Working on Fundamentals

Offensive line coach Mike Cummings described the Broncos offensive line as "a work in progress." However, even though the 2003 Western Michigan University Broncos offensive line only has one returning starter, Kyle Ras, the five projected starters all have experience. They also have become strong leaders in the weight room and during the spring practice they became leaders on the field.

Last year the offensive line gave up the most sacks (35) in the Mid-American Conference. That is one of the major concerns for this years offensive line which the projected starters average 6'5" and 277 pounds. Senior Charles Missant will step up as the on-field leader moving from long snapper to starting center replacing former Bronco Jake Gasaway. Missant will be backed up by redshirt freshman Joel Pfaendtner from Dakota High School in Macomb Township, Michigan.

Ras was able to start 11 games for the Broncos and returns this season as the starting left guard. Ras recorded 4 pancakes, 7 knockdowns and graded at 80% or higher in 3 games last season. Right behind Ras is redshirt sophomore D.J. Lockhart.

Redshirt sophomore Mark Ottney played in 5 games last season recording 2 pancakes and grading at 80% or higher in one game. Ottney is the projected starter at the right guard position and will be backed up by senior C.R. Moultry.

The starting tackles should be redshirt sophomore Walter Stith at left tackle and senior Chad Wangerin at right tackle. Redshirt freshman Dominic Moran will back up Stith while sophomore Brandon James is waiting in the wings behind Wangerin. Other returning offensive linemen are redshirt juniors Henry Moultry and Mike McCord and John Vavrosky, a redshirt freshman from Portage Northern High School.

During the 2002-2003 recruiting season, the Broncos went out and recruited three quality offensive linemen from the State of Illinois. Joining the Broncos in August from Catholic Central High School in Joliet is Steve Douglas. Chris Bartula from Glenbard North High School in Carol Stream and from Mount Carmel is Robbie Krutilla.

So despite the lack of experience the offensive line is going to have to rely on the leadership of guys like Missant and Wangerin, "I think the leaders right now are Chuck Missant and Chad Wangerin. Wangerin has experience." Coach Cummings continued, "Chuck has experience playing. Neither of them were starters last year but they really seem to be the most vocal, they have good toughness and they are not afraid to stand up there and tell everybody what needs to get done." Ottney concurred what Coach Cummings said, "I think the fifth year senior Chuck Missant is doing a real good job."

One thing is for certain; the offensive line will get tested early this season when they open up the season against Michigan State. At least for one Bronco this game means a lot more. Ottney has been looking forward to this game because this will be the first time that his brother Brian, the starting center, and he will be playing on opposing football teams. Not only is Brian looking forward to the game, so is his family, "I got a lot of family coming to that game right now so I'm looking forward to it now," he said. "I'm not the kind of guy to go over and talk trash to him but I'm keeping it cool and everything is going to stay on the field."

So, despite who the first opponent of the season is, the Broncos have spent, and will continue to spend time in the weight room and during spring practice the Broncos focused a lot on the fundamentals and technique. "A lot of it was just technique last year," Ras told Broncos Illustrated. "We have to fix all the little things; scooping them up, picking up the backers and if we get that fixed then that will take care of a lot of problems last year. This year we're doing a lot of technique, a lot of drilling. Take care of all those little things."

Coach Cummings expounded on what Ras had said; "The biggest thing that we need to work on from the last season is just our fundamentals. The things that broke down for us last season were the fundamentals. Being in the right position. Over the off-season Bob Vezeau worked with our team a lot with our offensive line especially on lower body power. We gained a lot of lower body power. Use of the hands we worked a lot with those and…change of direction drills and keeping our hips low."

Coach Cummings told us that Vezeau didn't have to get on the guys too much in the weight room, "we've had a great off-season in the weight room and I can't say enough about Bob Vezeau and his staff. He really pushes those guys and we've gotten to the point right now where we are pushing ourselves. He can get on them but it's a rare thing when he has to tell someone to work harder. We're looking to get to the point where they are kicked out of the weight room, where he has to kick them out because they are in there so long. We got a group of guys that are leading and keeping them in there and they push each other, they challenge each other, they challenge each other in drills and it kind of all feeds on itself. They spend a lot of time in the weight room together, they all lift at the same time so they are all in there together pushing each other."

Asked what the guys would be doing over the summer Coach Cummings said, "I think what they want to do is stay here in the off-season. So I would say yes to both questions. They do want to stay here. They like being around one another. It's funny, these guys don't necessarily all want to do the same things, until it comes to football and then they all want to do the same thing. They're taking care of their business in the classroom, they're taking care of their business in the weight room, they've been good citizens and they are going to be here over the summer because they want to be. The NCAA has changed a lot how some of the workouts are going to be, but these guys will be together. I'm not saying that because we told them that, I know they will want to do that just by the way they react to one another."

When we asked Ras and Ottney what their goals were for the 2003 season, they both responded with, "win the MAC Championship, go to a bowl game and win that."

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