It's game week, which means it's time to check on on opponent No. 1: Western Michigan. Brandon Fitzsimons of Hustle Belt was able to answer some questions about the Broncos. You can check out the preseason Q&A here.
1. New head coach P.J. Fleck brought a lot of, let's say enthusiasm, to his job. When we talked in June, you were getting pretty sick of it. With basically an entire recruiting class already assembled and a fall camp in the book, have you changed your opinion on Fleck at all?
No, it really hasn't changed at all. Fleck has changed the program into his own. New uniforms will have oar stickers (our mascot is a horse), the team motto is row the boat (our mascot is a HORSE), and he talking about something called "nekton mentality" (OUR F***ING TEAM MASCOT IS A HORSE!). Beside all the "rah rah" though, he has done a decent job so far. However, it is all show. The true test will start on Friday.
Don't get me wrong. I like the fact that practices have become more fast paced and energetic. Apparently he is also instilling some DJ music into the game routine (how much and what is played will determine how good that is, but it is much needed due to a stale band repertoire), so that's cool. But in the end, he also apparently hasn't finished many practice plans, has a recruiting class full of 17 and 18 year olds who could change their mind at any minute and not give a damn, and most importantly.........hasn't....
2. Offensively, who are the key players to watch who could give problems for MSU's defense?
Tyler Van Tubbergen has plenty of options to throw to returning this year. Unfortunately, they are mostly all injured. That's right Spartan fans, you don't get to see MAC Freshman of the Year Jaime Wilson (broken ankle while blocking), big man Justin Collins or speed threat Daniel Braverman (torn ACLs both). So running backs Dareyon Chance, Brian Fields, and senior WR Josh Schaffer will be called on to try and make plays. Schaffer has lollygagged at times though, but he'll easily be the #1 guy (or should be) come game day. Chance nearly had 1,000 rushing yards last year, and will split time with Fields for the bulk of the running game since Antoin "One Yard" Scriven's nickname says it all and Tevin Drake is being investigated by authorities in Florida.
Our line is young, and half of our key returnees (Terry Davisson) is out for the season with a non-football medical issue. If TVT does anything Friday, I'll thoroughly be surprised. He has a new TE, new WRs, and a running game which is still working on improving now under a new line.
3. Defensively, what are the strengths and who are some key players?
Could the Bronco defense finally be the strong suit to this team? I think so honestly. The secondary, nicknamed the "No Fly Zone," lost Lewis Toler to transfer shortly after the Cubit firing. Donald Celiscar stepped up nicely though last season and has a good core behind him led by safety Justin Currie. Up front, the line is very new but sees Travonte Boles return at DT. The linebacker position though will be the main key though. With a fresh line, they will be counted on to stop the run. Former safety, and two-time defending leading tackler Johnnie Simon converts to LB to join Kyle Lark and Desmond Bozeman as the core of the defense. Still, the run game will be hard to stop with such a fresh line.
4. If WMU is going to win, what three things need to happen?
Spartan Stadium collapses severely injuring the Michigan State team, bad case of swine flu keeps half the team off the field, Bane shows up and destroys the field and most of the Spartan team yet the game is still played at Waldo just hours later. Nope? Well damn. Honestly, it'll take a miracle, but let's start with turnovers. The Broncos have to win the turnover battle. TVT cannot throw stupid INTs and WMU has to get to Maxwell (or whoever is under center) and force mistakes early. No silly fumbles either.
After that, this new, lean Bronco team needs to show how strong they are and win the battle in the trenches. With such a young, fresh team, I doubt Dantonio has a decent scouting report on the lines, so the Broncos could get an early edge and control the clock.
Which leads to point 3, get an early lead and try to extend it. If WMU can lead through the first half and control the clock a bit in the 3rd, the game suddenly goes from what I expect to happen (see below) and becomes an actual dogfight, which is something I don't think MSU wants to get into with this Bronco team.
5. Prediction for the game?
Thanks Chris for making me believe the Broncos actually had a shot for a minute. This is going to be a slaughter. Usually I have high hopes, but this is going to be a very good MSU team and what I expect to be a very mistake filled Bronco team. The injuries at WR are the killer and if MSU doesn't cover a 4 TD spread, I'll actually be surprised. Michigan State starts out slow, but like every Bronco opener, they struggle the entire game and MSU kicks it on in the 2nd quarter killing all hopes of a decent game. MSU 42, WMU 10