Head coach P.J. Fleck has Western Michigan on the rise, and the Broncos’ first look in the 2016 season was very promising: a 22-21 win over Northwestern.
Well before toppling a Big Ten foe this year, Fleck had reestablished Western Michigan as a power in the MAC, an intriguing destination for recruits to head. Over the past three recruiting cycles, Fleck drew in the top-ranked class in the MAC, and the NCAA’s second-youngest head coach is on his way to repeating this feat in 2017.
So far, Western Michigan lays claim to 24 committed recruits in the 2017 cycle, which puts the Broncos at No. 44 in the country and atop the conference according to 247Sports.com. One position in the class that Fleck has specifically targeted — and with a high degree of success — is the wide receiver position. The Broncos hold four true wide receiver commits, but one of the school’s athlete commits is likely to gain a lot of time at receiver, so five seems to be a more accurate measure.
The most recent player to give his verbal pledge to Fleck is Plantation (Florida) American Heritage wideout Darnell Fleury, a player in his first year with the powerhouse Sunshine State school. Fleury, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 193 pounds, appears destined to play on the outside when he gets to Kalamazoo. Fleury shows signs of being a red zone threat due to his leaping ability and tendency to high-point footballs in the air. These qualities, when paired with his size, blocking ability and willingness to go over the middle, make Fleury a solid bet to contribute near the goal line in the MAC.
Joining Fleury on the outside will likely by Indianapolis Cathedral wide receiver Luke Sanders, who initially committed to Western Michigan in July. In his junior season, Sanders recorded 51 receptions, 806 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns thanks to the the two-star’s ability to track the ball well in the air and make adjustments.
Sanders landed offers from Air Force, Army, Ball State, Columbia, Eastern Michigan, Elon and Harvard. In lieu of these opportunities, Sanders chose Western Michigan for the chance to compete for a conference championship, a goal that seems closer with each passing season for Fleck and crew.
Over the offseason, Today’s U had an opportunity to check out Kankakee (Illinois) Bishop McNamara receiver Chris Bell during one of Western Michigan’s camps. Bell was the most electric receiver in attendance, regularly achieving clean releases at the line of scrimmage and capping his routes with consistent receptions. Bell had impressive top-end speed, and the Illinois native showed signs that he could compete at a Power Five level. Western Michigan is getting a very special player if it can hang onto him through National Signing Day.
Another player that impressed Today’s U at camp was three-star Daytona Beach (Florida) Mainland athlete Denzel Houston. During one-on-one drills, Houston showed the quickest feet at the camp and ran crisp routes. The only culprit in stopping Houston from making a catch was a misthrown pass. The Florida prospect could help out in the slot or out of the backfield, in addition to returning kicks and punts.
The final wide receiver committed to Western Michigan in 2017 is Marcus Hayes, another three-star prospect, this one from Rockford (Illinois) Lutheran School. Hayes also held an offer from Minnesota but chose the Broncos over the Big Ten, and Western Michigan will take advantage of his tackle breaking ability and status as a dangerous open-field runner. In addition to these qualities, Hayes is useful for underneath patterns or deep downfield plays, keeping the defense honest.
Western Michigan quarterback commit Tanner Morgan should enjoy utilizing these dangerous passing threats over the next several years in Kalamazoo.