Bob Wojnowski, Angelique S. Chengelis and Matt Charboneau preview Week 2 games: Michigan vs. Western Michigan and Michigan State vs. Arizona State. The Detroit News
Jaylon Moore plans to take care of business when Western Michigan faces Michigan at the Big House on Saturday.
Moore, the Broncos’ 6-foot-5, 305-pound redshirt sophomore left tackle, has watched and learned from the best of them at his position the last two years. He thinks he is now ready to handle the job of protecting Jon Wassink’s blind side when they go up against the Wolverines' defensive line, including Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich.
Moore, who played at Detroit Consortium, was never a Michigan or Michigan State fan while growing up in the Motor City and this trip to the Big House will be his first.
Moore watched Taylor Moton play at left tackle while redshirting during the Broncos’ Mid-American Conference championship year in 2016 when they went unbeaten before a Cotton Bowl loss to Wisconsin.
Moton was a second-round pick of Carolina in the 2017 NFL Draft and is battling for the Panthers’ starting left tackle job for the right to protect Cam Newton.
And, Chukwuma Okorafor (Southfield) was WMU’s left tackle last season, giving Moore some lessons before getting drafted in the third round by Pittsburgh this past April.
One thing’s for sure, Moore won’t be intimidated by playing in front of a large crowd with a great atmosphere after getting in some playing time in last year’s season opener at Southern Cal, when the Broncos were tied at 28 with eight minutes left before suffering a 49-31 loss.
“It was a good experience, a very fun experience learning from the offensive linemen that were here before me and doing all the things that I’m trying to accomplish,” Moore said. “Learning from Chukes (Okorafor), he taught me a lot. He showed me how to come in and work hard every day, try to get better at something every day, just how to have a hard-working mentality.”
Moore came to WMU at 265 pounds, putting on 40 pounds to get him to his current weight. He enjoys the responsibility of playing left tackle.
“Every position is important, but playing left tackle I know that I have to have the quarterback’s back every single play and protect his blind side,” Moore said.
The Broncos dropped their opener, 55-42 at home to Syracuse last Friday. Still, the Broncos piled up 621 total yards (379 passing), including 242 on the ground, averaging 8.6 yards a carry.
“I feel like I can get a lot better, feel as a whole offense we can get a lot better since there were a lot of details we missed out on, which resulted in us getting off to a slow start,” said Moore, pointing to the Broncos trailing 34-7 at halftime. “We have to focus on starting fast. It should be a great experience for us as an entire team to go in there (at the Big House) and play against a really good football team and attack and play hard.
“We’re just going to go in and play our hearts out just like we do every single day in practice. We know they have a good defense and it’s an honor to be able to line up against those guys.”
Moore is playing on a unit that showcases All-MAC first-team center John Keenoy and All-MAC second-team junior guard Luke Juriga; both are Outland Trophy candidates.
“I feel like I’m very balanced and my footwork is right every single play, whether I’m pass blocking or run blocking,” Moore said. “I feel like we have a very explosive offense and on any given snap we can run the ball for 80 yards or get off a deep ball. We’re very balanced.”
The Broncos had multiple big plays during the second half against Syracuse, which made things interesting, leading to 28 third-quarter points, including a 37-yard pass from Wassink to Jayden Reed to set up D’Wayne Eskridge’s 21-yard TD reception; a 31-yard run by Levante Bellamy; an 84-yard TD pass from Wassink to Eskridge; a 64-yard TD run by Bellamy to pull the Broncos within 34-28; and a 59-yard pass to Eskridge to set up another TD.
Eskridge finished with eight receptions for 240 yards, but former Michigan receiver Drake Harris came up with just one catch while being targeted seven times.
Bellamy was one of 21 players who suffered season-ending injuries in 2017, leading to a 6-6 record and no bowl bid after the Broncos made three straight bowl appearances. He showed he has fully recovered from his ankle injury, rushing for 120 yards on 11 carries with two TDs against the Orange.
The Broncos beat a pair of Big Ten teams (Northwestern, Illinois) during their MAC championship season, but are just 1-27 against top-25 teams, with the lone win coming against conference rival Toledo, 35-30, in 2015.