Alex Carder has been the face of Western Michigan football throughout his impressive career.
Then, in the randomness of a football moment, Carder was sidelined, and the Broncos had to figure out what to do next.
Carder broke the middle finger of his throwing hand during Western Michigan’s upset win over UConn. He has already gone through surgery and is biding his time as he waits to hear whether or not his college career is over.
One thing is for certain: Carder won’t take the field this weekend against UMass.
Western Michigan’s misfortune hurts, but it doesn’t cripple its offense. The Broncos still have one of the best offensive lines in the conference, boast talented young receivers and have enjoyed decent production from their running game.
WMU is going to put points on the board this weekend and will be yet another test for an improving UMass defense.
With Carder sidelined, the Broncos will rely on Tyler Van Tubbergen.
Van Tubbergen, a redshirt junior, got his first start of the season last weekend against Toledo and spent most of the day playing catchup. He completed 26 of 46 passes for 232 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions.
Despite the lackluster numbers, Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit still has confidence in his backup:
I don’t think the three picks were really his deal. He misfired on a couple and made a couple misreads. In that game, when you turn the ball over as many times as we did and when we got behind we had to be perfect because the possessions become so precious and then you misfire on a couple. I still think he’s going to be fine.
Van Tubbergen is a local kid who grew up just over an hour away from Kalamazoo in Holland, MI. He was a two-star recruit coming out of West Ottawa High School and drew interest from a few MAC programs.
Western Michigan fans best remember Van Tubbergen’s over-the-top performance against Akron last year. In his first start, Van Tubbergen threw for 252 yards and six touchdowns on 19-of-21 passing. While he is definitely a step down from Carder, UMass fans shouldn’t take Van Tubbergen lightly. He is still a quality quarterback who may very well be Western Michigan’s starter next year.
I don’t expect it, but if Van Tubbergen fails dramatically, sophomore Zack Wynn is next in line.
Western Michigan hoped that returning its top two rushers from last year would give its running game a much-needed boost.
What it got instead was a clear-cut starter from a guy who only played in three games in 2011.
Dareyan Chance leads the Broncos in yards (378) and carries (77), and has beaten out both Brian Fields and Tevin Drake for the starting gig. Both Fields and Drake led the way for the Broncos last year, but WMU finished the season ranked 94th in the county in rushing yards per game (121.2).
In order for the Minutemen to stop Chance, they’re going to have to find him behind the Broncos’ offensive line. Chance is unbelievably small and stands at 5’5 and 160 pounds. To put that in perspective for UMass fans, he’s four inches and 15 pounds lighter than Minuteman point guard Chaz Williams.
Chance makes up for his lack of size with speed. He runs a 4.5, and has a great deal of agility and quickness.
This kid is dangerous. Just ask Minnesota.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Jaime Wilson may be the best wide receiver in the MAC by the time he’s ready to leave Kalamazoo.
Wilson, a true freshman out of Belle Glade, Fl., already has 533 yards receiving and five touchdowns. He broke the Western Michigan record for 100-yard receiving games by a freshman with his fourth against Toledo. When he’s not breaking records, Wilson also enjoys returning punts, where he averages an eye-opening 17.7 yards per return.
Coming out of talent-rich Glades Central, Wilson was overlooked by the bigger Florida programs and had scholarship offers from WMU, Marshall and Memphis. It looks like the Broncos got a true steal here as Wilson has already set himself apart as Western Michigan’s No. 1 threat.
Junior Josh Schaffer has also stepped up this year, and has 247 yards and a touchdown so far – already eclipsing his total production from last year. Schaffer is a bigger receiver (6’2, 219 pounds) and has big-play potential. He logged his first 100-yard game against UConn this year.
Daniel Braverman, yet another true freshman from Florida, is slated to start this weekend. Braverman has 94 yards receiving in four games, and heading into this season was considered to be one of Western Michigan’s best recruits. Braverman chose the Broncos over Eastern Michigan, Miami (OH) and Duke.
Western Michigan is pretty deep at tight end. Blake Hammond, a fifth year senior who has made 13 career starts, is a big target (6’5, 235 pounds). Hammond is third on the team in receiving yards (152) and has two touchdowns. Matt Cutler, a Kalamazoo product, is Western Michigan’s other tight end and has made appearances in five games.
Western Michigan has a very big and experienced offensive line.
Dann O’Neill leads the way at right tackle and was picked by several preseason publications as the best in the MAC. O’Neill is a 6’8, 300-pound giant who has started 28 games for the Broncos. Terry Davisson, WMU’s left tackle, is no slouch either. Davisson has started 21 games and stands at 6’6, 300 pounds. WMU’s tackles also lead the conference in double consonants within names.
Kasimili Uitalia, a big guard from America Samoa, had made 18 starts for Western Michigan and was a big pickup from Los Angeles Valley Community College. John Deyo plays right guard, and with five starts is the least tenured member of the line.
Kevin Galeher, a fifth year senior, starts at center. Galeher has 17 starts under his belt and stands at 6’3 and 300 pounds.
There is little doubt that Western Michigan isn’t the same team without Carder, but that doesn’t mean the Broncos won’t be dangerous.
UMass will be facing off against a team that has a line similar in size to Michigan and Indiana. That means that Van Tubbergen will be protected, and Chance will have places to hide and holes to run through. This Saturday will be won and lost in the trenches, which means that UMass’ defensive line will have to play its best game yet.
As usual, teams are going to test UMass through the air, and if Van Tubbergen feels comfortable, his stable of receivers have the ability to get open.
The Minutemen need to get to Van Tubbergen early and often if they want to win their first game of the season. The Broncos have more depth than UMass, but the Minutemen have a better chance to win with an inexperienced QB under center.