MU Last Year: 0-12
0-8 MAC East (7th)
Head Coach: Chuck Martin
2014 MAC Media Preseason Pick – 6th in MAC East
Challenge: After winning a MAC championship and bowl game following the 2010 regular season, the Miami RedHawks football program fell on hard times – three straight losing seasons under former MU player and Michigan State assistant coach Don Treadwell. By the third season, it was clear the RedHawks were a feint shadow of their competitive years – let alone any glory campaigns. Treadwell was dismissed halfway through what became a winless 2013 season. Can new head coach Chuck Martin rebuild the RedHawks, and how long will it take to reach the win column?
1. Miami has pulled it off before – and it wasn’t all that long ago!
2. Martin is no doubt aware that MU has the capability to rebound, much as it did with a remarkable two-year turnaround under another former Notre Dame assistant, Mike Haywood, over the 2009-2010 campaigns.
Why else would Martin – a hot prospect with a solid resume - take a pay cut and pass up other potential opportunities?
In the end, Miami considered Martin a virtual perfect fit. He, in turn, deduced that the RedHawks recent struggles belied their potential.
Nobody takes a pay cut to take over a winless team unless they have supreme confidence in themselves and their ability to turn things around. Martin has that and, equally important, he seems skilled at instilling confidence in others. That’s a huge plus when it comes to recruiting for a team coming off a winless season.
Martin and his staff seem to exude a drive and enthusiasm that is contagious, and by various reports it is paying off along the recruiting trail. Moreover, the new head man has put much of the recruiting focus on the RedHawks Achilles heel of late – line play.
Help is on the way, but some of that line help will come from the prep class of 2015. In the meantime, the RedHawks will have to make do with what is on hand, along with any freshmen showing up Monday when MU opens fall camp.
Overall, it’s a similar situation to what Mike Haywood faced in 2009. That team, often forced to rely on freshmen, struggled to a 1-11 record, That one win came against Toledo with the help of a fortuitous fumble bounce. One year later, however, the Haywood’s RedHawks went from double-digit losses to double digit wins. A late-season streak enabled MU to win a MAC title and bowl game.
Such reversals are truly exceptional, and numerous statistics point to just how anemic the RedHawks had become in 2013. Nowhere was it more evident than on offense.
Quarterback Zac Dysert (now with the Denver Broncos) helped carry Miami’s offense for two years. But with his departure after the 2012 campaign, MU not only could not run the football, it could not pass it either after embracing an option attack. The RedHawks thus finished 122 (of 123 FBS teams) in total offense and last in scoring offense.
Fortunately, Martin’s arrival in Oxford was followed by that of Andrew Hendrix, a Cincinnati-area high school product who saw limited action as a quarterback at Notre Dame. He has already graduated, and quickly embraced the opportunity to come back home. His skills and knowledge of the system (Martin was offensive coordinator at ND) will be invaluable to the RedHawks.
“(He) is very, very talented, physically, but (he’s also) an incredible kid,” Martin said. “He’s all for team first and Andrew second. It’s been awesome. … We expect a lot out of him. I know what he is capable of doing, because I have been around him. He’s excited about this opportunity just like we are. I think he can be one of the building blocks to get this program back to respectability.
By all accounts, he has blended in well and is sharing his expertise among the quarterbacking corps, which lost run-oriented QB Austin Gearing for the upcoming season due to injury. Hendrix will only be available for 2014, but he could be a big factor in helping turn things around, especially if he can remain healthy.
Keeping him healthy will be one of the biggest challenges of the season, and a key factor in that is likely to be the offensive line. Its numbers were so thin in spring drills that Martin switched the scheduled intra-squad finale to an open practice session. The RedHawks line itself needs to get healthy, get better and develop some depth.
Injuries to the unit over the last several years have resulted in frequently juggling of positions and use of inexperienced players. Martin quickly recognized the problem and addressed the long term solution. Co-Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach George Barnett will be busy working with the veterans while trying to bring incoming linemen along as quickly as possible.
There is actually quite a bit of experience among what should be the front five, but the unit must be more productive. The RedHawks were last in the MAC in rushing last year – using a run-oriented offense! They were also last in sacks allowed (50 for minus-313 yards) and third down conversions (25.3%).
It’s hard to identify any standout among the running backs. Indeed, Miami often tried to hand the ball off to receiver Dawan Scott last year. However, the RedHawks should be operating under a much different offensive system this season. If Hendrix can get the passing game going and the line can open some holes, the running game might start to contribute more – regardless of who is carrying the ball.
