Power, Speed and Determination

In 2002 the Broncos saw something they didn't have in 2001, a 1,000 yard rusher. They also came across something that had seemed to be missing since Robert Sanford graduated after the 2000 football season, depth. In 2003 three the Broncos return a 1,000-yard running back with a handful of running backs that give the team much needed depth.

In the 2002 season redshirt senior Philip Reed rushed 221 times for 1,053 yards and 10 touchdowns. His longest run was an 80-yard scamper against Northern Illinois. In that game Reed rushed for a season high 226 yards. Reed also caught 15 passes for 199 yards and 1 touchdown. With Reed back for his final season he returns with a bigger role on this team.

Reed has been known for his quiet leadership in past seasons, but with the younger guys behind him, things have changed a bit and Reed has become for of a vocal leader as well as the leader by example that everyone is used to. Coach Cordelli told us, "I think up until last year he was a lead by example guy. He's become more vocal, this off-season, through this spring. Phil Reed is like that old E.F. Hutton you know, when E.F. speaks everybody listens, well that's the role Phil has on this football team when he speaks everybody listens. He's really become more assertive in the locker room, in the weight room and in the off-season conditioning out here at spring practice. The guy, he's a special guy. I've had the opportunity to be around some pretty good players and he's right up there with the best of them. He's at the top of the list. If a young guy wants to know how to do things on and off the field with his life Phil Reed is a great example and his experience, his leadership is just invaluable."

Back-up running back Trovon Riley told us how much of an effect Reed has had on his life, "last year I couldn't do anything I was fixing to quit. I wasn't even fixing to be here no more. But he was cool enough; he was more mature than anybody on the team that's why I'm saying I looked up to him was. Without him it's nothing."

When asked to talk about how his leadership is changed, Reed was appreciative of how much of an effect Riley and Daniel Marks has had on him. "It's funny, your right I'm more of a quiet guy when I'm out here on the field or in the locker room. But with Trovon and Dan, I guess their young attitudes are bringing more vocalism out of me. I'm loving it." He continued to tell us, " I know this is my last go around, my last spring game. This is the last time I'm playing with these guys and I'm loving it. I'm being more vocal, I'm having fun out there and it's just being around the younger guys on the team that are just getting me going."

For the first time since being named the starter for the Broncos, Reed feels that if he needed to take a breather during a game the team wouldn't suffer because the Broncos have back-ups that are ready to step up. All three of them Reed, Riley and Marks had great games last season, that obviously helped prepare their mindset for the 2003 season. Reed talked about the effect how a performance such as the one's each one of them had has on the individual and on the team. "I know for me it gives me a ton of confidence to know that I don't have the pressure of having to stay out on the field playing injured or playing extremely tired. Because I know with Trovon and Dan right behind me a running back is not going to lose a step out there." He also said, "they know what they're doing and for them, I'm sure Trovon and Daniel will tell you, just to perform like that at the Division One level is a huge confidence boost. I remember the first time I ever ran for a hundred yards in a game. It just lifts your spirit, lifts your confidence and you start believing you can play at this level."

The Broncos went in last season with just one proven running back and they came out with three workhorses. One of them became an instant fan favorite when he turned Kelly Shorts Stadium at Central Michigan into his own personal stage. Redshirt sophomore Trovon Riley returns this season as the number one back up to Reed.

At a place the Broncos hadn't won a game at since 1973 Riley set the tone early and the rest of the team seemed to feed of his energy. In the game at Central Michigan, Riley got his chance after Reed's shoulder injury was aggravated in the second quarter. Riley went on to run for 109 yards (his first 100-yard game) and two touchdowns helping the Broncos win 35-10. "With that honestly, it was good with what happened in the outcome of that game but deep down inside I had always knew I could do that. Fortunately it came out at that time so…" Riley said. For the season Riley rushed 43 times for 186 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Right behind Riley is his roommate and best friend, redshirt sophomore Daniel Marks. With injuries do Reed and Riley, Marks was able to see some action and tried to make the most of it. He finished the season with 37 rushes for 149 yards. Marks stepped up in the home game against Eastern Michigan last season. Marks filled in for Reed in the second half and just missed the 100-yard mark when he rushed for 97 yards on 21 carries.

Coach Cordelli was pleased with the performance of his running backs last season and is looking forward to the 2003 season. "I thought obviously Phil had a heck of a year last year, over a thousand yards. But Daniel and Trovon really came on and played extremely well. The thing that held them back obvious both of them had injuries and when Daniel with his shoulder and then Trovon and his ankle early. The way Trovon played at Central, the way Daniel played against Eastern Michigan the competition is tremendous," he told us. "Then with Ameer being eligible, he's provided some competition as well. You like to think that experience and the senior leadership that Phil has he definitely sets the tone for everybody else. Trovon and D.J. are trying to keep up with that. Ameer being a freshman it has been a learning process for him because when you're redshirted you're done. You're going against the defense but it's really not at a full speed tempo every day. This spring, it was as live as it could be so the biggest adjustment for him was going "wow, they didn't come at me this in the fall." But, I thought before he broke his nose I thought he had really picked up his tempo and intensity. The other three guys on me, they picked up right where they left off. You'd like to think the depth and the experience will carry you through but you still have to be technique sound and fundamentally getting better every day."

