2022 MAC Football Positional Previews: Western Michigan Broncos Offensive Skill Positions – Hustle Belt | Hot Mobile Press

The Western Michigan Broncos will find out how well they’ve recruited for the 2022 campaign over the past few seasons as they’re suffering losses at most at each offensive skill position. The offseason didn’t even give Tim Lester and his crew a break, as a receiver announced he was making a switch before the Broncos even attended the Quick Lane Bowl.

After the season ended 8-5, quarterback Kaleb Eleby and receiver Skyy Moore both drafted for the NFL, with Moore being drafted in the second round by the Kansas City Chiefs and Eleby being invited to the Seattle Seahawks’ rookie camp assumed.

The losses hardly stopped there. Skill positions have new names everywhere except Running Back, meaning we’ll be seeing many of these rosters well into the season.


quarterbacks

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Kaleb Eleby was pushed into the starting XI when Jon Wassink went down with an injury in 2018. Playing the last five games as a true freshman, Eleby showed a taste of what he could do as a Western Michigan quarterback. He started in every game of the 2020 and 2021 seasons and established himself as a top MAC quarterback.

He leaves a hole in the heart of the offense that WMU must fill quickly. The 2021 backups were Jack Salopek and Mareyohn Hrabowski. Hrabowski saw the field more, but almost always as a runner. He appeared in four games and carried the ball 21 times for 121 yards while attempting a pass.

Eleby left the game for a series against the Pitt Panthers last season, and when a back-up was needed when the doubt came up, Salopek were given the offensive keys. According to Coach Lester, Salopek had won the seed spot by the spring game.

Salopek will play as a redshirt freshman this season and will be thrown into the fire. The Broncos have a conference game against Ball State and an opener at Michigan State in week two. Western Michigan was 1-4 against the MAC West in 2021 and doesn’t look to repeat that feat.

There is a fight for the backup spot between Hrabowski and a transfer from Alabama, Stone Hollenbach. Hollenbach chose to continue in Alabama because FCS offers high school in Pennsylvania. He’s never seen the field in Tuscaloosa and finds himself in a limited game time battle in Kalamazoo, at least initially.

WMU offense is based on the game in progress and did an amazing job of avoiding passing downs. The Broncos need to repeat that feat to ease the pressure of a new pass attack.


run back

NCAA Football: Western Michigan in Pittsburgh

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Sean Tyler and La’Darius Jefferson return after a very productive 2022 campaign to lead the Bronco’s fast attack. Jaxson Kincaide was the third defenseman in the rotation and he is leaving the team after two seasons at Kalamazoo.

The Broncos are a run-first offense and overall the trio rushed for 2,348 yards and 23 touchdowns. The passing game has big questions about its effectiveness, so there’s strong support for the return of the experience.

In 2021, Tyler and Jefferson basically split the carries. Tyler hit 178 carries and Jefferson ran the ball 185 times. Tyler is back in a flash and can hit the home run more regularly. In seven fewer carries, he rushed for 314 more yards and caught nine more passes.

Jefferson is Donner, he’s five inches taller and fifty pounds heavier. His workload consists of short-range and goal-line work, and he has 10 touchdowns to his name in 2021.

Third back or first in after an injury isn’t set in stone. Sophomore Zahir Abdus-Salaam had 20 carries last season and redshirt senior Trae Allen had four. Freshman Jamal Hailey of Berrien Springs could be in after sprinting more than 2,000 yards as a senior in high school. After Tyler and Jefferson, there is open competition and the Broncos have had three running backs in the past.

The running backs and the running game in general have a tough job to do in 2022. With a new quarterback and nearly 100% turnover at the wide receiver position, every opponent knows the Broncos will be leaning on the ground game. Until the passing game can show itself as a consistent threat, the running backs will probably see stacked boxes.

New offense coordinator Jeff Thorne needs to show he can shape offense to get the best out of a running game that opponents know is coming.


Wide receivers and tight ends

NCAA Football: Western Michigan in Pittsburgh

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Corey Crooms is the only non-running back to catch a pass in 2021 and return to the Broncos roster in 2022, scoring six touchdowns.

Crooms dominated the game last season in Pittsburgh with 161 yards in eight catches, including a 54-yard touchdown catch-and-run.

He is clearly the top target for Salopek this year.

The supporting cast are wide open when they come to fall camp. Two receivers come in via the transfer portal from the power five level, and the rest of the depth map is filled with youth. In the 2022 class are three new wide receivers and seven redshirt freshmen on the list.

Jehlani Galloway is a redshirt senior from Boston College. His stats aren’t great, but maybe he just needs a chance. He appeared in all 11 games in 2020 and had 15 catches. Zay Flowers passed him on the depth chart in 2021 and now he’s fighting for real game time in Kalamazoo.

Wisconsin transfer AJ Abbott is in a very similar situation. He only played three games for the Badgers last season and is coming to Kalamazoo looking for an opportunity. His only catch of the 2021 season came against Eastern Michigan early in the fourth quarter of a 27-0 game.

Kaevion Mack is the highest rated player in the underclassmen and he has had the most time with the coaches. On paper, he appears to be a game-time front runner, but recruitment rankings mean nothing during practice or games.

Anthony Sambucc played as a close end in ten games last season but was not a factor in the reception game as there were no receptions. Anthony Torres and Brett Borske were the tight ends of the pass catcher and both moved on. Borske graduated and Torres moved to Toledo.

Austin Therefore is a graduate transfer from D-II Mercyhurst who could take on pass-catching responsibility for the tight finish. He was prolific at Mercyhurst for 818 yards and four touchdowns in three seasons and is the size to play FBS football at 6ft 4 and 225 pounds.

The receivers need some players who will step up and pose a threat lest Crooms be double-covered all season. The competition is open and coaches could have their hands full bringing the best players onto the field.

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