Scott, a senior who prospered in the Dysert years, leads a receiving corps that includes returning starters Alvonta Jenkins (JR) and David Frazier (SR).
As with the offense, the defense line will be an important factor in 2014 success. Austin Brown and Wes Williams are among the departed. Defensive end Mitch Williams (6-5, 285, JR) is an athletic playmaker. Bryson Albright (6-5, 243) is at the other end. He started every game in 2012, registering 55 stops with 11.5 TFL and five sacks. There is some uncertainty inside, although redshirt senior Mwanza Wamulumba (6-3, 283) returns.
Stopping the run and getting sacks (each 11th MAC) will again be challenges, but any progress there would help the next levels.
Both the linebacking corps and defensive backfield could be real strengths for MU. Josh Dooley, Kent Kern (2nd Team All-MAC) and Tyler Tucker are very active and can bring the kind of toughness Martin desires into play. Kern (6-1, 238) had a team-high 98 tackles with 5.0 TFL. (6-0, 226) Dooley recorded 87 tackles.
Returning starter Jay Mastin IS back at A safeties, but Bryson Burris (also a safety) will likely miss much of the campaign.
Heath Harding (5-10, 175, SO) and Chrishawn Dupuy (5-9, 175, SR) are back at the corners. Harding was particularly impressive for a freshman, leading the team with three interceptions while making 56 tackles and forcing two fumbles.
Quinten Rollins, who finished four years with the RedHawks basketball program earlier this year, has drawn notice for his athleticism and could be a contributor on the gridiron this fall. This will be his last appearance in a RedHawks uniform. He has bulked up and added strength in preparation for the campaign. Former Miami basketball coach Charlie Coles, who recruited Rollins, once remarked that the Wilmington High School athlete might be an even better football player.
- Kicker Kaleb Patterson was like a golf long drive champ on a Par 3 course last year. He didn’t have that many chances to use his skills. After leading the team with 68 points in 2012, he slipped to 33 points in 2013 on 7 of 11 field goals and 12 of 12 PATs. He had two field goals of over 50 yards (52, 51) last year and is a significant weapon when given the opportunity. If the offense can move the football this time around, Patterson could put points at the end of some of those drives.
- Unlike kicking, punting must turn the page following the departure of standout Zac Murphy (sixth in nation, 46.6-yard average). Fall camp will sort out the replacement.
For now, the RedHawks need only focus on the process while attempting to break into the winning column. Progress can continue from there. The coaching staff demands attention to detail and there is an emphasis on toughness.
“The first thing that we want to establish is that we’re going to be hard to play against. The last year or year and a half we probably weren’t very competitive in a lot of games,” Martin said, “We’re going to be a blue-collared, hard-nosed football team that is going to be no fun to play.”
Martin’s intensity – which seems omnipresent – is a much-needed antidote for a team in Miami’s position.
There are playmakers on both sides of the ball. What they need is opportunity, and that often correlates to successful line play.
- “You’ve got a bunch of kids that were successful high school kids and at one point had a lot of confidence in themselves, but that’s hard on young men. Getting them to start believing that they can still win and … have success (was part of the challenge) and then getting them in the weight room and getting them bigger, stronger faster.” – Head coach Chuck Martin
- Miami opens at home against a talented and experienced Marshall Thundering Herd squad that thrives on its uptempo offense. MU vs. MU was once a hard-fought (and sometimes testy) rivalry. Miami will need to step it up to again challenge the Herd.
- Miami entertains Eastern Kentucky of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) in Week 2. The Colonels were 6-6 last year. The RedHawks follow that with trips to Michigan and Cincinnati.
- UMass, which edged Miami 17-10 last year in the first game following head coach Don Treadwell’s departure, will be making its final visit to Oxford as a MAC member. It is leaving the conference after the 2015 season.
- A battle for backup QB duties should resume in fall camp. The list includes Drew Kummer, a 6-3, 207 redshirt junior out of LaSalle High School in Cincinnati. He is one of quite a few Cincinnati Greater Catholic League products on the MU roster. Tom Tupa, a redshirt freshman out of Brecksville could be in the mix. Gus Ragland, a 6-3 true freshman from Moeller HS in Cincinnati, was Division I Co-Offensive Player of the Year. He scored eight touchdowns in the 2013 state championship game.
- Dawan Scott had 28 catches for 424 yards last year, one yard better than his freshman season. He registered 57 catches for 851 yards with seven TDs in Zac Dysert’s last year at Miami (2012). Scott actually had more carries on the ground (37) than receptions (28) last year.