Miami coach Chuck Martin may have been a rookie head coach at the D-1 level when he arrived in Oxford to lead the Miami RedHawks grid program, but he had been around football way more than enough to know that line play will dictate many things. He therefore made it a priority to bolster the MU’s lines, and those efforts appeared to be paying dividends as Miami went on a 2016 second half run that carried the RedHawks to a share of the MAC East title and also a bowl game appearance.
Miami returns much of its cast on both sides of the ball in 2017, so there is renewed optimism on many levels in RedHawk country.
“You can just feel . . .
He continued, “It’s just a different atmosphere. Last year, we didn’t really change nothing, but I think once we got that first win, the snow just started going down the mountain.”
No small part of the surge was the RedHawks defense, which topped the MAC in total defense (353.2 ypg). Miami’s defense also finished: third in scoring defense, second in rushing defense, second in pass defense efficiency, third in interceptions, second in redzone defense and fourth in sacks.
Defensive ends J.T. Jones and Austin Gearing have departed after very solid seasons.
Jones started at least 12 games in each of the past three years and earned Second Team All-MAC honors last year. Gearing, who started his Miami career as a quarterback, eventually found his nitche as a defensive end. Matched with Jones on the other side, the duo proved effective in pressuring opponent passers.
Beyond that, Trawick noted, “The work they put in kind of inspired the whole group.”
Just who will replace Jones and Gearing has been one of the “offseason” questions for Miami. Trawick believes the RedHawks can come up with effective answers.
“We’ve got some really good defensive ends coming in,” he said. “I’m really excited. … We’ve just got to get them some more game experience.”
There’s significant talent and depth at the defensive tackle positions, a situation that Trawick feels will help in the transition, “as long as the middle guys are on their keys.”
Eventually, “I think you are going to see more of a balanced attack – from the inside and from the outside, so I’m really excited.”
Balanced, of course, it something that fits the Miami offense, as well, these days. The running game has emerged as a compliment to the passing attack. Gus Ragland stepping in at quarterback gives MU a dual threat. Add in the fact that Miami’s offense is now entering its fourth year of the Martin era, and you have a balanced unit that is difficult to defend.
In a way, that is good news for a Miami defense that must face it in practice.
“They do a lot of stuff,” Trawick said. “Our offense is pretty confusing to go up against. … They can beat you run or pass. They’ve got so many quick backs. Gus can run and they can throw. … They do so much stuff that makes the defense think. … You’ve really got to be on your keys when you are playing them.”
With Saturday marking the last day of spring practice, Trawick and his teammates will set their next sights on this fall. “We’re getting better day by day. We’ve just got to keep it up,” he said.