College Football: Western Michigan Is Recruiting Superbly, But How?

Alan BlackAnalyst IIIJuly 10, 2013

SEP 15, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA;  Western Michigan Broncos running back Dareyon Chance (22) rushes for nine yards in the third quarter against the Minnesota Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium.  The Gophers defeated the Broncos 28-23.  Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

The Western Michigan Broncos are a middle-of-the-pack MAC team. Over the past five seasons, they have accumulated a win-loss record of 31-31. 

During that span, they have been to two bowl games, both of which they lost.  The last time the Broncos played in the MAC Championship game was in 2000.

Head coach Bill Cubit's eight-year tenure came to an end after last season's 4-8 record.  His replacement is P.J. Fleck, who at 32 years old is the youngest head coach in FBS football.  Fleck's experience at anything above the level of a position coach is a whopping one day as Northern Illinois' offensive coordinator.

Suffice it to say, on the surface Western Michigan does not appear to be a program that should have a lot of excitement surrounding it right now.  A mid-level team in one of the low-tier conferences—coming off of a losing season that ended in the head coach getting fired and replaced with a relatively inexperienced newcomer—does not exactly inspire unbridled enthusiasm.

And yet, WMU is quietly putting together a monster recruiting class. 

With 19 commits already, including one 4-star and six 3-star recruits according to ESPN's recruiting evaluations, the school has put together a class that is currently rated higher than Boise State's, Utah's and Kansas State's classes, among others.

And the surprising success on the recruiting trail may not even be finished yet. Four more 4-star recruits and eleven more 3-star recruits are considering the Broncos.

These aren't just lightly recruited athletes who fell by the recruiting wayside that WMU is getting either.  Their 4-star commit, QB Chance Stewart, turned down offers from Illinois and Wisconsin in favor of the Broncos. Other power-conference teams that Western Michigan has beaten out for recruits include Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia Tech.

Geography doesn't fully explain WMU's recruiting success either.  While four of the seven 3- and 4-star commits are in-state prospects, the other three hail from Illinois, New Jersey and Florida.  Of those, only Illinois could be considered as being in WMU's natural recruiting territory.

So how is WMU doing it? What is making a mid-tier MAC team put together such an impressive class, especially when the two conference teams who put together stellar seasons last year, Northern Illinois and Kent State, have only one 3-star recruit combined and whose combined number of total commits are the same as WMU's number of 3- and 4-star recruits?

There is no solid answer to that question. 

A new coach usually infuses excitement into a program, but this level of success goes well beyond what that can provide.  The fact that Western Michigan also hired its first-ever recruiting coordinator could also be playing a role, but that still doesn't explain it all.

Perhaps players are more trusting of a coach who is close to their own age and whose own collegiate playing career was less than a decade ago.  Perhaps Coach Fleck understands better how to relate to and appeal to these young men. 

Maybe Fleck has been able to parlay his one-year tenure as the receivers coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into a recruiting pitch of massive potential and growth. 

Whatever the underlying reasons for it, something amazing is happening in Kalamazoo, and Western Michigan fans have got to be enjoying it.  If WMU puts a product onto the field that is half as impressive as the current recruiting class they've put together, many more stellar recruiting classes are sure to come their way.