2013 Western Michigan football's 10 things to know: Youth movement on the sideline

Marilyn Indahl-US PRESSWIRE

Western Michigan took a chance by hiring 32-year old former MAC star P.J. Fleck as its head coach. Can he and his new staff make something of spread personnel on offense and iffy personnel on defense?

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. P.J. Fleck is 32 years old

I am just young enough to still have my mind blown when somebody younger than me is hired to become the head football coach at an FBS school. I'm sure this feeling will die down more with each passing year.

In 2003, Akron head coach Terry Bowden was an ABC commentator, already five years removed from his resignation as Auburn head coach. Ohio head coach Frank Solich was in year six (of six) of his stint as Nebraska's head coach after nearly two decades as a Nebraska assistant. Bowling Green head coach Dave Clawson was entering his fifth year as Fordham's head coach and coming off of an appearance in the 1-AA quarterfinals. Ball State head coach Pete Lembo was preparing for his third season as Lehigh's head coach. Buffalo head coach Jeff Quinn was entering his 15th (and final) season as Grand Valley State's offensive coordinator (his 13th under GVSU head coach Brian Kelly), and new Northern Illinois head coach Rod Carey was in his fourth season in the same role at Wisconsin-Stout. Miami (Ohio) head coach Don Treadwell was preparing for his first season as Ball State's offensive coordinator.

And new Western Michigan head coach P.J. Fleck was entering his senior season as a Northern Illinois receiver. He would catch 77 passes for 1,028 yards that season. And less than a decade later, after stops at Ohio State (graduate assistant), Northern Illinois (receivers coach), Rutgers (receivers coach) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (receivers coach), he puts on the big head set.

Coaching changes are complete and total crap shoots. That Fleck has not yet even been a coordinator is a bit of a concern, but one cannot fault Western Michigan for aiming high and looking for the Next Big Coaching Star to navigate its program through parity-filled slog of the MAC. In this conference, you are basically 2-3 years from contending no matter who you are (unless you're Eastern Michigan, anyway), so I guess the thinking is that you swing for the fences, and if you miss, the next guy can clean up the mess.

2. It's a Rutgers reunion

Fleck has certainly compiled an interesting set of influences in his short time as a football coach. He has coached under Jim Tressel, Jerry Kill, and Greg Schiano (in both college and the pros), so while you're thinking of him as WMU's attempt to land the Next Matt Campbell (the Toledo coach with the high-octane offense), his resume would suggest otherwise. And his choice of coordinators would really suggest otherwise.

Fleck hired Kirk Ciarrocca to run the offense and Ed Pinkham to run the defense. Each was a co-coordinator at Rutgers in 2009-10, and Fleck started there in 2010. Both are sufficiently experienced -- Ciarrocca is 47, Pinkham 59. Pinkham's Rutgers defenses were aggressive and mostly successful, though Ciarrocca's Rutgers offenses left something to be desired. He and co-coordinator Kyle Flood (now Rutgers' head coach) attempted to bring more of a wide-open look to Rutgers' pro-style offense, and it never took hold. It will be interesting to see what he does with personnel originally recruited to run former head coach Bill Cubit's rather effective spread offense.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 4-8 | Adj. Record: 4-8 | Final F/+ Rk: 85
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
1-Sep at Illinois 7-24 L 11.6 - 20.4 L
8-Sep Eastern Illinois 52-21 W 29.8 - 30.4 L
15-Sep at Minnesota 23-28 L 25.4 - 34.9 L
22-Sep Connecticut 30-24 W 29.0 - 36.6 L
29-Sep Toledo 17-37 L 23.0 - 37.2 L
6-Oct Massachusetts 52-14 W 38.1 - 28.5 W
13-Oct at Ball State 24-30 L 26.7 - 22.5 W
20-Oct at Kent State 24-41 L 28.6 - 29.7 L
27-Oct Northern Illinois 34-48 L 33.8 - 28.6 W
3-Nov at Central Michigan 42-31 W 37.7 - 31.7 W
10-Nov at Buffalo 24-29 L 28.5 - 29.2 L
17-Nov Eastern Michigan 23-29 L 27.0 - 31.7 L
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 29.3 61 29.7 75
Adj. Points Per Game 28.3 63 30.1 85

3. Bad luck finished off the Cubit era

WMU definitely regressed in Bill Cubit's final season in charge. In 2011, the Broncos ranked 60th in the overall F/+ rankings -- 34th on offense, 91st on defense, eighth on special teams; but the offense sank to 66th in 2012, and with freshmen playing all of the major kicking roles, special teams plummeted to 107th. The defense improved slightly, but there was no mistaking that WMU put a worse product on the field last fall, which was disappointing considering expectations.

