TEAM: Miami RedHawks
2015 RECORD: 3-9, 2-6 MAC (5th MAC East)
HEAD COACH: Chuck Martin (3rd Year)
MAC MEDIA PRESEASON POLL RANK: (5th in East)
The RedHawks put up some ugly numbers at times last year. Most of those came during the early and middle portions of the schedule. Non-conference beatings at Wisconsin and Western Kentucky come to mind, and MU was simply overmatched in those situations.
Head coach Chuck Martin, nonetheless, determined relatively early that if . . .
BIG PICTURE STAT OVERVIEW
Scoring offense: 12th (17.9 ppg)
Scoring defense: 11th (32.0 ppg)
Total offense: 12th (338.2 ypg)
Total defense: 6th (404.6 ypg)
Turnover margin: 13th (-14/-1.17.15 per game)
"I promise you we're going to be toward the top of our league in turnover margin" -- Head Coach Chuck Martin
Bahl was a high risk, high-reward QB last year. He threw 13 interceptions, with seven of them coming in two mid-season contests. The challenge for Bahl and MU is to reduce the risk while enhancing the rewards.
As important as Bahl’s own development is, so too is the development of an offensive line which can protect its quarterback. Opening some holes for the running game would help, as well. Fortunately, Martin has been resolutely addressing line deficiencies and depth since his arrival. While the O-line might not be a “machine” yet, it should be improved and have more depth this season
Bahl, who was sacked 21 times last year, completed just 44.8 percent of his passes (99 of 221, 1,416 yards). Six of his eight TD tosses came in the final four games. Miami won two of the four.
Bahl loves the passing game, and despite the humble beginnings, still appears to have a big upside. "He's big, strong, and can really throw the football," Martin said. The key is "not trying to win the game on every throw."
Miami also hopes to have the services of quarterback Gus Ragland, who was second on the team in rushing. The redshirt sophomore sustained an injury late in spring drills and his timeline for return is uncertain.
If the RedHawks can get their running game going again, it should prove a great compliment. There were signs of improvement late last season as MU eclipsed the rushing century mark in three of its final four games and totaled 291 against Eastern Michigan.
There should be enough talent at running back and along the line to move up from the No. 12 rushing offense rank of last year. Sophomore Alonzo Smith picked up 498 yards on 124 carries as a freshman and give MU a nice power/speed combination. He had five rushing TDs last year.
Kenny Young and local product Maurice Thomas, with the latter also serving as a very speedy and dangerous kick returner, will also provide some production.
Miami’s defense was the stronger unit last year, and it should be pretty solid again, especially if the secondary can hold its own. J.T. Jones (Third Team All-MAC) and Ikeem Allen anchor the front line.
Stalwart linebacker Kent Kern is gone after leading MU with 82 tackles. However, Paul Moses returns for his junior season after finishing with 71 stops last season. T.J. Williams totaled 49 hits.
Miami struggled at times in the secondary during 2015, and Bryson Burris is gone. Senior Heath Harding, however, returns after an injury shelved him for the final nine games. Junior Tony Reid and Buchi Okafor are back, while Tee Shepard is among newcomers who could help. Shepard was a Notre Dame signee at one point. He played two years of junior college ball before seeing limited action at Ole Miss.
"He's a rare combination of run stopper and pass rusher" -- Head Coach Chuck Matin on J.T. Jones
Kaleb Patterson’s departure leaves a question mark in the kicking game. Punter Christian Koch is also gone, so fall camp is providing competition that should clear up the picture.
Martin’s rebuild of the program has been from the ground up, so there are still plenty of underclassmen in the lineup – especially on offense. "We were one of the youngest teams in the country last year, and we're younger this year," Martin noted.
A focus for the fall has been reducing turnovers and creating more opponent miscues. If Miami can make significant progress in this area, keep Bahl healthy and improve along the offensive line, some of the other details will work out. It’s the MAC East, so moving up in the standings should be a realistic goal.