KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Western Michigan University won only one football game a year ago and may have to start more than a dozen true freshmen this season — but none of that has curbed the optimism of Head Coach P.J. Fleck.
At Wednesday’s Mid-American Conference (MAC) media day, Fleck said he will have to expect more from his Broncos.
WMU may have 14 true freshmen starting this year, and it’s impossible to know how they will perform.
“The exciting thing is you don’t really know what you’re going to get with true freshmen. And the scary thing is you don’t really know what you’re going to get with true freshmen,” Fleck said. “But we’re going to build it the right way from the ground up.”
“I recruited them, but playing high school football and college football are two different things,” Fleck continued. “We had a historic recruiting class. Now, whether that pans out or not, that’s up to the players.”
WMU also has 10 seniors and 14 juniors. And there’s sophomore Corey Davis, an All-American wide receiver who was the MAC Freshman of the Year last year. Fleck said he and other more experienced players have emerged as leaders on the team.
He said he and the other coaching staff will have to get the younger and older players to work together as a team, and that the success of that effort will determine the success of the season.
“That’s what’s exciting about Bronco football: The future’s on its way. It just doesn’t get here as fast as what other people really want it to be,” Fleck said.
Fleck is fairly new to WMU, too. This will be his second season as the Broncos’ head coach. He said he’s a firm believer that “year two of a complete culture turnaround is really a head coach’s year one.”
“I’m so much more energized — even if that’s hard to believe. I’m happier, I’m looking forward to this season even more than I was last year because I really believe these players got it and I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people in 2014,” he said.
But there is always pressure to win.
“Any coach that doesn’t feel pressure, then you must have a 20-year contract,” Fleck said. “Every coach feels pressure. Because pressure’s a privilege. … A lot of people go through life and never get that chance to have pressure on themselves, ad I enjoy the pressure.”
He said he’s going to build his program for the long haul, but there is still progress to be made.
“We don’t have the depth. I think it’s going to take us one more year to get the depth we really need,” he said.
And he said WMU offers 10 fewer scholarships than other MAC teams due to attrition. He said the team has only about 75 scholarships.
“But I think the youth is an advantage for us,” Fleck said.” Youth doesn’t know where they can go. And we have to do, including me, being a leader, is being able to have to motivate them, so they know the sky’s the limit for the program and the sky’s the limit for them.”