That said, luck also played a significant role. WMU recovered only 42 percent of all fumbles and intercepted just eight passes among 53 passes defensed. The Broncos suffered significantly in terms of turnovers luck, and it cost them a few points per game. In a season that saw them go just 1-4 in games decided by one possession, the impact of luck was significant. If WMU goes just 6-6 or 7-5 despite the overall regression, does Cubit get canned? Probably not.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 38 70 66 73
RUSHING 76 76 58 91
PASSING 28 77 67 81
Standard Downs 77 73 84
Passing Downs 64 67 64
Redzone 70 66 73
Q1 Rk 33 1st Down Rk 80
Q2 Rk 76 2nd Down Rk 93
Q3 Rk 101 3rd Down Rk 50
Q4 Rk 79

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Alex Carder 159 261 1,825 60.9% 15 11 10 3.7% 6.5
Tyler Van Tubbergen 6'3, 198 Sr. ** (5.3) 145 248 1,652 58.5% 13 10 10 3.9% 6.1
Zack Wynn 6'2, 205 Jr. ** (5.2)






Zach Terrell 6'1, 210 RSFr. ** (5.3)








Anthony Maddie 6'1, 194 RSFr. *** (5.5)








Cameron Thomas 6'4, 185 Fr. ** (5.4)








4. One develops strange attachments

The first two things I noticed about quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen: 1) He completed 19 of 21 passes for 252 yards and six touchdowns in his first career start against Akron in 2011. 2) His name is Van Tubbergen. I've liked him ever since. When starter Alex Carder went down with injury, we got to see a lot more of Van Tubbergen in 2012, and while he couldn't match the pace he set the previous fall, he at least wasn't awful, especially considering the extreme youth of the receiving corps. Still, WMU's Passing S&P+ ranking fell from 36th in 2011 to 77th, and the run game couldn't make up the difference. WMU's offense wasn't the problem in 2012, but it still wasn't great. One has to assume Van Tubbergen is the leader in Fleck's first QB race, but he could be vulnerable to a challenge as time goes on.

Van Tubbergen's biggest problem in 2012 was simply that he couldn't handle more athletic defenses that well. He completed 46 of 61 passes (75 percent) for 645 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions versus UMass and Central Michigan last year, but he was just 72-for-134 (54 percent) for 770 yards, three touchdowns and eight picks versus Toledo, Ball State and Kent State. Experience, both his own and that of the receiving corps, might help in this regard.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Dareyon Chance RB 5'5, 169 Sr. *** (5.5) 176 947 5.4 4.4 4 +0.6
Brian Fields RB 5'8, 194 Sr. ** (5.2) 68 359 5.3 4.5 2 +0.8
Antoin Scriven RB 5'11, 216 Sr. ** (5.3) 32 125 3.9 2.9 7 -3.8
Tyler Van Tubbergen QB 6'3, 198 Sr. ** (5.3) 30 172 5.7 4.3 3 +1.8
Alex Carder QB 30 153 5.1 4.7 0 -1.9
Tevin Drake RB 5'11, 214 Sr. *** (5.6) 22 107 4.9 4.9 0 -1.8
Kalvin Hill RB 5 13 2.6 1.0 0 -1.9
Austin Guido RB 5'11, 187 Fr. ** (5.4)




Fabian Johnson RB 5'8, 185 Fr. ** (5.4)





Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Jaime Wilson WR 5'11, 196 So. *** (5.7) 106 67 792 63.2% 7.5 22.0% 65.1% 7.6 92.7
Josh Schaffer WR 6'2, 219 Sr. ** (5.2) 75 43 583 57.3% 7.8 15.6% 64.0% 7.8 68.2
Eric Monette WR 68 41 616 60.3% 9.1 14.1% 70.6% 8.9 72.1
Justin Collins WR 6'2, 212 Sr. ** (5.3) 45 27 401 60.0% 8.9 9.3% 60.0% 8.9 46.9
Blake Hammond TE 42 25 386 59.5% 9.2 8.7% 69.0% 8.8 45.2
Daniel Braverman WR 5'10, 164 So. *** (5.5) 32 18 135 56.3% 4.2 6.6% 59.4% 4.2 15.8
Dareyon Chance RB 5'5, 169 Sr. *** (5.5) 31 25 148 80.6% 4.8 6.4% 71.0% 4.7 17.3
Kendrick Roberts WR 6'3, 203 So. *** (5.5) 16 6 45 37.5% 2.8 3.3% 75.0% 2.9 5.3
Brian Fields RB 5'8, 194 Sr. ** (5.2) 14 13 118 92.9% 8.4 2.9% 71.4% 8.2 13.8
Antoin Scriven RB 5'11, 216 Sr. ** (5.3) 13 12 94 92.3% 7.2 2.7% 69.2% 6.9 11.0
Matt Cutler TE 13 10 42 76.9% 3.2 2.7% 84.6% 2.3 4.9
Clark Mussman TE 6'3, 233 Sr. ** (5.2) 9 6 35 66.7% 3.9 1.9% 44.4% 3.8 4.1
Gabe Hughes TE 8 3 18 37.5% 2.3 1.7% 75.0% 2.8 2.1
Darrin Duncan WR 5'11, 197 Sr. ** (5.4) 6 5 43 83.3% 7.2 1.2% 66.7% 7.0 5.0
Tevin Drake RB 5'11, 214 Sr. *** (5.6) 2 1 9 50.0% 4.5 0.4% 50.0% 5.4 1.1
Mitchell Henry WR 5'10, 172 RSFr. ** (5.4)








Darius Phillips WR 5'11, 180 Fr. ** (5.4)








5. There are options

WMU certainly doesn't have the most high-ceiling set of skill position players in the MAC, but few can match the Broncos' mix of quantity and quality. Former star recruit Jaime Wilson held his own as a redshirt freshman in the No. 1 target role, Josh Schaffer is a decent big-play guy, and both Dareyon Chance and Brian Fields are decent, if not particularly explosive, backfield options. WMU returns four running backs who got at least 22 carries last year and seven players targeted at least 13 times.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 101.8 3.14 3.46 40.9% 73.2% 16.1% 140.6 2.5% 6.2%
Rank 64 31 41 42 34 19 30 21 58
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Dann O'Neill RT 35 career starts; 2012 1st All-MAC
Kevin Galeher C 24 career starts; 2012 3rd All-MAC
Terry Davisson LT 6'5, 301 Sr. ** (5.2) 26 career starts
Kasimili Uitalia LG 23 career starts
John Deyo RG 12 career starts
Willie Beavers LT 6'4, 309 So. *** (5.5) 2 career starts
James Kristof LG 6'3, 296 So. ** (5.4) 2 career starts
Jon Hoffing RG 6'4, 285 Jr. ** (5.4) 1 career start
Nick Roach C 6'3, 304 RSFr. ** (5.4)
Dustin Pringle RG 6'3, 292 So. ** (5.3)
Tim Maka RT
Taylor Moton OL 6'5, 291 RSFr. ** (5.2)
Ben Davisson OL 6'6, 347 RSFr. ** (5.4)
Josh Bass OL 6'5, 285 Fr. ** (5.4)
Jackson Day OL 6'4, 185 Fr. ** (5.4)

6. Hey, look, another rebuilt MAC offensive line

Thus far, we've covered four decent MAC teams forced to rebuild a good portion of their offensive lines -- Ball State, Kent State, Miami, Central Michigan; we can add WMU to that club. Gone are two all-conference guys and four overall starters (94 career starts) from a line that was an offensive strength a year ago. Fleck has done some shuffling, it appears (Terry Davisson has moved to center, a redshirt freshman is first-team right tackle, and both left-siders are sophomores), and we'll see how it goes.

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 62 106 96 107
RUSHING 55 81 72 87
PASSING 75 109 108 108
Standard Downs 101 88 106
Passing Downs 106 106 105
Redzone 43 34 61
Q1 Rk 122 1st Down Rk 116
Q2 Rk 37 2nd Down Rk 71
Q3 Rk 105 3rd Down Rk 109
Q4 Rk 100

7. Turns out, talent might matter

Add up the former three-star recruits on this page. You'll find seven on offense and five on defense. Last year's offense also featured four-star Michigan transfer Dann O'Neill at right tackle. That isn't an enormous difference, but it might go part of the way toward explaining why WMU's defense lagged behind the offense over the last couple years of the Cubit era. (That, and Cubit is an offensive coach by nature.) The Broncos almost had the worst defense in the country in the first quarter (which could also suggest general game-planning issues) and struggled against the pass in every quarter. That's a problem in the home of MACtion.

