The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 120 Miami, Ohio.
Previewing Miami, Ohio’s Offense for 2014:
Chuck Martin’s job before being named Miami’s coach in December was offensive coordinator at Notre Dame, creating hope that he will help revive a RedHawk offense that defined anemic in 2013. Miami finished last in the MAC in rushing, passing, total and — of course — scoring (9.8 ppg).
Martin’s biggest challenge is turning around Miami’s rushing “attack.” Sophomore quarterback Austin Gearing led the team in rushing last season, while junior Spencer Treadwell — the son of former coach Don Treadwell, who was fired last October after Miami got off to an 0–5 start — is the top returning ground-gainer among running backs, with 171 yards.
Gearing is likely to be supplanted at quarterback by senior Andrew Hendrix, who transferred from Notre Dame and is immediately eligible. Hendrix threw for 360 yards and a touchdown during his four years in South Bend. Joining him among the Fighting Irish transfers is tight end Alex Welch, who will help fortify a position depleted by graduation.
Whoever plays quarterback will have a deep corps of wide receivers at his disposal. Two starters and nine letterwinners return from last season’s team, including senior Dawan Scott. The O-line also returns four of its five 2013 starters.
Previewing Miami, Ohio’s Defense for 2014:
Seven starters return from a defense that was almost as ineffective as the offense in 2013. Miami’s most experienced unit is the linebacker group, where second-team all-conference pick Kent Kern returns in the middle after leading the RedHawks in tackles as a sophomore last season. Classmate Josh Dooley also started all 12 games and was third on the team with 87 tackles.
Three out of four starters and eight of nine letterwinners return in the secondary, including cornerback Heath Harding and safeties Brison Burris and Jay Mastin. Harding started 10 games as a true freshman last season and logged 56 tackles and a team-leading three interceptions. Senior Lo Wood, the last of three former Fighting Irish players to follow Martin to Oxford, also is eligible to play this season and is the likely starter at the other cornerback slot. He has big shoes to fill. Dayonne Nunley was a three-time first-team all-conference pick.
The area most in need of rebuilding is the defensive line, but junior end Bryson Albright provides a strong foundation after leading the RedHawks with five sacks and 11.5 tackles for a loss last season. On the interior, junior Mitchell Winters and sophomore Jimmy Rousher will start full-time at the tackle slots after sharing a position last season.
Previewing Miami, Ohio’s Specialists for 2014:
Junior Kaleb Patterson returns for his third season as Miami’s placekicker. He focused on field goals and extra points last season, but he will add kickoffs and, perhaps, punting to his job description this season. Whether it’s Patterson or junior Christian Koch handling the punting chores, they’ll be hard-pressed to match the performance of Zac Murphy, who finished fourth in the nation in average yards per punt in 2013. Sophomore wide receiver Fred McRae is the RedHawks’ most experienced punt and kickoff returner.
Martin won two Division II national championships as the head coach at Grand Valley State and helped Notre Dame reach the BCS National Championship Game two years ago. He is used to winning. But this is a major rebuild. The RedHawks went 0–12 in 2013 and were perhaps the worst team in the nation. Quick turnarounds are possible in the MAC — see Ball State under Pete Lembo — but it’s hard to envision the RedHawks climbing too far up the league’s food chain in 2014.