MAC Media Day has come and gone once again as it does every year, but unlike every year, the Western Michigan football team finds itself as one of the favorites in its quest for a MAC West title.
For WMU to be champions in 2015, its balanced offensive strategy must be as effective if not more so than the year before. Part of that balance is having a solid third option at wide receiver when the usual suspects aren't available. Those usual suspects in 2014, Corey Davis and Daniel Braverman, accounted for 164 of Zach Terrell's 250 completions, leaving 86 passes for somebody else to catch, and who that somebody else happens to be is important.
Darius Phillips was that somebody else, catching 32 of those remaining 86 passes to go along with 479 yards, and he would still be that third option if he weren't playing defense for the Broncos in 2015. Phillips shifts to corner to fill the void left by Donald Celiscar and his departure for he NFL. While Phillips is capable of playing both ways, this shift appears to be an exclusive one, leaving a hole to be filled by, well, someone else.
Someone else not named Braverman or Davis, that is. Having an athlete like Phillips that can move to the other side of the ball is a good problem to have, and it speaks volumes of the confidence the coaching staff has in the players behind him on the depth chart. A pool of talent that makes a player like Phillips expendable on the offensive end and an asset on the defensive is something to be admired and coveted, but who makes up that talent pool?
Bronco receivers in 2014
After the fourth leading receiver, much of the stat sheet are numbers for check down options. The Broncos are going to need more than just check down numbers for their third option, so who will step up for the Broncos in 2015?
Roberts was the fourth leading receiver for the Broncos last season and is a huge target for the Brown and Gold. At 6-foot-3 Roberts can be a nightmare for opposing corners in single coverage, a look he will likely see a lot of with Corey Davis drawing paparazzi levels of attention from enemy secondaries. Roberts was a three star recruit out of Flint, MI, and came to Kalamazoo with tremendous upside. A reflection of his teammates' performance rather than his own, Roberts hasn't really found the opportunities to be productive for WMU that seemed to be available to him a few years ago. Number 9 is extremely talented and athletic, and I expect him to make the most of this gift-wrapped opportunity for more targets. Of course, he won't be alone in looking to expand his role. Not only are the players from last year's team, like Carrington Thompson and Michael Henry, tremendously skilled and ready to play right way, but some players not appearing on the 2014 roster for the Broncos will be vying for playing time as well.
One of those not on the roster in 2014 and the most exciting name to watch for is incoming freshman Kadeem Goulbourne. The three star recruit out of Fort Lauderdale, FL is a big body at 6-foot-4 and can really go up and get the ball in traffic. Though he seems to be of the same physical mold as Roberts, he's dangerous out of the slot too, which puts him in position to fill the void left by Phillips. If you don't buy into the three-star rating at face value, you may find the list of schools that wanted Goulbourne on their roster a bit more compelling. Goulbourne will have to compete with the likes of Henry and Carrington Thompson for playing time, but his size and athleticism should land him some significant playing time this season.
Between the freshman and senior named above lies a ton of talent at the wide receiver position. WMU's recruiting efforts have been well documented and as a result, the answer as to who Terrell will be throwing to this fall behind Davis and Braverman is far from clear. But Roberts is experienced and will see significant time in every game this season, and Goulbourne is the most exciting wide receiver after him. The Broncos key pieces are going to be covered or taken out of the play many times in this grueling non conference schedule that lays before them, and one of these two receivers or somebody else we never talk about is going to have to come up big a time or two. Roberts and Goulbourne have more than enough talent to do just that.