Coach: P.J. Fleck (Third Season)
2015 Preseason MAC Media Poll (Second place MAC West)
► Can sophomore running back Jarvion Franklin back up his spectacular freshman season with another outstanding campaign?
► Western Michigan lost to Northern Illinois and Toledo last year. Both teams are among the top contenders in the West once again. Can WMU successfully run a season-ending gauntlet that includes those two and MAC East favorite Bowling Green?
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► Two defensive backs and a big tackle are among the departed on defense. Will their replacements step up?
► Western Michigan finished second in scoring (33.8 ppg) last year. That was 3.0 points behind top producer Toledo. The Broncos were fourth in total offense (438.2 ypg).
► WMU displayed a fairly balanced offense. It was fifth in rushing (170.8 ppg, 29 TDs) and third in passing (267.3 ypg, 26 TDs).
► Jarvion Franklin was the first player in MAC history to win both Freshman of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year honors for the same season. He provided 24 touchdowns for the Broncos. That was tops in the league and nine better than the second place finisher. Overall, Franklin carried the ball 306 times for 1,551 net yards, averaging 119.3 ypg (4th MAC).
► While Franklin was carrying the run game, quarterback Zac Terrell performed well enough to earn All-MAC second team honors as a sophomore. Terrell, in fact, topped the league in pass efficiency, completing 250 of 368 for 3.343 yards with 26 TDs and 10 interceptions.
► Terrell will once again enjoy a wealth of very capable receiving targets. Corey Davis led the MAC in receiving yards (1,408 total. 117.3 ypg) as a sophomore. Classmate Daniel Braverman, meanwhile, paced the entire conference in catches (86). As a matter of fact, WMU returns its top five receivers.
► Overall, nine starters return on the offensive side of the ball. Seniors James Kristof and Willie Beavers will anchor the offensive line. Taylor Moton returns and sophomore Chukwuma Okorafor should be a solid starter. Freshman John Kenny figures at center.
► While there is some turnover in the secondary, there is also some outstanding talent returning. Defensive back Donald Ceiscar earned All-MAC First Team honors in his final Broncos season, while (DB) Justin Currie made the third team. Both are gone.
Senior cornerback Ronald Zamort, who totaled four interceptions, returns after garnering All-MAC Third Team honors in 2014. Safety Rontavious Atkins, another senior, also returns as a starter.
► WMU ranked second in pass defense (216.3 ypg) last year. It was fourth against the run (153.5 ypg).
► Senior linebcker Grant Depalma is back after registering 102 tackles (8 TFL) in 2014. That was second only to the departed Currie’s 105. Robert Spillane is back after 67 stops in his freshmen campaign.
► WMU lost a biggie up front with the departure of 315-pound tackle Richard Ash. Seniors Jerrell McKinney and Cleveland Smith, however, are back, along with Sophomore Nathan Braster.
► Senior Andrew Haldeman hit 14 of 17 field goals last year, with a long of 44 yards. J. Schroeder, another senior, will again handle punting after averaging a career-best 42-8 yards. Darrius Phillips earned All-MAC Third Team honors as a kickoff returner in 2014. His 26.4 yards per return was a MAC best. Phillips also played wide receiver, but will be switching to cornerback in 2015.
► Fleck and the Broncos are on the roll. With so many weapons returning, WMU is absolutely in a position to challenge for the MAC West crown. One of the few things going against the Broncos is a very difficult schedule down the stretch.
After hosting MAC East favorite Bowling Green Nov. 11, Western closes with road games at Northern Illinois and Toledo. No challenger can afford to stumble early, but the Broncos no doubt realize how critical their November games will be.
► Western Michigan was just one vote behind Toledo for the top spot in the MAC Media preseason poll.
► Western Michigan likely has one of the toughest assignments in program history Sept. 26. That is when the Broncos face Ohio State. The Buckeyes recently became the first team to be a unanimous Associated Press preseason No. 1 pick.
► Another big date on the Broncos schedule is the Sept. 4 opener when Michigan State comes to Waldo Stadium. "We have the second-hardest non-conference schedule in the country and a top-33 schedule overall in the country," Fleck said. "I look at it as opportunistic. We said when we got here we wanted to play the best teams in the nation … and we’re obviously doing that."