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2023 Western Michigan Broncos Positional Previews: Offensive skill positions

Everything is new for the Broncos on offense. New coaches, new scheme and new players in new roles.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 02 Western Michigan at Michigan State Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2023 season for the Western Michigan Broncos could be about finding the silver linings. The Broncos enter the season returning 49 percent of their team’s production according to ESPN’s Bill Connelly. Most of the losses are on defense, but the production coming back to the offense isn’t particularly great.

The positive take from that for a new coach is that a new system being installed isn’t going to create a perceived drop-off if it doesn’t click right away. With a brand new offensive staff and experienced transfers coming into just about every position, Coach Lance Taylor is trying to shorten the development time his roster needs.

The transfers of Corey Crooms and Sean Tyler are going to be difficult to replace, but that’s the task the offense has.


NCAA Football: Old Dominion at East Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports


  • None


  • Hayden Wolff (Transfer from Old Dominion)


  • Treyson Bourguet
  • Jack Salopek
  • Mareyohn Hrabowski
  • Stone Hollenbach
  • Mark Kencny
  • Arik Moyers

The Tim Lester era at Western Michigan was hallmarked by potent offenses that were able to score enough points to win. The offense ran the ball more often than they passed, but the quarterback was leaned on for high-leverage game situations. Jon Wassink and Kaleb Eleby were able to deliver results well enough for the Broncos during their time in Kalamazoo but the 2022 season was, to describe it charitably, rough.

The entire quarterback room returns for 2023 with no losses. Jack Salopek started the year and seemingly regressed after a good first career start vs. Michigan State. Treyson Bourguet took the starting spot after a disastrous game against Ohio and the team performed better down the stretch.

New offensive coordinator Billy Cosh ran an air raid offense at VMI and an up-tempo, spread offense at Richmond. The offense is going to change from running the ball 53 percent of the time to passing the ball at the same rate. It doesn’t sound like much but that’s about 100 runs from 2022 that turn into passes. The expectations of the quarterback in Kalamazoo are different this season.

Hayden Wolff transfers in from Old Dominion as the most accomplished college quarterback. He started for the Monarchs in ‘21 and ‘22 and threw for 2,908 yards with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions. His 57 percent completion percentage is better than anyone else’s by eight points. He’s new to Kalamazoo but he might be the new coaching staff’s guy.

Salopek and Bourguet have new competition for the spot this fall and need to find a way to differentiate themselves as well. Salopek got more volume last season and doubled the yards that Bourguet threw for but also threw 11 interceptions. He held a slight edge in yards per attempt, but his 28 sacks offset that. Bourguet showed better mobility and kept the offense in better situations when he avoided sacks, but his passing ability wasn’t head and shoulders above Salopek.

Mareyohn Hrabowski started one game for an injured Salopek and when it became obvious that Western would need to throw to make a comeback, Stone Hollenbach played two series and threw an interception. Hrabowski has been used as a running quarterback to this point in his career and Stone Hollenbach has scarcely seen the field.

The new offense will prioritize a high completion percentage from the quarterback, which puts Wolff in the driver's seat. The offense will rely on the passing game for medium gains far more than under Lester and three quick incompletions will put more pressure on the Bronco defense.

Running Backs

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 08 Eastern Michigan at Western Michigan Photo by Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images


  • Sean Tyler (transfer to Minnesota)
  • La’Darius Jefferson (graduation)


  • Keshawn King (transfer from Virginia Tech)
  • CJ Hester (incoming recruit)
  • Tre’ Hartwell (incoming recruit)


  • Zahir Abdus-Salaam
  • Jalen Buckley
  • Trae Allen
  • Jamal Hailey

It cannot be overstated how impactful the departure of Sean Tyler and La’Darius Jefferson is to the Bronco’s running back room. They combined for 1,262 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 2022 and the biggest issue is the steep drop-off in production after them.

Jefferson was suspended after an off-the-field incident after the Ohio game and that gave Zahir Abdus-Salaam an opportunity to show what he can do with consistent carries. He averaged 2.2 yards per carry and more of the load fell on Tyler’s shoulders down the stretch.

Abdus-Salaam is the only returning running back with more than 10 carries from 2022. The running backs in the new scheme will still run the ball, but they will also be targets in the passing game. In 2022, the Bronco running backs combined for 18 catches. The top two running backs for the Richmond Spiders caught a combined 59 passes. They will certainly be one more thing for opposing linebackers to think about in passing situations.

The most direct replacement for Tyler and Jefferson is Keshawn King from Virginia Tech. He was a low four-star recruit out of high school with scholarship offers to play across the nation including Ole Miss, Arkansas and Boston College. At Virginia Tech, he ran for an even 900 yards in his four seasons and had 20 catches out of the backfield in 2022. Expect the new Western offense to take advantage of that.

