Through 33 games, D’Wayne Eskridge has accomplished quite a bit as a Western Michigan Bronco.
The 5’9” wide receiver out of Bluffton, Indiana, is the MAC’s second-ranked active receiving yards leader (behind Ball State’s Justin Hall) with 1,403 yards to his name. And each year, his numbers have improved drastically. From freshman to sophomore year, “Dee” Eskridge’s reception output increased by 76% and his yards output increased by 318.2%. From sophomore to junior year, those numbers further increased by 26.7% and 53.4%, respectively, as he finished with 38 receptions and 776 receiving yards.
Those junior year numbers equate to 20.4 yards per catch, a category in which Eskridge ranked sixth among wide receivers with at least 35 receptions. Throughout his Western Michigan career, Eskridge’s catches have gone for an average of 16.5 yards — signifying an automatic first down and a lot more. The high school track star’s blazing speed (4.33 seconds on the 40-yard dash, per WMU Athletics) allows him to gain easy ground on defenders and serve as a lethal weapon downfield. He’s also very adept at adapting to under-thrown passes in midair and often beats cornerbacks with last-second adjustments.
Eskridge dominates one-on-one coverage on streaks routes, something Western Michigan targeted early on in the year with a healthy Jon Wassink at quarterback. In the Broncos’ season opener, Eskridge reveled in a career day against a Syracuse secondary that would finish the season tied for fifth in the country in interceptions. Eskridge caught eight passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns during that evening in Waldo Stadium — all career highs. As a result of posting video game numbers, he was named the MAC Offensive Player of the Week to kick off the season.
About one month later, Eskridge’s deep threat prowess carried Western Michigan to a tightly-contested victory over Miami (OH). Once again, Eskridge averaged over 20 yards per catch in a contest, hauling in seven receptions for 141 yards in the 1-point win. The Indiana native would post one more 100-yard game in 2018, finishing the regular season with a 123-yard performance in an upset win over eventual conference champion Northern Illinois.
Despite a successful 11-game season from Eskridge, we have yet to see the wideout’s full potential. He only played six complete games with his starting quarterback Wassink, due to a season-ending injury for the quarterback in October. The duo returns in 2018, and Eskridge will be the undisputed leader of Wassink’s inexperienced receiver corps. Western Michigan’s receiving yards leader from 2018, freshman Jayden Reed, exercised his transfer to Michigan State. Keishawn Watson transferred to Appalachian State as a graduate and incoming Wake Forest transfer Cortez Lewis departed from the program several weeks ago, leaving Eskridge with a new cast of characters.
Although there should be some emerging talent, it will primarily be up to the veteran Eskridge to carry this receiving unit. Eskridge is Western Michigan’s leading receiving yards leader since the FBS all-time leader in the category, Corey Davis, was drafted in 2017. Eskridge currently ranks 20th in program history in receiving yards, but if he manages his first season over the century mark, he can pierce his way well into the top 10.