There wasn’t much for Western Michigan football fans to cheer about in 2013, but one of the bright spots was a freshman wide receiver that burst onto the scene and looks ready to become one of the Mid-American Conference’s elite.
Corey Davis arrived in Kalamazoo at the same time as his young, excitable head coach, P.J. Fleck. Entering this season, the two are working hard to turn around a program that is in desperate need of an identity.
WMU suffered through a 1-11 season last year, and while some young players might hang their heads after an experience like that, Davis has come back ready to work and make sure things go better this fall.
“(The players) know what it’s like to have a real rough season, and they know what the sacrifices are to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” Fleck said.
“Corey’s one of our hardest workers. Anytime you have a guy who has had a lot of success early, you wonder how hard they are going to work, and if they’re going to let success go to their head. Corey just wants to be better than he was last year.”
Last season, Davis reeled in 67 catches for 941 yards and six touchdowns, earning MAC Freshman of the Year honors. His yards and receptions were both WMU freshman records, as was his five 100-yard games.
But the thing that drives Davis is to see his team succeed. Anything short of a MAC championship and a bowl game will mean Davis and his teammates have fallen short of their goals.
“It’s a really good sign that we’re looking a lot better than we did last year at this time,” Davis said. “Every day I’m coming out and making sure that I’m getting better, making my teammates better, and doing whatever I can to help them out.”
The Broncos have a young roster again this year, so Davis knows that even though he’s just a sophomore, he needs to step up and help lead this team.
“Last year I was a little quiet,” he said. “This year I need to lead and make sure I’m doing my job. I need to be the best player for the team, not (the best player) on the team.”
Forgive Davis, though, when the season kicks off, if he has his eye on the stat sheet of WMU’s biggest rival, Central Michigan, where his brother, Titus, is a star wide receiver for the Chippewas.
“It’s always a friendly competition between us,” Davis said. “We joke about it every day. I want to prove to myself and to everyone that I can be better than him.”
Despite his closeness with his brother in Mt. Pleasant, it’s Davis’ rapport with fellow sophomore and starting quarterback Zach Terrell that will go a long way in determining the success this year’s Broncos team might have.
“They’re developing every day,” Fleck said. “They’re both in the same class. They’ve got three more years together, and that’s really special when you get a quarterback and wide receiver that can do that. Usually you’re developing one or the other.”
When asked about his relationship with Terrell, Davis did nothing but praise the young signal-caller.
“(Our relationship) is getting better as the days go on,” he said. “He’s a great leader, and I’m really excited to see what we can do this season.”
How far the young Broncos have come in the offseason will be on display right out the gate, as they open on the road against Purdue on Aug. 30.
Last season: 1-11, 1-7 MAC
Coach: P. J. Fleck, 1-11 at WMU and overall
Notable: With such a young team, one of the seniors Fleck is going to have to rely on is Donald Celiscar, who has been named to the Jim Thorpe Award watch list, putting him among the nation's 39 best defensive backs entering the season. Celiscar was second team All-MAC in 2013, collecting three interceptions while registering nine pass breakups and 60 tackles.