Projection: Down, down down. For a team that wasn’t even good to begin with, losing 3 of your top 5 tacklers, your 4-year starter at QB, and your top 3 running backs can be little other than a recipe for disaster. Delaware State is a true 1-AA cupcake, and will be even worse this year than they were in 2008.

Penn State
2008 Record: 11-2 (7-1 Big Ten)
Key losses: WRs Derrick Williams, Deon Butler, and Jordan Norwood, 3 offensive linemen
Key returning players: QB Daryll Clark, RBs Evan Royster and Stephfon Green, LB Sean Lee
Projection: Down. The Spread HD worked in 2008 because Clark was on-point all year, and the Lions had the skill position talent on the outside to force defenses to spread the whole field. With Clark tailing off in the last few games (albeit due to injury, perhaps), and the OL and wideouts gone, PSU won’t be the offensive force that they were last year. Defensively, the return of Sean Lee should help in the middle. However, the top 3 defensive ends left, and #4 is out for the season with a torn ACL.

2008 Record: 5-7 (3-5 Big Ten)
Key losses: LB Brit Miller, CB Vontae Davis, WR Will Judson
Key returning players: QB Juice Williams, WR Arrelious Benn, LB Martez Wilson
Projection: Same. Like Iowa, the record might improve, but the team will be about as good in 2009. The offense should really click with a senior Juice Williams and junior Arrelious Benn, though you could have said the same last year (and the Illini were awesome at times, just horrifically inconsistent). The defense should take major steps back with its best two players, LB Brit Miller and Vontae Davis, gone and the third best player, LB Martez Wilson, doing things like getting stabbed in a bar during the offseason.

2008 Record: 4-8 (2-6 Big Ten)
Key losses: QBs Curtis Painter and Justin Siller, RB Kory Sheets, WRs Greg Orton and Desmond Tardy, LB Anthony Heygood, S Torri Williams
Key returning players: S Joe Holland, QB Joey Elliott
Projection: Down. Purdue sucked last year, and nearly all of their best players are leaving town because their eligibility has expired (everyone but Siller) or because they cheat on exams (Siller). Couple all that with a transition to a new offensive scheme and a plan to rely on several true freshmen despite their lack of guru approval, and Danny Hope’s first year in West Lafayette may be a difficult one. There could be a coaching upgrade as Wilford Brimley had been mailing it in the past couple years, but there is basically no talent for the Boilers to work with.

2008 Record: 7-6 (3-5 Big Ten)
Key losses: RB PJ Hill, TEs Garrett Graham and Travis Beckum, LB DeAndre Levy, LB Jonathan Casillas
Key returning players: QB Dustin Sherer, WRs David Gilreath and Nick Toon, LB Jaevery McFadden
Projection: Up. The Badgers were a team that lost plenty of games they shouldn’t have, and the important question for tham is whether that was bad luck or the horrifically bad coaching ability of Bret Bielema. The early appearances are a bit of both, so the Badgers should be a bit better, but not by leaps and bounds. Hill wasn’t even Wisconsin’s best RB for much of the year, and Sherer was the better QB, despite Allan Evridge starting the year under center. Simply getting the right pieces the ball more often should help. I think Bielema has a definite ceiling, especially with players he has recruited and coached for four year.

Ohio State
2008 Record: 10-3 (7-1 Big Ten)
Key losses: RB Beanie Wells, LBs James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman, CB Malcolm Jenkins, WRs Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline
Key returning players: QB Terrelle Pryor, RB Dan Herron, CB Chimdi Chekwa
Projection: Down. The Buckeyes really should have been awesome last year, and might have been if Terrelle Pryor had started the whole year, and not been a true freshman. Alas, this was the case, and OSU’s last best chance at a national title for the next couple years leaves town with Beanie Wells and James Laurinaitis. Regardless, the Buckeyes are never going to fall completely off the map as long as Jim Tressel is the coach, so there’s a definite floor for their team. either way, they’ll take a significant step back in 2009.

Posted under Analysis, Football

Men’s Lacrosse Weekend Report

The Lacrosse team had yet another undefeated weekend, but I only managed to catch one of the games, so I’ll only report on that one.

Western Michigan
On a cold an blustery night at Vicksburg High School (where Western plays their home games), the Wolverines allowed the Broncos to get on board first, but that was the only time they really threatened the entire night, as Michigan stormed back, eventually taking the 15-4 victory. With fellow goalkeeper Andrew Fowler on the sidelines with a walking boot and crutches, sophomore Mark Stone played the whole game in net, coming up huge a few times for Michigan. The margin of victory could have been much bigger for the Wolverines had the Bronco goalkeeper, Patrick Riley, not made a few spectacular saves of his own. Trevor Yealy led the Wolverines yet again, as he finished his hat trick in the first quarter, and tacked on one more later in the game. Riley Kearns and Kevin Zorovich each put 2 on the board, and sophomore LSM Matt Asperheim was able to notch his second goal of the year as well. Late in the game, the Wolverines played for possession, content to not run up the score (their coach must be less of a dick than Colorado State’s, as JP seemed eager to score as many as possible on the Rams). The fourth quarter passed by scorelessly, and several Michigan bench players got significant playing time. This leads me to the matter of the Western fans, who were… well, they’re what I would expect Western Michigan fans to be. They were actually complaining at the end of the game about Michigan not running up the score, because they wanted to see the teams “just play lacrosse.” Of course, they couldn’t manage to say this without lacing the sentence with profanity. Late in the third quarter, Michigan midfielder Michael Bartomioli was victimized by a very solid (clean) hit right near midfield. He was knocked flat on the ground, but immediately got back up and continued playing. When he came off the field about three minutes later, the Bronco fans were so classy as to yell that he was coming off the field because he couldn’t handle the physical play (which, what? he kept playing after the hit), and call him a “f****** p****.” I assume it was all Barto could do to not turn around and point to the scoreboard in retaliation. You stay classy, Kalamazoo.

As this game took place in Lake Forest, Illinois, and I was otherwise occupied with attending football’s spring game, I didn’t manage to catch the 12-5 victory over the #16 Illini. From the sounds of it, the first half was a little contentious, but then the Wolverines were able to pull away in the third quarter.

Up Next
The Wolverines have a weekend off (perhaps much-needed, considering all the players who seem to be banged up), before they face Michigan State April 25th in the Great Lakes Lacrosse Classic in Birmingham at Seaholm High School. The following week, it’s the CCLA conference tournament at Saline High School.

Posted under Other Sports