Kalamazoo — Jamauri Bogan is fully healthy and ready to get back on the field for the start of the 2018 season after being one of 21 Broncos who suffered season-ending injuries last year, leading to a .500 record.
Bogan, a 5-foot-7, 190-pound senior running back, is dangerous when healthy. He rushed for 1,051 yards and 16 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2015, and in 2016 he had 865 yards — including 100-plus yard games against Northwestern and Illinois — when the Broncos won the Mid-American Conference championship.
Bogan averaged more than five yards a carry (112 carries, 589 yards) last season before suffering a foot injury in the Central Michigan game in Week 9. The Broncos lost a 28-14 fourth-quarter lead and ultimately the game to their bitter rivals, sending them on a nosedive to a 6-6 record (4-4 MAC) while missing out on a bowl game.
“It was tough, having to sit out, but I think every time something like that happens you learn something different and you become a better person because you had to overcome some kind of adversity,” Bogan said.
“I feel great and excited to get back with the guys and see what happens. Like I’ve told everybody, (QB Jon) Wassink is no longer a spring chicken. He’s very seasoned and our wide receivers are seasoned, and what happens is when a lot of guys get hurt, the guys that were hurt are more motivated, so it’s going to be an exciting year because the guys are ready to go.”
Junior quarterback Jon Wassink is fully healthy after breaking his collarbone and missing the last several games. He replaced Zach Terrell, who guided the Broncos to the MAC title and Cotton Bowl the previous year, and played well, actually leading the MAC in completion percentage (.642) while throwing for 1,411 yards and 14 TDs before his injury.
Levante Bellamy is also healthy after breaking his ankle midway through the season after averaging eight yards a carry.
Bogan thinks the Broncos will have a balanced attack with the addition of former Michigan receiver Drake Harris, along with receivers in Keishawn Watson (41 receptions, seven TDs) and D’Wayne Eskridge (30 receptions, 506 yards), who gained valuable experience in their first years as starters last season.
“He’s a big body, he can run, runs good routes, so he’s going to bring something different to our receivers, going to do a lot of great things this year,” said Bogan of Harris, who is 6-4 and 190 pounds.
The Broncos lost All-MAC first-team left tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, but they return a talented offensive line that includes All-MAC first-team senior center John Keenoy, All-MAC second-team junior guard Luke Juriga and redshirt senior guard Zach Novoselsky.
“When you play running back you understand it’s just not me,” Bogan said. “I have two guys (Keenoy, Juriga) up front who are Outland Trophy candidates and they are phenomenal. On third-and-1 they get a great push and I’m just able to hide behind a few guys and make something happen.
“This team can be as good as it wants to be. We have all the talent in the world. We have speed and we have power. The key to any great team is how well can a team face adversity together, and of course we have to stay healthy.”
Scouting Western Michigan
Last season: 6-6 (4-4 MAC West)
Coach: Tim Lester, second year
Outlook: The Broncos are coming off a season with 21 players suffering season-ending injuries, including quarterback Jon Wassink, running backs Jamauri Bogan and Levante Bellamy, and safety Justin Tranquill. All are healthy and expected to have big seasons with Bogan entering the season with 2,563 career yards and Bellamy showing his speed this past summer, running a 4.32 40. Lester will have to replace WMU’s all-time leading rusher Jarvion Franklin, left tackle Chukwuma Okorafor (third-round pick, Steelers) and cornerback Sam Beal, considered to be the MAC’s top athlete, who was picked in the third round by the Giants in the supplemental draft this summer.
Top players: John Keenoy, Sr., C, first-team All-MAC; Jon Wassink, Jr., QB, 1,411 yards, 14 TDs, .642 completion percentage; Jamauri Bogan, Sr., RB, 2,563 career yards; Justin Tranquill, Jr., S; Levante Bellamy, Jr., RB, 8-yards per carry; Luke Juriga, Jr., G, second-team All-MAC; Drake Harris, Sr., WR; Keishawn Watson, Jr., WR (41 receptions, 7 TDs); Giovanni Ricci, Jr., TE.