2004 Broncos Special Teams Preview

On September 2 the Western Michigan University Broncos open up the 2004-college football season with a home contest against the University of Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks in the annual CommUniverCity game at Waldo Stadium. The special teams unit is perhaps the Broncos strongest area and the Broncos return all of their key specialists.

Despite having only converted on just 1 field goal over 41-yards last season, the Broncos kicking game remains one of the strongest in the Mid-American Conference. With the graduation of Charles Missant the Broncos will be breaking in a new long snapper and a new short snapper on September 2 as well as a new holder on field goal attempts.

Taking over coaching duties for special teams this season is Coach Bob Diaco. With two of the best punt and kick returners, one of the most reliable PAT kickers and a Ray Guy Award candidate Coach Diaco shouldn't have much to worry about except for being able to convert onside kicks and field goals over 40 yards.

Punter

Two years ago the Broncos had a concern as to who would be the next punter. In practice they had a student-athlete who would consistently punt over 60-yards a punt. However in game time situations the Broncos would see a different punter. In 2002 senior Adam Anderson (6'0", 188) had game high punts that ranged from 29 yards to 58 yards. However, in the off-season between the 2002 and 2003 season Anderson, a native of Chesaning, Michigan made a few changes in his life and did some work with one of the best punters in WMU history, Jim Klapthor. The work that Anderson put in during that off-season paid huge dividends for Anderson and the Broncos. During the 2003 season Anderson had game highs ranging from 43 yards to 72 yards. His season average of 43.9 yards per punt ranked him second behind UCF's Matt Prater who average 47.9 yards per punt. The difference between the two punters is Anderson is a traditional punter while Prater is a rugby style punter who would punt the ball while on the run. The ball would stay in the air for about 10-20 yards and bounce for another 30-40 yards. Anderson also ranked 15th in the country. Anderson's 43.9-yard average is also a new WMU single season record.

Out of 72 punts last season Anderson had two for over 70 yards (72 vs. Virginia and 71 at Uconn) and 17 punts for over 50 yards. Only two games last season did Anderson fail to get a punt over 50 yards (48 vs. Bowling Green and 43 at Toledo). Out of his 72 punts Anderson had 8 punts that resulted in touchbacks, 9 punts were fair catches and 20 punts were downed inside the twenty. One of his greatest games came against the Broncos archrival. Against the Central Michigan University Chippewas he punted 7 times. Anderson and Chad Feldpausch teamed up to place five punts inside the 20-yard line, four of which were downed inside the four-yard line. Anderson's punts would be in the air long enough that Feldpausch would be waiting for the ball to come down as if he was receiving the punt.

Backing up Anderson will be redshirt freshman Jim Laney (6'4", 199). Laney came to the Broncos from Toledo, Ohio where he averaged 43.5 yards on 33 punts at Saint Francis de Sales High School. In Laney's senior season he was named to the All-Ohio First Team, All-District First Team, All-City First Team and the All-Toledo Blade Team.

Kicker

The Broncos return one the of best PAT kickers in school history. Senior Robert Menchinger (5'11", 162) has converted 66 consecutive PATs. Menchinger, a graduate of Jimtown High School in Elkhart, Indiana has not missed a PAT since his redshirt freshman season when he converted 31 out of 33 attempts. Menchinger's 66 consecutive PATs ranks him second in school history just five behind John Creek who converted 71 consecutive PATs from 1985-88. Menchinger's career long in field goals is 41-yards set in the Broncos game against Central Michigan last season. In fact, three of Menchinger's best games have been against Central Michigan. In 2001 Menchinger kicked the game winning field goal from 23-yards out with no time left on the clock. In 2002 at Kelly Shorts Stadium, in Mt. Pleasant, Menchinger converted both field goal tries, converted 2 out of 2 PAT kicks and because of a botched snap picked up the ball and threw a pass to former Bronco Mobalaji Afariogun to complete an 18-yard PAT pass attempt.

