2021 Production Lost – Western Michigan

The last of Pitt’s three Out of Conference (OOC) games to be reviewed – the Western Michigan Broncos.

Tim Lester enters his sixth season as head coach of the Broncos. Overall, his record is 32 – 25 (22-6 conference, 9-7 OOC, and 1–2 bowls). Obviously, last year’s 44-41 victory over Pitt is his claim to fame. He has never won his division but has finished second and tied for second two other times. The other two years they finished fourth (including last season).

After going 8-5 in 2021, WMU rewarded Lester with a two-year extension thru the 2025 season. No financial terms were announced but another eight win season will automatically add a year to his contract.

How did they do it – the 2021 schedule and results. Also, the WMU 2022 OOC schedule.

Pitt is the high lite of the WMU home schedule.

There are no 5.7, 3-stars and above. Just a few 5.6 and 5.5, 3-stars in the 2022 recruiting class. The Broncos did pick up a few (four) from the TP.

Hollenbach was a walk-on QB at Alabama. He had no stats in his three seasons in Alabama. All transfers are for positions of need.

WMU did lose 8 players to the TP – six offense, two defense.

On to the stars identified as NCAA team leaders in selected stats or members of the All MAC Conference teams.

Reminds me of all the blue (eligibility) color coding on Wake Forest’s chart.

The  offense revolves around QB play. I have added sacked and yards lost to the QB chart.

Eleby is gone. Probably made an unwise decision on entering the NFL draft with eligibility remaining. He did sign a free agent contract.

Jack Salopek from Irwin (Norwin) is the heir apparent to Eleby. Hrabowski, as you will see, is more of a running QB.

Western Michigan running backs and receivers 2021 activity. Also returning production summary for Pitt, West Virginia, and Tennessee.

The Bronco run game seems to be intact. The top three returning RB’s had nearly 2,100 yards between them.

It is the WR group that has ben devastated. Seven of the nine receivers were lost to eligibility or the TP. Maybe WMU goes with a running QB (Hrabowski-class of 2021).

WMU does return their deep ball threat in Corey Crooms.

Can the Oline stats put a damper on the returning production. I added Pitt allowed sacks and tackles for loss.

Western Michigan had a very solid Oline in 2021. That is verified in their number six ranking in tackles for loss allowed (TFL’s). But they lost three starters to eligibility. They did pick-up a player with experience from the TP. But they are now in rebuild mode.

On a side note, I had previously stated that the 2021 Oline data is from the NCAA. I also said that since the NCAA ignores the 2020 season, a freshman player can be from the class of 2019. 2020 or 2021 and be marked as a freshman. WMU is an example of this in action. Jacob Gideon (thirteen starts) and Addison West are freshmen per the NCAA. Both are from the class of 2019. We have until the end of the 2025 season before we see the end of these abnormalities.

On to the defensive review.

Western Michigan had 38 players make a defensive stat. But six of them were offense players. Two were special teams players. (The punter made 6 solo tackles and had two assists.) (Pitt’s Ben Sauls (kickoff specialist) had four tackles. Maybe Pitt needs to work on kickoff coverage.) That leaves 30  defensive players making a stat.

The chart below strips out the non-defensive players and seven players who did not make at least six or more tackles.

The below chart includes 23 players- nine DB’s, seven DL’s and seven LB’s making up (and I mean made up) “six+ tackles two deep.”  Yep, I lowered the number of tackles to have at least a “two deep.”

Per the NCAA defensive team stats, the Broncos where an average defensive team. Though they seemed to excel at limiting first downs (and the related stat – 3’rd down conversion pct).

It is my belief that Pitt will go 3-1 in OOC play (losing to Tennessee).

Up next, the conference opponents’ reviews starting with Georgia Tech.