Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell

Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell returns to help lead the Broncos' offense. (Mike Carter / USA Today Sports / August 30, 2013)

The Orlando Sentinel's college insider Matt Murschel has ranked all 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country entering the 2014 season. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 128 to our projected No. 1 team.

Today at No. 110: Western Michigan Broncos

Coach: P.J. Fleck (1-11, entering second season; 1-11 overall)

2013 record: 1-11 (1-7 in Mid-American Conference, tied for fifth in West Division)

Look back: P.J. Fleck stepped into the Western Michigan job charged with bringing the Broncosonto the national stage. As evident by last season, it's a job that will require both time and patience. WMU won only one game for the first time since the 2004 season thanks to several factors, including injuries at key positions and an offense that failed to produce points.

Offensive starters returning: 11

Offensive starters lost: 1

Defensive starters returning: 5

Defensive starters lost: 6

Key losses: RB Brian Fields, QB Tyler Van Tubbergen, NG Travonte Boles, LB Johnnie Simon, LB Kyle Lark, LB Mike Jones, SS Demetrius Pettway

Top returnees: RB Dareyon Chance, QB Zach Terrell, WR Corey Davis, WR Kendrick Roberts, LB Austin Lewis, S Justin Currie, CB Donald Celiscar

Strengths: Zach Terrell started six games last season as a freshman after the team lost starting quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen to a concussion. The Fort Wayne, Ind., native wound up finishing as the team's top passer, completing 53 percent of his passes for 1,602 yards and eight touchdowns. His development from Year One to Year Two will be critical for an offense that failed to score a ton of points in 2013.

The offensive line has plenty of experience — 53 career starts — with four starters returning, including center Jon Hoffing and left tackle Willie Beavers. The group allowed 22 sacks last season and will be in charge of protecting Terrell.

Safety Justin Currie (team-leading 113 tackles) returns to anchor a secondary that helped Western Michigan wind up with the best pass defense in the Mid-American Conference, allowing less than 170 passing yards per game. Currie and cornerback Donald Celiscar (60 tackles) led the team with three interceptions apiece. With CB Ronald Zamort (52 tackles) in the mix, the group will be the key to this team's defense.

Andrew Haldeman was solid as a placekicker , hitting 80 percent of his field goals (16-for-20) and going 20-for-20 on PATs.

Weaknesses: Offensively, Western Michigan faced adversity. The Broncos averaged a little more than 17 points per game while putting up 327 total yards of offense. Part of the problem was the ground attack, which ranked next-to-last in the league with 116 rushing yards per game. The good news is the team's leading rusher — Dareyon Chance — returns for a fifth year. He started nine games last season and finished with 692 yards and three touchdowns.

On defense, Western Michigan struggled to get to the quarterback. It was last in the conference in sacks (seven) and lost the team's sack leader in Travonte Boyles (1.5). Four of the team's top five tacklers from last season are gone. Austin Lewis is the only returning starting linebacker and he started only the final three games.

Outlook: Fleck is an endless source of energy and enthusiasm, which is a good thing because he'll need it as he tries to turn this program around. He's already made major improvements to a lot of the school's football facilities, but it takes time to rack up wins. The Broncos lost eight games by double digits last season, but they appeared stronger in the second half of the season.

 

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