Both sides had their shining moments Saturday as the Miami RedHawks wrapped up spring practice sessions with the annual Spring Showcase at the Daught Indoor Sports Center. Thanks to freshman DB Caleb Bragg's goal line breakup of a pass, however, bragging rights ultimately went to the MU defense. That unit edged the offense 444 - 424.
The score is legit -- well, sort of, anyway, as head coach Chuck Martin and his staff employed a unique scoring system that rewarded a wide variety of plays. A few point opportunities were as much for fun as execution. In a competition between offensive and defensive lines, for example, offensive lineman Charlie Nank's over-the-shoulder catch of a punt helped the offense battle back from a 140-point deficit. Bragg's breakup, however, ultimately allowed the defense to walk away with the "win."
Among the day's offensive highlights were touchdowns by receivers, Mac Hippenhammer and Austin Robinson, as well as a spectacular run by Aveon Smith. The Redshirt freshman is battling for backup QB duties behind starter Brett Gabbert. Smith's forte thusfar is running with the ball, and his ability to break long runs was evident Saturday.
Miami's backup role opened up with the transfer of AJ Mayer (Arkansas State), who very ably filled in for Gabbert early last year.
"Obviously, we had the luxury (situation) when we had Brett and AJ," said Martin, noting he's never had two other quarterbacks playing at such a high level on the same team during 30 years of coaching.
"Aveon is one of about 35 or 40 guys that needed to take advantage of his spring opportunities and make a jump -- and he did," Martin said. "He just got better and better and better. . . . (but) he's got to keep coming."
Scattered among the new starter candidates are five incoming transfers. According to Martin, they are blending into the mix well.
"The five kids we brought in have been wonderful," he said. "Our kids love 'em. They love our kids. They jumped right in. They like the fact that we expect a lot of our players. They fit in wonderfully, and so far they've been a great addition to our team."
Much of the turnover came on defense, and Martin pointed out that side of the ball still has a "long, long way to go."
"We lose (DB's) Mike Brown and Sterling Weatherford. There's about 2,000 snaps you have to replace just with those two guys alone."
Linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (Cincinnati) defensive lineman Kameron Butler (Virginia) were First Team All-MAC performers who will be missed and developing a solid defensive line is one of Miami's big challenges for 2022. Martin has seen progress through spring drills, but he's looking for more improvement -- particularly in third down pass rushing -- before this fall's opener at Kentucky.
In the meantime, there is tape to watch.
"A lot of kids got a ton of reps today," Martin said. "We'll learn from the tape, and that's how you get better. ... When you're really young, you're going to have some spotty execution at times, but (they're playing with great effort and really flying around. ... We have really nice athletes, and we're going to playin extremely hard."