New coordinator Ed Pinkham inherits a defense that is quite experienced in the back seven but has holes to fill up front on a line that was a relative WMU strength. Tackle Travonte Boles and linebackers Desmond Bozeman and Terry Easmon are keepers, but the talent might not quite be where it needs to be for Pinkham to succeed.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 100.9 2.82 2.99 38.4% 62.9% 20.1% 110.8 4.1% 8.9%
Rank 57 46 39 57 34 50 46 79 25
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Freddie Bishop DE 12 45.0 6.3% 11.5 4 0 2 2 0
Travonte Boles NG 5'11, 290 Sr. ** (5.4) 12 39.5 5.5% 9.5 3.5 0 0 0 0
Deauntay Legrier DE 12 28.5 4.0% 6.5 4.5 0 0 1 1
Jonathan Harden NG 12 12.5 1.8% 2.5 0 0 0 0 0
Cory Sueing DE 6'4, 258 Sr. ** (5.1) 12 11.0 1.5% 1.5 1 0 0 0 1
Cleveland Smith DE 6'1, 233 So. ** (5.2) 11 10.0 1.4% 3 0 0 0 1 0
Manny Diaz DE 6'2, 218 Jr. NR 4 0.0 0.0% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Dubose DE 6'0, 242 RSFr. *** (5.5)

Roosevelt Donaldson DE 6'1, 276 RSFr. ** (5.4)

Khairi Bailey DE 6'3, 240 Fr. *** (5.6)




David Curie DT 6'4, 275 Fr. ** (5.4)
Jamar Simpkins DT 6'2, 263 Fr. ** (5.4)

Andre Turner DE 6'4, 220 Fr. ** (5.4)






8. A youth movement up front?

WMU must replace each of its starters at end, along with its backup nose tackle. The departure of talent, combined with Pinkham's move from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense, could result in some serious youth on the line in 2013. And that might not necessarily be a bad thing. Players like Michael Dubose (the star of last year's recruiting class) and Khairi Bailey (the star of this year's class) might be able to get up to speed quickly, and if Travonte Boles stays healthy, there is disruptive potential at tackle. Still, whatever this line may become, one has to assume a step backwards this fall.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Desmond Bozeman MLB 6'0, 220 Sr. *** (5.5) 11 58.5 8.2% 5.5 4 1 3 1 1
Terry Easmon WLB 6'1, 225 Sr. ** (5.4) 12 53.5 7.5% 7 3 0 1 0 0
Kyle Lark OLB 6'0, 230 Sr. ** (5.2) 12 34.0 4.8% 1.5 1 0 1 0 0
Devon Brant MLB 5'10, 230 Jr. ** (5.4) 12 24.0 3.4% 2.5 0 0 2 0 0
Paul Hazel OLB 12 15.0 2.1% 6 4 0 2 3 0
Trevor Ishmael WLB 6'1, 197 Jr. ** (5.2) 12 12.5 1.8% 3.5 0 0 1 1 0
Chris Prom LB 9 4.5 0.6% 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
Jarrell McKinney OLB 6'4, 216 So. ** (5.4) 9 2.5 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Sam Borst LB 6'0, 200 RSFr. NR 1 0.5 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jake Minster MLB 6'2, 235 Sr. ** (5.4)

Caleb Bailey LB 6'1, 210 Fr. *** (5.5)
Edward Rolle LB 6'2, 187 Fr. ** (5.4)






Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Johnnie Simon S 6'0, 197 Sr. ** (5.4) 12 77.0 10.8% 1.5 0 1 3 0 0
Justin Currie SS 6'2, 204 Jr. ** (5.4) 12 69.0 9.7% 1.5 0 0 3 1 2
Donald Celiscar CB 5'11, 183 Jr. ** (5.2) 12 65.5 9.2% 3 0 2 14 1 1
Lewis Toler CB 12 32.0 4.5% 2 0 3 7 0 1
Rontavious Atkins SS 6'0, 194 Jr. *** (5.5) 10 31.5 4.4% 1.5 0 0 3 1 0
Garrett Smith CB 5'9, 170 Jr. ** (5.4) 11 31.0 4.3% 0.5 0 0 1 0 0
Ronald Zamort CB 5'10, 157 So. NR 11 8.5 1.2% 1 0 1 0 0 0
Leo Alba CB 5'11, 161 So. ** (5.4) 12 8.0 1.1% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Demetrius Pettway SS 5'10, 187 Sr. ** (5.2) 10 5.5 0.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Demetris Ates SS 5'11, 174 So. ** (5.2) 7 4.0 0.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tronic Williams CB 6'1, 199 Sr. ** (5.1) 11 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Butler SS 6'0, 189 So. NR 4 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Henry CB 5'11, 188 Jr. ** (5.2) 5 1.0 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Dan Quinn CB 5'8, 186 So. NR 4 0.5 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
David Reed SS 5'11, 193 RSFr. ** (5.4)

Justin Motley CB 5'11, 180 RSFr. ** (5.4)


9. Experience is good (in theory)

I've given this example before, but back when Columbia was in the middle of a devastating losing streak in the 1980s, I scoured a preseason magazine (Sporting News, I think) in search of hope for the hapless Lions. I pointed out to my father that CU returned a ton of starters. That had to mean they were going to improve pretty dramatically, right? My father responded that experience isn't always a good thing if the experienced guys are the same ones who were terrible in past years.

I recall that exchange pretty frequently, and I certainly did so when looking at the returning personnel in the WMU secondary. Despite a Top 50 pass rush, the Broncos' pass defense ranked just 109th in Passing S&P+. That's bad. The fact that 13 of 14 defensive backs return this season isn't automatically a good thing.

Corner Donald Celiscar is a perfect reflection of the secondary as a whole, with the good-but-bad nature of his stat line. Good: He defensed 16 passes last year, one of the higher totals in the country. Bad: he also made more tackles than any WMU linebackers, which suggests that his man was catching a lot of passes.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
J. Schroeder 6'0, 205 So. 56 40.8 7 15 12 48.2%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Andrew Haldeman 5'10, 168 So. 52 56.6 8 15.4%
Jesse Boulnemour 5'11, 180 So. 11 59.7 2 18.2%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Andrew Haldeman 5'10, 168 So. 42-43 8-10 80.0% 2-6 33.3%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Brian Fields KR 5'8, 194 Sr. 17 22.4 0
Daniel Braverman KR 5'10, 164 So. 11 19.8 0
Donald Celiscar KR 5'11, 183 Jr. 11 23.1 0
Jaime Wilson PR 5'11, 196 So. 15 13.6 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 107
Net Punting 115
Net Kickoffs 113
Touchback Pct 115
Field Goal Pct 97
Kick Returns Avg 92
Punt Returns Avg 27

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2012 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
31-Aug at Michigan State 18
7-Sep Nicholls State NR
14-Sep at Northwestern 35
21-Sep at Iowa 47
28-Sep Kent State 80
5-Oct at Toledo 62
12-Oct Buffalo 101
19-Oct Ball State 84
26-Oct at Massachusetts 124
9-Nov at Eastern Michigan 118
16-Nov Central Michigan 96
26-Nov at Northern Illinois 50
Five-Year F/+ Rk 81
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 92
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -14 / -3.1
TO Luck/Game -4.5
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 10 (2, 8)
Yds/Pt Margin** +1.6

10. An unforgiving schedule awaits

WMU plays four opponents projected in the F/+ Top 50, and three come in the season's first four weeks, when the team will likely still be figuring things out with the new staff and a restructured defense. Meanwhile, the Broncos play three teams projected 101st or worse, but two are on the road. There is reasonable raw talent here, and there is a chance that Fleck and company craft something pretty unique and interesting with this personnel; more likely, however, is a situation in which it takes WMU a year to begin to rebound.

Western Michigan had a reasonable run of success under Bill Cubit -- five seasons at .500 or better in seven years (2005-11), three bowl appearances -- but the Broncos couldn't ever get over the hump and make a serious run at a MAC title. They haven't been to a MAC title game since 2000, and they probably won't make it in 2013. Hiring P.J. Fleck was a risk, and even if Fleck turns into a star, the odds are good that it won't happen immediately, not with a rebuild in the trenches (on both sides of the ball), and not with that defense.

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