by P. Carl Giordano, Managing Editor

Bill Cubit has part of this coaching thing figured out. He’s been an offensive coordinator of some renown, serving in that capacity even while juggling head coaching duties for the last five seasons. With Cubit running the attack, WMU has tallied 30 ppg (34 ppg the last two seasons). He certainly knows where to find good players. Thirty members of the Bronco roster are from Florida, eight more from California. He can develop quarterbacks. His son, Ryan Cubit, finished his WMU career tied for the school record in completion percentage and was fifth in career passing yards for the Broncos. Tim Hiller, who graduated in 2009, is the school’s career passing leader. Bill helped Tim Lester finish 5th in NCAA career passing yards. He coached QBs at big-time programs Florida and Stanford in stops along his coaching road. Cubit's offenses have been good enough to help lead the Kalamazoo bunch to bowls three times since 2006 (including last year, losing a close 37-32 verdict vs. Purdue in the Little Caesars Bowl).

Now let’s get to what Cubit doesn’t do too well. Defense! Western Michigan has yielded 27 ppg the last three years, hasn’t held foes to less than an average of 215 ypg passing in six years and ranked 109th in rush defense in 2011. This unit ranked 12th (out of 13) in the MAC in total defense a year ago. This season the stop unit must replace four of its top five tacklers, including conference defensive player-of-the-year Drew Nowak (91 stops, 8½ sacks, 20½ tackles for loss). That’s not so promising.

The offense will revolve around 2nd-team all-MAC QB Alex Carder, who has blossomed under the tutelege of the Cubits (son Ryan started as a QB coach in 2009 and was promoted to assistant o.c. for 2012). Carder (right, at Michigan last September) has thrown for 7207 yards and 61 scoring strikes in the last two seasons, while throwing just one or no interceptions in 15 of his last 17 games. He’ll be rebuilding his rapport with his wideouts, as the team lost the nation’s top pass catcher (Jordan White) to the NFL. A nucleus of candidates remains, including Eric Monette, who caught 29 passes last season and looked ready to step up in spring action. Up front, Cubit says his offensive line is as good as he’s had. Sr. guard Kasimili Uitalia appears destined for an all-MAC spot and a future in the NFL, while 5th year sr. center Kevin Galeher was named to the Rimington watch list, an award given to the nation’s top offensive lineman.

The running game was a bit of an afterthought last season, used mainly as a change-up from the Carder-to-White connection. However, the ground attack might take on a bit of a different look this season as a trio of returning RBs combined for 926 YR and 11 touchdowns, and a fourth, 5-5 jr. Floridian scatback Dareyon Chance, was jukin’ and jivin’ effectively in spring.

The defense has a big hole to fill with the loss of Nowak, but DE Freddie Bishop (left; 5 ½ sacks) should fill some of the void, and 6-5 Miami native DE Paul Hazel was a third-team all-MAC selection back in 2010. The safety/linebacker hybrid “rover” position has produced the team’s top tackler each of the last two seasons, and that player returns in the person of second-team all-conference jr. Johnnie Simon, who had 114 stops. The linebacking corps will be relying on true soph MLB Devon Brant, who came on last year to nail down the starting gig as a true frosh and ended up with 43 tackles. LB help could be on the way in the person of a pair of big, fast jucos, Jake Minster and Terry Easmon.

The departure of reliable PK John Potter (47 career FGs, 8.2 ppg last season) and both return men has Bill Cubit more than a bit uneasy about the Bronco special teams.

Summary: We can’t see a lot of reasons to believe much will change at WMU this season. The Broncos will run up some big offensive numbers, but will likely be denied a trip to the MAC Championship when the defense and special teams fail them. Western Michigan was 8-4 against the number last year, but is just 53-67-3 vs. the points in the last 11 seasons. In the past, after “big” pointspread success seasons, the Broncos have fallen flat, posting a combined 6-14-1 mark after the only two recent years in which they posted a spread mark of more than one game above .500. Even with Carder at the controls, we wouldn’t look for a big pointspread boon from the Broncos in 2012. Remember, Hiller was 5-7 SU & 3-8 against the number in his final season as a collegian.

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