After bouncing back from a 0-6 start to finish 6-6 and earn a bowl bid in 2016, the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks took a step back with a 5-7 record in 2017. Four of their losses were by five points or fewer and were the result of critical Miami mistakes. Down by one to Bowling Green in MAC play, the RedHawks had first down on the Falcons' 1-yard line with just over than a minute left when a shotgun snap grazed a blocking back and fell for a fumble that a Falcon picked up and returned for a TD.
Previewing the Miami (Ohio) Offense for 2018
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Quarterback Gus Ragland, the architect of 2016's six-game winning streak, is back for his senior season as one of eight returning offensive starters. He'll be backed up by Alex Malzone, a graduate transfer from Michigan.
Graduation cost Miami two starting wide receivers and the starting tight end, but first-team All-MAC wideout James Gardner returns, and Nate Becker has seen plenty of action at tight end. Becker is known more for his blocking, and with five returning starters in the interior line, the RedHawks might lean more on a running game that features last season's top five ground gainers. That doesn't include Maurice Thomas, who was part of the running back rotation before missing the last nine games with an injury. He was expected to be ready for fall camp.
The offensive line will be experienced and deep, especially with the return from injury of Danny Godlevske and Tommy Doyle, who were limited to a combined five starts last season.
Previewing the Miami (Ohio) Defense for 2018
Miami's defense is similarly blessed with eight returning starters, including outside linebacker Brad Koenig, last season's top tackler. He also led the RedHawks with 10.5 tackles for a loss. Doug Costin also is an effective penetrator, but a move from end to tackle might make penetration a problem. He led Miami with five sacks and 10 quarterback hurries in 2017. Nate Trawick returns at one defensive tackle after already logging 25 starts.
Like the wide receiver corps, Miami's defensive backfield took a hit with the loss of safety Tony Reid and cornerback Heath Harding, last season's second- and third-leading tacklers. Expect talented junior college transfer Zedrick Raymond to step in at corner opposite Deondre Daniels, who has started 22 games. Raymond had six interceptions at Independence (Kan.) Community College. De'Andre Montgomery is being moved from outside linebacker back to his more natural strong safety position next to free safety Joshua Allen, who led Miami with three interceptions.
Previewing the Miami (Ohio) Specialists for 2018
The only opening on Miami's special teams was at punt returner after the graduation of Jared Murphy. Samuel Sloman returns after connecting on 12-of-16 field goal attempts as a sophomore.
Despite the numerous and costly mental breakdowns, coach Chuck Martin saw his contract extended for two years, through the 2020 season. He has spent the first four seasons building up the roster, both in talent and physicality, and he feels now that the RedHawks are in an enviable position with experienced players who are better able to physically compete in the MAC.
Miami will be tested by a challenging schedule that includes only five true home games. The RedHawks are due to play archrival Cincinnati at the Bengals' Paul Brown Stadium, and they face a grueling stretch of three road trips to Army, Buffalo and Northern Illinois in the second half of the season.