Ask anyone who has followed the Mid-American Conference long enough and they will tell you that the hardest thing to do as a MAC school, other than garner national respect and marquee wins, is hold together a recruiting class. Most years every school will go through defections and flips when or if a P5 school comes calling for a recruit. But there’s also the bigger problem of when a P5 school comes calling for your coach. It creates chaos and it creates uncertainty, two things that don’t bode well for a recruiting class.
Such is life this year in Kalamazoo, as P.J. Fleck has taken his oars and his boat to Minnesota. New head coach Tim Lester came in at perhaps the worst possible time, days before a dead period and needing to both hold together those that remained and cobble together replacements for those that did not.
How did he do? Lester managed to maintain but also make waves throughout the signings.
OT Zenden Dellinger, 3-star, 6’7”, 280, R Nelson Snider (Fort Wayne, IN)
OT Trevor Campbell, 3-star, 6’3”, 275, Naperville Central (Naperville, IL)
ILB Dwayne Chapman, 3-star, 6’1”, 218, St. Mary's (West Bloomfield, MI)
WR, Luke Sanders, 3-star, 6’4”, 193, Cathedral (Indianapolis, IN)
LB Tanner Motz, 3-star, 6’3”, 195, St. Johns (Saint Johns, MI)
OL Corvin Moment, 3-star, 6’1”, 220, Vero Beach (Vero Beach, FL)
ILB Treshaun Hayward, 3-star, 6’1”, 210, Skyline (Ann Arbor, MI)
OLB Derrick Hubbard, 3-star, 6’2”, 205, Pioneer (Ann Arbor, MI)
DT Ralph Holley, 3-star, 6’2”, 270, St. Mary's (West Bloomfield, MI)
CB KJ Anderson, 3-star, 6’0”, 170, Buford (Buford, GA)
CB AJ Thomas, 3-star, 6’3”, 170, University Of Detroit Jesuit H (Detroit, MI)
QB Dresser Winn, 3-star, 6’3”, 196, Dresden (Dresden, TN)
OT Dylan Deatherage, 2-star, 6’4”, 267, Bishop McNamara (Kankakee, IL)
WR Darnell Fleury, 2-star, 6’2”, 193, University School (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
RB Prince Walker, 2-star, 5’10”,180, Montini Catholic (Lombard, IL)
OT Mohammed Elazazy, 2-star, 6’5”, 298, Menasha (Menasha, WI)
CB Ryan Lezzer, 2-star, 5’10”, 185, Clearfield (Clearfield, PA)
K Josh Grant, 2-star, 6’0”, 185, Flower Mound (Flower Mound, TX)
DE Ali Fayad, 2-star, 6’2”, 224, Dearborn (Dearborn, MI)
DT Dezmond Lance, 2-star, 6’2”, 265, Adlai Stevenson (Sterling Heights, MI)
LB Na’Jee Clayton, 6’1”, 230, Paramus (NJ) Transfer from Rutgers
QB Reece Goddard, 2-star, 6’2”, 210, Kirkwood (MO)
WR Jaylen Hall, 6’4”, 165, Dakota (MI)
DE Tanner Mathias, 6’4”, 240, Menominee (MI)
OL Tom O’Mara, 6’3”, 265, Marist (IL)
LS Jack Darby, 5’10”, 240, Batavia (IL)
P Izaak Gerkis, 5’8, 176, Seaholm (MI)
The Broncos went big and their marquee signees may very well be Dellinger (Cincy decommit) and Campbell, two space eaters that provide anchors for the WMU offense going forward. Their skill position players offer options in the future and intriguing upside. Luke Sanders is a wide receiver who oozes with potential and its a huge win that Lester was able to keep him committed. Prince Walker is an under-the-radar recruit to keep an eye on, and it would not be surprising to see him be the featured back once Franklin and Bogan both graduate. Dylan Deatherage is another recruit to keep an eye on. He has the potential to develop into an All-MAC type player on the offensive line for the Broncos.
While the offensive signees are all extremely talented, the defensive side is arguably even more so. It is obvious where the Broncos attention was in this class with their defensive signings. It was a solid class and every position group received a boost for the Broncos. The linebacking unit is perhaps highlighted by Dwayne Chapman, a freak athlete. Keeping DB AJ Thomas and DT Ralph Holley committed throughout the process was a major challenge as both are very talented and easily could have been poached by a P5 program desperate at the last minute. The size and depth added to the defensive front seven is the hallmark of this class and something that will pay dividends over the next several years in Kalamazoo.
For Lester, it was an unenviable position of replacing a recruiting behemoth in Fleck, and doing so on little notice at a less than ideal time. That small little bump in the road known as a coaching change led to 12 decommitments from the class since Fleck announced his departure. But that’s all in the past now, and will really have little to no impact on measuring the success of Tim Lester’s time in Kalamazoo.
What Lester has put together, though, is a solid class capable of giving him a foundation that can help build a solid foundation of the Lester era. Is it as flashy as Fleck’s class? Not hardly. Is it still a class that most every other MAC program would be thrilled to have? Most certainly. It’s momentum. And that’s what Lester needs going forward. A homerun class wasn’t necessary and in most respects wasn’t even possible. But this is a solid ground rule double, and that’s being conservative.