Progress has been slow for Miami (Ohio), but Chuck Martin hopes to see more of it in his second season. The RedHawks lost 10 games last season, but lost five games by one possession (Eastern Kentucky, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Central Michigan and Ohio). The offense must be rebuilt with three starters, but eight returning starters on defense at least gives Miami an experienced starting point.
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Previewing Miami’s Offense for 2015
When your most experienced quarterback now lines up at defensive end, that’s a concern. Junior Austin Gearing threw 54 passes and added 145 rushes as Miami’s starter in 2013, but he switched sides of the ball last season after being supplanted by Notre Dame transfer Andrew Hendrix, who has exhausted his eligibility. Redshirt freshman Gus Ragland possesses the same combination of running and throwing talent displayed by Hendrix on his way to being named third-team All-MAC. But senior Drew Kummer has the experience edge on Ragland; Kummer has thrown 58 passes and rushed 31 times with the RedHawks. Ragland has yet to step on the field.
The situation at running back isn’t much better. Junior Spencer McInnis and sophomore Damon Washington are the only returning players with experience, and they combined for 261 yards last season. That might not be enough to hold off redshirt freshmen Kenny Young and Alonzo Smith.
Junior wide receiver Jared Murphy is Miami’s top returning pass catcher, but he was being pushed by sophomore Sam Martin and junior Fred McRae IV, who also earned third-team all-conference honors as a punt returner. The offensive line also needs refurbishing after losing three starters.
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Previewing Miami’s Defense for 2015
Even with the loss to graduation of cornerback Quinten Rollins, who was named the MAC’s Defensive Player of the Year in his only season on the gridiron after finishing up his basketball career, the RedHawks’ defense looks strong once again.
All four starters return on the line, led by senior Bryson Albright, who led Miami with 6.0 sacks, just ahead of junior J’Terius Jones’ five quarterback collars. Senior Joe Donlan, one of two returning starters at linebacker, ranked second on the team in tackles with 77. The other returning starter, senior Kent Kern, was a second-team All-MAC pick in 2013 and is itching to get back after missing the final three games of the 2014 season.
Junior Heath Harding, who led the RedHawks with 98 tackles as a safety in 2014, has moved to cornerback, joining returning starter Marshall Taylor. You could say the defensive backfield has three returning starters, as senior safety Brison Burris is back after missing all of last season with an injury. Burris started 11 of 12 games in 2012 and all 12 in 2013, but he’ll have to hold off junior Buchi Okafor for the job.
Previewing Miami’s Specialists for 2015
Senior Kaleb Patterson is back for his fourth season as Miami’s placekicker. Patterson has attempted 42 field goals in his RedHawks career and made 31, including a career-long 52-yarder last season. Senior Christian Koch waited for his turn and is back for his second season as Miami’s punter. Koch averaged 40.1 yards per punt last season.
Coach Chuck Martin, a former Notre Dame assistant, sees progress in his quest to drag Miami football away from the dregs of a school-record 21-game losing streak, including an 0–12 2013, and closer to the tradition that includes 15 MAC championships.
Miami has opened an indoor practice facility, placing it on the same level as MAC teams such as Northern Illinois, which has played in the last five league championship games.
Martin and his coaching staff spent less time in his second spring camp teaching the RedHawks how to practice and more time on what to practice. That made it easier to make decisions on position battles, allowing more time to focus on preparing for the upcoming season. This program is still a year away from being a factor in the MAC East, but there is finally some positive momentum in Oxford.