Backing up Menchinger is redshirt freshman Mike Jones (5'11", 172). Jones joined the Broncos out of Monsignor Pace High School in Miami Shores, Florida. At Monsignor Pace High School Jones converted 54 out of 56 PATs and averaged over 40 yards per punt. His efforts earned him All-State Punter as a Senior, All-State Kicker as a junior and All-Dade County First Team as a kicker and wide receiver.

Long Snapper

With the graduation of Charles Missant the Broncos will start two new snappers. Starting long snapper will be redshirt junior Tony Scheffler (6'6", 240). Scheffler who is known more for his skills as a tight end will be used ahead of redshirt sophomore John Vavrosky (6'0", 252) in punting situations. Vavrosky joined the Broncos after graduating from Portage Northern High School in Portage, Michigan. Vavrosky walked on after earning All-Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference First Team honors twice. He was also named the Huskies' Lineman of the Year his senior season.

Short Snapper

Vavrosky will be handling the starting short snapping duties for the Broncos in PAT attempts and field goal attempts. He will be backed up by redshirt junior Ross Farren (6'3", 252). Farren, originally from Akron, Ohio and a back up tight end played in seven games last season and was recruited out of Revere High School where he was a three-year starter and played both tight end and defensive end. As a senior he earned All-Suburban League First Team honors.

Holder

Holding the ball on field goal and PATs for Menchinger will be either redshirt junior Blayne Baggett (6'1", 215) or redshirt junior Ryan Cubit (6'1", 206). With the two quarterbacks competing for the starting quarterback position, expect the one who is named as the backup quarterback to be named the starting holder.

Kick Return

Senior Tyrone Walker (6'2", 198) is not only returning as a starting wide receiver but he is also expected to return as the Broncos starting kick return specialist. Walker earned the starting kick return specialist position during the 2002 season. He averaged 32.8 yards a return. He was the only player in the Mid-American Conference to return two kickoffs for touchdowns. His first was a 91-yard return against Bowling Green and later he tied a school record with a 100-yard return against Eastern Michigan University. Only one other Bronco in school history accomplished the feat, Lovell Coleman did it twice. Coleman first did it against Marshall in 1957 and again in 1958 against Bowling Green. Over his career as a Bronco, Walker has returned 28 kickoffs for 727 yards.

Backing up Walker will be redshirt junior Greg Jennings (5'11", 191). Jennings another starting receiver returned 31 kickoffs last season for 669 yards. In his two seasons with the Broncos Jennings has returned 39 kickoffs for 901 yards.

Punt Return

Despite his duties on offense and kickoffs Jennings will continue to return punts for the Broncos. Although he didn't return any punts last season he was used as the backup for former Bronco Kendrick Mosley. In his redshirt freshman season Jennings returned 8 punts for 58 yards before being injured in a game against Virginia Tech.

Jennings will be backed up by redshirt freshman Brian Jackson (6'4", 207). Jackson was ranked 33rd on the Detroit News Blue Chip list and 46th on the Detroit Free Press Fab 50 list following his senior season at Sexton High School in Lansing, Michigan. He also earned All-State Honorable Mention and was named to the All-Capital Area Conference.

National Pre-Season Honors

Phil Steele's 2004 Top Position Players

Adam Anderson – Top 20 Punters (16)

Phil Steele's 2004 MAC Team

Adam Anderson – 2nd Team
Greg Jennings – 2nd Team

Street & Smith's

Adam Anderson – All-MAC Team

Athlon Sports 2004 All-MAC Team

Adam Anderson – First Team

Sporting News Player Rankings

Adam Anderson – Top 20 Punters (12)

Sporting News MAC All-Conference

Adam Anderson


2004 Special Teams Recruits

Nate Meyer, K – During spring practice Meyer walked-on to the team. Meyer joins the Broncos after lettering in football for two years at Farmington High School in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Meyer earned Academic All-State. As a four year letter winner in soccer and tennis he was the team captain for Farmington's soccer team and earned All-State Honorable Mention while playing on the State Division II runner up team.

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