The Michigan Wolverines are looking to bounce back on Saturday against an in-state foe in Western Michigan University.

The Broncos are just a few years removed from their 13-1 dream season that landed them a trip to the Cotton Bowl. P.J. Fleck is now at Minnesota, and former WMU quarterback Tim Lester is in his second year with Western.

While Lester doesn’t have the program at as high of a level as it recently was, they are still a respectable MAC foe.  They may not be able to compete physically with the Wolverines, but they have some talent and some play makers, with a QB who can make some throws.

Here is a look at what Western Michigan will have to offer when they step foot in the Big House on Saturday afternoon.

Broncos’ Passing Game

Western Michigan is led by quarterback Jon Wassink. In 2017, Wassink started the first eight games before suffering a season ending injury. Before he got hurt, he threw for 1,391 yards and 14 touchdowns.

He is a quarterback with a nice touch on his deep ball, and can make the throws his coach wants him to make when given the time. Wassink is a capable runner, but sometimes bails out of the pocket early when pressured, so I wouldn’t call him an elusive play maker with his feet. He is steady and comfortable when he has time to throw.

His favorite target is D’Wayne Eskridge, who is WMU’s most explosive receiver. Lester likes to use Eskridge in many different spots on the field. He can stretch defenses down the field vertically, as well as catch passes in the slot for shorter gains.

Eskridge has tons of speed and is dangerous in the open field. Syracuse found that out in week one, when Eskridge exploded for 240 yard receiving and two touchdowns against the Orange.

Another wide receiver to look out for is Jayden Reed (#87). He is just a freshman, and the coaching staff wasn’t sure coming into the season if they wanted to redshirt him or not. But he got plenty of reps against the Orange, and he showed flashes or brilliance.

Reed caught seven balls for 121 yards and a score against Syracuse. He has the size and ability to be a top receiver for WMU for years to come. Putting up those numbers against a power five team in your first collegiate football game spoke volumes about Reed’s ability.

The Broncos also have Drake Harris at WR, a name that should be familiar to Michigan fans. Harris is a transfer from the University of Michigan. Harris only caught one ball for 12 yards against Syracuse, but was targeted several times. It just might be a matter of time before Wassink and Harris get their chemistry down with one another.

Broncos’ Rushing Attack

The strength of the Broncos’ offense is their rushing attack. Even though they lost top back Jarvion Franklin, they still have two other very good running backs.

LeVante Bellamy is their speed back who loves to run off tackle and get in the open field. Bellamy had a huge game in week one, getting just 11 carries but going for 120 yards and two TD’s in the process.

Jamauri Bogan is more of their power running back, and is also capable of doing damage. He touched it just six times against Syracuse, but went for 68 yards and an 11.3 yard average on those touches.

Broncos’ Defense

This is the side of the ball where Western Michigan was alarmingly bad in week one. They allowed Syracuse to run the ball for nearly 350 yards. Quarterback Eric Dungey had 200 of those yards himself, and WMU was having trouble identifying the zone reads Syracuse was running.

When Dungey went out midway through the second quarter, the defense looked like they had a pulse, as they worked their way back in the game. But overall, they really struggled. Even when Syracuse threw the ball, Western’s corners struggled to defend in man coverage on deep passes down the field.

They gave up big plays in the air and on the ground. The one positive for WMU is that they did hold the Cuse QB’s to about a 42 percent completion percentage.

It’s not a huge surprise that this side of the ball needs worked on though. The Broncos lost super star athlete Darius Phillips, and also had to replace leading linebackers and leading tacklers Robert Spillane and Asantay Brown.

It’s a young defense, but one of the bright spots is Sam Beal, who was an all-conference selection last season.

 

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Seth Berry

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