What to expect from Western football


Jake Thompson

Joey Borsellino brings experience at the wide receiver position for Western.

Danny Frey

Students are back on the Western Illinois University campus with certain expectations that go along with a school year whether it’s grades, professors or other components of college life.

The Leatherneck football season is right around the corner and the expectations are the highest they have been in recent memory. A playoff appearance and playoff victory for the first
time since 2010 set the bar high.

The buzz started immediately at the end of last season about what heights the team would elevate to in 2016. Then December happened and the coaching shuffle occurred. Out with Bob Nielson and in with Charlie Fisher fresh from leading the offense at Richmond who steamrolled Illinois State in the playoffs

There was a lot of uncertainty hovering the program during the search, but once Coach Fisher arrived and implemented his style on both sides of the ball, the hype returned to Western football. No more spread offense, and the tight end is more of a priority with a set huddle which is completely opposite from last season.

Although there is a new system, the same depth remains with very few players transferring. Competition for starting spots has ramped up even at the quarterback position, with Sean McGuire recently earning the starting job officially. That means there is a three-year starting quarterback with Trenton Norvell serving as a backup. It seemed like an exciting quarterback battle, something Western hasn’t seen in a while and ultimately a good problem
to have if you’re Charlie Fisher.

The experience doesn’t stop under center, with all six of the top Western receivers on the depth chart logging in serious time last season led by Lance Lenoir. Practically everyone from the secondary is back to provide a no fly zone in 2016. Macomb’s own Brett Taylor calls the shot up the middle to lead the linebacking corps. Fans won’t have to worry too much about the Leatherneck linebackers with Taylor providing leadership.

Seventeen of the 22 starters on both  offense andefense return
along with 46 letter winners who anchor a veteran group.

Nikko Watson dominated last year and, for a skill position, he leaves the biggest shoes for the Leathernecks to fill. Devon Moore was a force early in the year, but it seems like the J.C. Baker type runner Steve McShane will play a pivotal role in the backfield. Transfers have also been crucial for Coach Fisher to fill his roster and Jamie Gilmore from Temple will slide in the backfield
while also fielding kick returns.

The main spot on defense that needs some overhaul is the defensive line. It was nice last year having all seniors down in the trenches, but it’s time to rebuild with players who essentially
shadowed the seniors last year.

All of the experienced players just lift up the expectations because almost all of those players have been there before. Especially this Western group who had to buckle up and make a playoff run with their backs against the wall last season.

I’m not saying it’s playoff or bust this season, only that this year’s Western football team is something to look forward to and will be fun to watch. With that being said, I’m absolutely positive that the players and coaches have their goal set for a deep run in the postseason. Nothing would surprise me with the talent on this team and the mentality that Coach Fisher has established.

Now the Leathernecks focus on refining their new game plan and bringing it to the field against Eastern Illinois.