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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Likes and Dislikes

Five and Five: Western Michigan

What are five things I like about Western Michigan in 2010? What about five things I don’t? This list has all the answers.


1. The offensive line. A lot to love here. Four returning starters, led by guard Phillip Swanson, will be joined by former Michigan transfer Dann O’Neil. One of the most experienced groups in the country.

2. While it struggled last fall, hopes are high that the defense will take a step forward in 2010. That’s because four starters return, including senior strong safety Jamail Berry.

3. Three talented receivers upon which to build a passing game. Robert Arnheim may be the lone returning contributor to earn all-MAC honors a year ago, but keep an eye on the talented senior Leo Nunez.

4. A smooth month of November, potentially. At Central Michigan and Bowling Green, home for Eastern Michigan and Kent State.

5. The new defensive staff. It was often painful to see how poorly W.M.U. played on defense a year ago. Gone is Steve Morrison, with former Hostra coach Dave Cohen taking his place.


1. Losing quarterback Tim Hiller. The multiple-year starter departed as the finest quarterback in school history.

2. Losing running back Brandon West. For the same reason as above.

3. Unproven replacements at each spot. Sophomore Alex Carder gets the call at quarterback, while the running back situation is a bit muddled.

4. The front seven lost its two top performers: end Justin Braska and linebacker Austin Pritchard. There’s some young talent up front, but no one player has shown the ability to duplicate Braska’s production.

5. As Central Michigan comes back down, teams like Northern Illinois and Toledo make a play to become the next West division champion. It’s disappointing to not see W.M.U. as the leading contender to replace its in-state rival as the best team in the conference.

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