The depth Coach Cordelli is talking about is the return of two local standout running backs. Both redshirt freshmen Ameer Ismail from West Ottawa High School in Holland, Michigan and Kalamazoo Central's Hal Bates Jr. return for the Broncos. Freshman Nic Saad joins the team in August after completing a strong career at Chippewa Valley High School in Clinton Township, Michigan.

Along with Coach Cordelli talking about being technically sound and fundamentally improving every day, Reed felt there was other things they have to work on. "I think there's maybe three things we need to work on. One was taking care of the ball as an offense; we turned the ball over too much. Number two is blocking and number three is making right reads. That's basically what we focused on, each one in that order. Taking care of the ball, Coach was very adamant about ball protection and blocking for the quarterback and just doing your job." He continued to tell us, "that's the main thing we worked on. I felt spring went very well for us besides the injuries, the unfortunate injuries that Trovon and Dan and Ameer suffered just this past week. I think we ran well this spring, we stepped up in our blocking assignments this spring and I'm really looking forward to this fall. I know that Trovon and Daniel will be healthy and we'll have some good backs back there."

Riley followed up what Reed said about working on their blocking, "I can say the thing that our goal as a running back corps was to get better as blockers. Because in our type of offense, single back you have to learn to block for anything to go the right way. We weren't bad at blocking but we weren't the best backs in blocking in the MAC last year. So I can say that's the main part we've been focusing on this spring. Running, we were already fine. Blocking is the key to everything. So that's what we've been doing."

Riley continued to talk to us about blocking and how tough it is to learn to block when you are used being given the ball and told to run. "This may sound funny when I say this but it depends on who you block. Like all of the rest, no offense to all the rest of the people but the hardest person to block on this team is Jason Babin. Oh, you got to come down an angle while he's coming flat as ever to try to cut him off before he gets to the quarterback, that's one of the hardest things in the world to do when he's so fast. He's just like one of us down in the three-point stance. But I can honestly say we came along real good. I think Coach will say that we came along real good at blocking because my freshman year I was so tentative to jump in front of somebody when they was rushing them because in high school I didn't have to do that. I would just get the ball and take off running. That's what I was good at doing. But, it's a new thing and I think we got it down pat."

One thing that was talked about amongst Bronco fans this off-season has been whether or not the Broncos were going to use more two-back sets or not. So Broncos Illustrated decided to ask Coach Cordelli whether or not they would use more two-backs instead of one-backs. Here is what Coach Cordelli said, "we talked about it a little bit, but the trademark of Western Michigan since Coach Darnell has been here, this is a one-back offense and I mean it's exciting and it's wide open. In this type of set, you talk to other people that run the same system, you throw the football to set up the run and I believe that we are going to be consistent with that philosophy. So I don't know how much more two-back we're going to see to be really honest with you because we've had so much success with just the one-back scheme. I'll be honest with you; we've got some weapons. It's going to be a lot of fun to watch. But we're going to stick primarily with the plan that kind of, the girl that you bring to the dance you got to stay with her, this philosophy has been going for seven years here. So I think we're going to be a lot more one-back, if you can be any more one-back then what they've been. We have not signed a fullback, we use two tight ends a lot but we are a one-back football team and we plan on staying as a one-back football team."

The think that was noticed about the one-back set could have been seen in the game against Central Michigan last season. Earlier in the season the Broncos lost several close games and seen a four game losing streak in the middle of the season. In the game against Eastern Michigan the Broncos jumped out to an early lead but almost lost that game late in the fourth quarter. In the Central Michigan game, the team came together and played as a team. Everybody knew what the stakes were entering the contest but was more focused on team cohesion which led to a 25-point victory.

So with the potential of playing two or three top 25 schools (Virginia and Marshall) during the 2003 season we asked Reed if it was possible for this team to beat a top 25 school. "That's definitely in the making of this team our talent, it's far beyond many of the teams that I've seen here in my four or five years here." He continued, "the key component is just coming together as a team as we did at Central. If we come together, we're a strong group of guys and with our schedule there's not many teams that can beat us."

When asked what his goal for the 2003 season was, Riley was point blank in his response, "to win the MAC Championship as a team. In high school I have never had a losing season. My first losing season was my first losing season here. I'm a part of the team and as a team you should contribute to making that team win. So that's my main goal right now. To contribute to helping this team win the MAC Championship and the bowl game because we're going to win it. Remember I said that. You got it on tape, we're going to win it."

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