Preview 2017: Western Michigan Will Keep Rowing
With a loaded team returning, Western Michigan should be just fine without P.J. Fleck.
2016 doesn’t exist anymore.
There’s no more boat rowing, There’s no more wondering where, not if, P.J. Fleck was going to make the jump in jobs. There’s no more relying QB Zach Terrell or WR Corey Davis.
There’s no more remaking and reworking the program from an 1-11 disaster in 2013, into one good enough to go 13-0 before a tough loss to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl.
Blow off everything that just happened, and all the greatness WMU just achieved, and base the potential of the 2017 team solely on how the team looks coming into the season. Do that, and this still might be the best team in the MAC with a chance to come up with a few major accomplishments on its own.
There’s no way it’s going to be 13-0 again – starting the season off against USC and Michigan State on the road should end that in a hurry – but the team has the talent to win the MAC West and take the conference championship again.
Fleck is gone to Minnesota, but WMU was able to get another young head coach with a ton of energy – but not with the Fleck-like quirkiness – and a world of upside. The former Bronco star quarterback has spend the last several years working with Syracuse, and then Purdue, before getting the gig.
He’s got some head coaching experience – he took Elmhurst to the D-III playoffs in 2012 – and he certainly knows the school and the program. But he’s not going to get any sort of a chance to rebuild, and he’ll be expected to hit the ground running.
And that’s where Lester is being put in an unfair situation.
If he succeeds, is it because of everything Fleck got started? The program was torn down and built back up under Fleck, who got a long leash to do what he needed to do. Lester doesn’t get the shot to do anything but win.
But again, Western Michigan won’t go 13-0, and anything less than a MAC title will be seen as a major disappointment.
2016 actually does still exist. The Broncos aren’t going to look to take any sort of a step back.
Fortunately, eight starters return to a strong defense that gets back a few all-stars, including Darius Phillips and everyone in the secondary. All of the top linebackers return, and they’ll be busy with a line that needs several new parts.
The receiving corps has to undergo an overhaul, too, at the same time the offense needs to find a new starting quarterback for the first time in four years. On the plus side, the line will be among the MAC’s best, and the 1-2 rushing punch of Jarvion Franklin and Jamauri Bogan will be among the most statistically productive in America.
Could Fleck have taken this year’s team to another MAC title? It’s Lester’s program now, and he just might.