All of us here in the Hustebelt community - and around the college football world - are well aware of the powerful running and incredible talent of Western's 2014 phenomenon Jarvion Franklin. But it's important, as Jarvion would agree, that we talk about the linemen who help drive his success. A month ago I wrote about the Broncos' experienced left guard Jimmy Kristof. Today let's talk about Kristof's partner - the dominant left tackle Willie Beavers.
Beavers, the six-foot-five, 309 pound redshirt senior from Lathrup Village, Michigan will start on the o-line for the third straight year in the 2015 campaign. He's started 27 games total in his career as a Bronco. Two of those came during his freshman year, followed by starting every game during his sophomore and junior seasons. And after last season, those 13 starts earned him a place on the second team All-MAC.
You might remember that 27 starts is also how many Kristof has under his belt. The chemistry and experience between these two lineman will be a formidable threat for the rest of the MAC. Add to that the confidence in an offensive system stemming from a winning season, and you've probably got the best left side in the MAC. And that's why both Phil Steele and the Sporting News have both of them starting on the pre-season all-MAC squad.
Beavers has also helped the offensive line immensely in terms of pass protecting - and keeping Zach Terrell safe this year will be critical to maintaining a successful, balanced Western attack. Last season the Broncos were the 41st team in the country in preventing sacks on standard downs according to Bill Connelly's analysis. (Standards downs are first downs, second-and-seven or fewer, third-and-four or fewer, and fourth-and-four or fewer, when passing isn't really a given.) Beavers and company may have to get better on passing downs however, as the team was 76th in the country in preventing sacks when the Broncos had to take to the air.
Improving in those situations could be the difference in taking down teams like Toledo and Northern Illinois. And I've no doubt that Beavers wants to beat those teams badly.
Beavers' size and strength are what make him Hustebelt's best lineman on the WMU roster. His skill on the line is also what makes him a leader for the Broncos. Having a talented and experienced lineman like Beavers, combined with the running abilities of Franklin, are necessary to give the Broncos the confidence to challenge for MAC championships and foster a championship attitude for years to come.