(CLICK READ MORE TO CONTINUE . . . )
Two wins might not sound like much, but considering where the RedHawks were in 2013, two wins was a definite leap forward. Moreover, it took the pressure of a long losing streak off the minds of players and created some momentum as head coach Chuck Martin and staff work to rebuild the program.
Another reason for some optimism among players was the RedHawks’ ability to remain competitive against the majority of the schedule. In addition to the two wins, MU lost five more games by eight points or less.
Andrew Hendrix, a Notre Dame transfer, more than revived Miami’s passing game in his one season with the RedHawks. Hendrix completed 222 of 458 for all but 53 yards of the RedHawks 3,333 passing yards. MU totaled just 1,491 yards with eight passing TDs and 11 interceptions in 2013. Hendrix notched 23 touchdowns against 10 interceptions in 2014.
Miami ranked second among MAC teams in passing offense (277.8 ypg)and were 30th nationally. The RedHawks were eighth in passing efficiency.
Drew Kummer and Gus Ragland are the most likely replacements for Hendrix this season, Kummer, a senior, has 22 completions on 58 attempts for 320 total yards with one TD and one interception. Ragland, a redshirt freshman, has yet to take a game snap. While both are short on experienced, Hendrix’ presence last season allowed them to spend a year learning Martin’s new system.
Miami was next to last (12th) in rushing (122nd nationally) , continuing a stretch of several years during which MU’s ground game has struggled mightily. Among other things, it impacted the RedHawks red zone capabilities and Miami was ninth in red zone offense. It scored 72.5 percent of the time, with 24 touchdowns (10 rushing and 14 on passes). Hendrix provided six of the rushing scores. Converted end Dawan Scott did manage to average 5.2 ypc, while battling some injuries. Martin’s continued focus on improving line talent and depth could begin to pay at least some dividends this year if MU can find a back to meet its needs
Receiving leader David Frazier is gone, but there are some talented targets for Martin’s passing game. Jared Murphy, Rokeem Williams and Sam Martin combined for 99 catches, 1,613 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2014.
Miami was middle-of-the-pack in time of possession (7th, 29:07).
Improving some defensive numbers will be a goal of the RedHawks. They finished 10th in scoring defense (31.8 ppg), rushing defense (199.9 ypg) and total defense. MU was seventh in pass defense.
Basketball player-turned- cornerback Quinten Rollins recorded seven interceptions on the way to MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was subsequently drafted by the Green Bay Packers. Defensive back Heath Harding, however, returns after posting a team-high 98 tackles. Linebackers Kent Kern and Joe Donlan combined for 146 stops. Bryson Albright also returns after leading the RedHawks with 6.0 sacks in 2014.
Miami ranked fifth in turnover margin (+2).
Kaleb Patterson has demonstrated he has the leg to score from distance. He was 9 of 13 last year, with a long of 52 against Western Michigan. He also had a 49-yarder versus Cincinnati.