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Western Michigan star Corey Davis has unfinished business

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Corey Davis

Corey Davis had some unfinished business to take care of so he returned to Kalamazoo for his senior year to try and help the Broncos bring home their first Mid-American Conference championship since 1988.

While his teammate, Daniel Braverman departed after his junior season – a year in which he had 108 receptions for 1,371 yards and 13 TDs and was a seventh-round draft pick of the Bears – Davis decided to come back and work with quarterback Zach Terrell.

Davis earned MAC Rookie of the Year honors in 2013 when WMU was 1-11, then grabbed 78 of Terrell’s tosses for 1,408 yards and 15 TDs his sophomore year. Then, he had a 90-reception junior year with 1,436 yards and 12 TDs, including eight for 183 yards and a TD in WMU’s first bowl win, 45-31 over Middle Tennessee in the Popeyes Bowl.

“I came back to get my degree in sports management and because I had unfinished business on the field too,” said the 6-foot-3 Davis, who has 4.5 speed. “Coach (P.J.) Fleck and I talked about what I needed to do coming back and we decided I should put on 15 pounds so I’d come back better than ever. I’ve put on 12 and I’m now at 222 pounds.

“We’re excited for this year. I’m very grateful to have Zach (Terrell) as my quarterback. He’s very selfless, always helping others. He’s always educating me on defenses, coverages. He definitely makes my job a lot easier.”

Terrell had a quarterback rating of 162.3, throwing for 3,526 yards and 29 TDs last year. He has thrown for 8,567 career yards.

The Broncos improved to 8-5 the last two seasons, 6-2 in the MAC West. They were picked to win the West and the MAC overall title in the preseason poll on MAC Media Day.

Davis opened up Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio’s eyes in the season opener last year when he grabbed 10 passes for 154 yards and a TD in a 37-24 loss to the Spartans at Waldo Stadium.

“It feels pretty good to perform like that on one of the top defenses in the country,” Davis said. “But I’m not really focused on the individual aspects of it, more focused on the team and what we need to do to be successful.”

Fleck, WMU’s fourth-year coach, said Davis needed to get in the weight room and get stronger to come up with the 50-50 balls that could turn out to be the difference between winning and losing.

“That was one of his goals at the end of last season as we talked going into this season in January,” said Fleck. “He’s got to be one of those guys, that no matter where you put it, he goes and gets it. He’s done it at times in his career. But, that’s really what he has to focus on doing. His route running is better. He has a better center of gravity. He’s more flexible than he’s ever been. He knows the offense more.”

Fleck added about Davis’ leadership:

“We have a saying in our program: ‘Bad teams no one leads, average teams coaches lead, elite teams the players lead.’ We’re finally at the part of our culture where our best players are our hardest workers and that’s the greatest feeling.”

While Davis isn’t concerned with stats, he would become the all-time FBS record-holder for career receiving yards if he matches his performance of a year ago.

“He’s a freak of nature, but he’s also a tremendous guy and a great friend and it’s been a ton of fun going through this process with a guy like that,” said Terrell of Davis.

Davis feels the Broncos will be fine despite the loss of Braverman: “We have Keishawn Watson, Carrington Thompson, Mike Henry and a couple of freshmen that we’re excited about, and I have a lot of faith in those guys.”

The Broncos also have an outstanding ground game, led by junior Jarvion Franklin, the MAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2014, and Jamauri Bogan who ran for 1,051 yards and 16 TDs last season, including 215 and four TDs coming in the bowl game.

Instead of facing top-10 programs like Michigan State and Ohio State like a year ago, the Broncos will be playing at Northwestern and Illinois in the opening month this season. Davis couldn't be happier, especially since he grew up in Wheaton, Illinois.

“It’s my backyard, Northwestern and Illinois, and I’ll have a lot of family there so I’m excited to go and play some ball and see what happens,” Davis said.

Corey Davis’ WMU stats

Freshman year, 2013: 11 games, 67 receptions, 941 yards, 6 TDs, MAC Freshman of the Year.

Sophomore year, 2014: 12 games, 78 receptions, 1,408 yards, 15 TDs, First-Team All-MAC.

Junior year, 2015: 13 games, 90 receptions, 1,436 yards, 12 TDs, First-Team All-MAC.

Totals: 36 games, 235 receptions, 3,785 yards, 33 TDs.

Western Michigan

Last season: 8-5 (6-2 MAC West):

Coach: P.J. Fleck (fourth year, 17-21)

Notable: The Broncos are the preseason favorites to win the MAC West Division and conference championship. Their last MAC title came in 1988. They are coming off of consecutive 8-5 seasons, getting their first win over a top-25 program last year, 35-30 win over No. 24 Toledo, to earn their first share of a MAC West title since 2000. That was also the last time they advanced to the MAC championship game. WMU also won its first bowl game, defeating Middle Tennessee 45-31 in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl.

Top players: Zach Terrell, Sr., QB, 3,526 yards passing, 29 TDs, 8,567 career passing yards; Corey Davis, Sr., WR, 90 receptions, 1,436 yards, 12 TDs, first-team All-MAC; Jarvion Franklin, Jr., RB, MAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2014; Jamauri Bogan, So., RB, 1,051 yards rushing, 16 TDs, MAC Freshman of the Year.