WMU's Treshaun Howard, 2019 MAC defensive player of year, enters transfer portal

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Western Michigan football had its struggles on defense in this shortened season, and now the Broncos likely are losing one of their top performers on that side of the ball.

Senior linebacker Treshaun Hayward, the 2019 Mid-American Conference defensive player of the year who also garnered some All-America recognition that season, has entered the transfer portal.

Treshaun Hayward

The news comes two days after Western Michigan lost its season finale, 30-27, to Ball State, costing the Broncos a spot in Friday's MAC championship game in Detroit.

Hayward, who played high-school ball at Ann Arbor Skyline, had 229 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries for his career. He played 39 games for the Broncos, including five this season. He missed one game because of a left hand injury.

Hayward, 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, had 142 tackles and five sacks in 2019, when he piled up all sorts of honors, including second-team All-America (Sporting News) and fourth-team All-America (Phil Steele). Steele also pegged Hayward a fourth-time preseason All-American entering 2020.

He will be eligible for a fifth season because of NCAA rules making 2020 a "free" year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hayward was rated a three-star prospect out of high school, by 247Sports, Rivals and Scout.com. He was ranked the 41st-best prospect in the state. His freshman year at Western Michigan, he played mostly special teams and reserve linebacker; as a sophomore, he played 10 games; as a junior, he started and starred.

Western Michigan struggled on defense most of the season because of injuries to key players. Only once did the Broncos limit an opponent to fewer than 27 points. They gave up 38 to Toledo and 44 to Central Michigan, despite winning both games; they gave up 53 to Eastern Michigan, which handed Western Michigan its first loss of the season.

The Broncos finished the MAC schedule 4-2 and aren't expected to participate or even be offered a spot in a bowl game.

With Saturday's loss, in which Western Michigan blew a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead, it'll be Ball State (5-1) and Buffalo (5-0) in Friday's MAC championship game at Ford Field. Kickoff is 7:30; there will be no fans.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984