Broncos riding high heading to Bahamas
Kalamazoo – Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck said it was like looking into a mirror when he was asked to describe the play of the Broncos' opponent, Middle Tennessee State, in next Thursday's Popeyes Bahamas Bowl.
"They have a quarterback like Zach (Terrell) -- not flashy, but very efficient -- two really good backs, two dynamic receivers and a bunch of no-names on defense who play extremely hard," Fleck said.
Middle Tennessee southpaw quarterback Brent Stockstill was voted Conference USA Freshman of the Year, breaking the league's record for passing yards (3,678) by a freshman with 301 completions and 27 TD.
Stockstill's primary weapon is another freshman in 5-foot-9 Richie James, who set the school-record for receptions (100) and receiving yards (1,220) and was named Freshman All-American by USA Today.
Middle Tennessee (7-5, 6-2) has scored 70 or more points in two games and played Illinois tough before falling 27-25.
The Broncos (7-5, 6-2 MAC) have an outstanding quarterback in junior Zach Terrell (3,225 yards, 27 TD, 8 INT) and the nation's top receiving duo in juniors Daniel Braverman (103, 1,266, 12 TD) and Corey Davis (82, 1,253, 11).
WMU earned its first victory over a top-25 opponent in program history with a 35-30 win at No. 24 Toledo last month and even more talent is headed to Kalamazoo.
The Broncos have the No. 48 recruiting class nationally, according to Rivals.com, with Fleck grabbing Romeo three-star recruit, receiver / defensive back Brad Tanner just after he led his team to the Division 1 state title.
Tanner's teammate, linebacker / tight end Mitch Heimbuch, is also a WMU recruit. Both players earned spots on The Detroit News Dream Team. The class also has a number of other three-star recruits, along with four-star running back Matt Falcon of Southfield, a former Michigan commit.
"Recruiting is the No. 1 thing in this program and hopefully for the third straight year we'll top the league," Fleck said.
The Broncos will travel to the Bahamas Sunday to prepare for the Christmas Eve game.
"It's like an extra spring ball where we're not going on consecutive days," Fleck said. "We're rotating where the purpose of the practice is No. 1 stay healthy, get our guys who were banged up at the end of the year healthy, and No. 2 get your young guys prepared. It's an extra spring ball. You want to get them prepared for spring ball, ready for next year, then of course preparing for the bowl game with Middle Tennessee."
Fleck is high on a lot of his young players, in addition to former Missouri nose guard Evan Winston, a former Detroit News Dream Team player who will be eligible next year. Winston picked Missouri over Michigan State, Arkansas and Iowa coming out of Muskegon Heights in the 2012 recruiting class.
"Wesley French up front, he's doing an outstanding job," Fleck said of the 6-5, 300-pound true freshman offensive lineman. "Anton Curtis (Detroit East English) is doing a tremendous job at receiver and Daniel Jackson (6-3, 250-pound defensive lineman) from Chicago and Obbie Jackson (defensive back, West Bloomfield) are looking really good. Obbie's not the biggest guy (5-11, 180), but he sure is tough."
Fleck hopes the momentum from the win over Toledo carries into the bowl game.
"We've never had a top-25 win in our 125-year history here and I think what it does is it takes your program to a different level, it gets you the confidence to be able to win a big game," said Fleck. "Going into a bowl game like this, which is a really a championship-type game, they've now been in that and won a game like that, so it's big."