CJ Hester and Tre’ Hartwell are new recruits that shouldn’t need to contribute in their first season, but with new coaches evaluating the position group, anything can happen. Hester chose WMU over six other MAC programs while going through a coaching change. Hartwell had fewer offers but Arkansas St, Toledo and Tulane are good football programs and he chose Western Michigan.

The running back group will be an interesting group to watch early in the year. What will be their role in the new offense? Who is going to have the first crack at the starting spot? Is depth going to be an issue like it was last year or is the roster better suited to this offense?

There are athletes here, how well they adapt will determine their success or failure.

Wide Receivers

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 08 Eastern Michigan at Western Michigan Photo by Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images


  • Corey Crooms (transfer to Minnesota)
  • Kaevion Mack (not listed on 2023 roster)
  • Cory Cunningham (not listed on 2023 roster)
  • Isiah Washington (not listed on 2023 roster)
  • AJ Abbott (graduated)


  • Kenneth Womack (transfer from Sacred Heart [FCS])
  • Leroy Thomas (transfer from VMI [FCS])
  • Logan Lester (incoming recruit)
  • Josh Franklin (incoming recruit)
  • Tony Martin iIncoming recruit)
  • Mohammed Sayed (incoming recruit)
  • Jacob Szuma (incoming recruit)
  • Joey Pope (incoming recruit)
  • Landyn Moore (incoming recruit)


  • Jehlani Galloway
  • Anthony Sambucci
  • Nate Anderson
  • Malique Dieudonne
  • Henry Wilson Jr
  • Jashawn Johnson
  • Cam Hedgecock
  • Elliott Gashuis
  • Tyren Mason
  • Willie Berris

This is the position group with the most opportunity for improvement for three reasons. First, the scheme is going to rely on the wide receiver position much more than the previous system. Second, they will be on the field four at a time. Lastly, Wolff provides one accomplished passer on the team to get them the ball consistently.

There’s a lot of upside. The players need to make it work.

Corey Crooms transferred to Minnesota with Sean Tyler and takes 57 of the team’s 167 receptions with him. It’s another big blow to the offense, but it opens the door for other players to make their mark.

The two returning wide receivers with double-digit receptions are Jehlani Galloway and Anthony Sambucci. There are so many changes in the Bronco offense that having chemistry with the returning quarterbacks may not matter. Their main competition looks like a pair of accomplished FCS receivers.

Kenneth Womack caught 98 passes for 1,234 yards at Sacred Heart and Leroy Thomas was a freshman in Billy Cosh’s final season as the VMI offensive coordinator. It was his best season as well with 54 catches and 594 yards. Outside of Womack and Thomas, seven recruits or walk-ons fill out the receiver room. Logan Lester and Tony Martin had power five offers and chose Western Michigan. They might be early contributors with a new set of eyes evaluating everyone.

Elliott Grashuis is a six-foot-five redshirt sophomore that stands two inches taller than the rest of the receivers. Skyy Moore’s younger brother, Landyn, is a walk-on with the program that helped get his brother drafted in the second round.

Tight Ends

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 08 Eastern Michigan at Western Michigan


  • Josh Burgett (graduated)
  • Kevin Meckert (not listed on 2023 roster)


  • Jack Parker (incoming recruit)
  • Brennan Wooten (incoming recruit)


  • Blake Bosma
  • Austin Hence
  • Mitch Bartol
  • Kadinn Morris
  • Will Gerig

The Tim Lester offense loved tight ends. Blocking tight ends, pass-catching tight ends, red zone targets, it didn’t matter. Lester loved them all. I can’t say that they won’t have a place in the new offense, but one Richmond Spider tight end registered a reception last season.

Josh Burgett is the only tight end leaving that had a reception last season, and Austin Hence will try to finally get on the field after transferring from Mercyhurst prior to last year. Hence went down with a season-ending injury in the fall, and has recovered well enough to play this season.

This is the only non-quarterback position where the leader in production returns, and it’s Blake Bosma. He was a reliable tight end in the passing game until the receptions dried up after the Ohio game. Before that, he was a three-catch-a-game player for seven yards each. It’s not game-breaking, but it is reliable.

Jack Parker and Brennan Wooten come to Western Michigan with Group of Five teams on their offer sheets but are two of the bigger bodies in the position group as freshmen.

This is the second in a series of Western Michigan football previews, with our next piece addressing the offensive skill positions. If you missed the first part or want to look at other MAC preview pieces, please click the link to our storystream here.

WMU’s season kicks off Thursday, Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. Eastern time in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where they are set to play FCS squad St. Francis [PA] Red Flash.