Fleck wants Broncos in national spotlight

Published 9:31 pm Monday, August 12, 2013

New Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck told the media Saturday that the plan is to get the Broncos in the national spotlight. (Photo courtesy WMUBroncos.com)

New Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck told the media Saturday that the plan is to get the Broncos in the national spotlight. (Photo courtesy WMUBroncos.com)

KALAMAZOO — Even with a raspy voice, first-year Western Michigan University football coach P.J. Fleck got his message across during media day last Saturday.

“It’s been a wild seven months,” said Fleck, who was looking more like a high ranking business executive with his black suit and black pants. “But I wouldn’t change it for the world. We have a clear blueprint for this program. We want Western Michigan football in the national spotlight. We want people to know where Kalamazoo is. Everybody is all-in and going on this ride together.”

On Dec. 18, Fleck became the 15th coach in Western Michigan football history. When hired, he became the youngest coach in Division I at 32 years old.

Fleck was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receivers coach last year. Before that he was an assistant coach at Ohio State, Northern Illinois and Rutgers.

“(Former Rutgers coach) Greg Schiano is one of the best coaches and recruiters around,” Fleck said. “To watch him recruit is astounding. Rutgers had never been to a bowl game before he got there.”

Fleck’s job is to turn around a program that finished 4-8 overall and 2-6 in the Mid-American Conference in 2012.

“When I first took the job people said (winning) couldn’t be done,” Fleck said. “I said, ‘when can I attack this.’ Athletic Director Kathy Beauregard allowed me to change the culture. It can be done and will be done.

“We’ve asked our football players to be better than they were yesterday,” Fleck said. “The kids have done that. Their commitment has been amazing. I’m proud to be their football coach.”

There are numerous changes to the football program. Part of that change is a new team room, a new stadium, a new locker room, new uniforms with a new logo and a new golf cart for the head coach.

“That’s the first thing I purchased,” Fleck said about the golf court. “Plus, it looks really elite.”

Fleck’s football players are also looking elite.

“We have a great strength coach in Dan Nichols,” Fleck said. “It’s inspiring to watch him. Our players have lost 3-percent of their body fat, which is outstanding. Muscle mass gained has been four pounds per kid. We’re also a faster team. The kids have bought in to the vision of the program.”

The offense will be led by quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen, who started six games last year. He completed 159-of-261 passes for 1,825 yards with 15 touchdowns.

Running back Dareyon Chance rushed 947 yards last year on 176 carries with four touchdowns. Wide receiver Jaime Wilson earned MAC Freshman of the Year honors after catching 67 passes for 792 yards with six touchdowns.

Leading the defense will be two-time All-MAC selection Johnnie Simon. Simon collected 103 tackles last year. Defensive lineman Travonte Boles (58 tackles last year), All-MAC safety Justin Currie (98 tackles) and cornerback Donald Celiscar (79 tackles and two interceptions) are other top defenders for the Broncos.

“I’ve never seen us so aware as a team,” said Simon. “Guys are talking to each other and communication during practice. Coach Fleck is just not a coach, but a father and mentor.”

“We’re becoming a family,” said Van Tubbergen. “It’s amazing how close we’ve beome as a team in just five days.”

Western Michigan’s schedule is difficult right at the start. The Broncos play non-conference games at Michigan State, at Northwestern and at Iowa.

“Are we still in the MAC,” Fleck joked at the end of the media day press conference.