Miami University football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the RedHawks, best players and season prediction.
Miami University is rebuilding. Again.
Other than the total shocker in 2010 on the way to a MAC title, it’s been a rough decade for the former conference superpower with five straight losing seasons and nine in the last ten. Chuck Martin is trying to find the right mix and the right talent to make his team a player again, and it has to start to happen now in Year Three.
The guy knows how to win, taking Grand Valley State to a 74-7 record with two national title in his six years, and he knows how to get an offense moving, but it hasn’t quite worked out yet with not enough firepower to get points on the board, and not enough defense to carry the team. There was hope, though, at the end of the season and it has to carry over.
MU was able to come up with two wins in the final three games, and even though they were against Eastern Michigan and Massachusetts, they were positive moments in an otherwise dismal season.
Now the payoff has to come after taking his lumps in his first two seasons.
Ten starters are back on offense, and while that might not be the best thing considering the attack did next to nothing at times, at least it’ll be full of veterans. The defense gets back six starters and did start to show a little promise as the year went on.
The history is there, the coach is good, and the players are in place now to do what Martin and his staff want to. Can this be a sneaky-good team to rise up in the mediocre MAC East? Could this be another 2010?
It happened before. Martin is too good to let the team be awful for much longer.
What You Need To Know About The Miami University Offense
It’s been years since MU was able to run the ball effectively, but it might be far more effective with all the top backs returning starting with Alonzo Smith working behind a line that returns all four starters. The RedHawk passing game worked great in 2014 and struggled in 2015, but that might have been the proverbial step back to take a giant leap forward with Billy Bahl fighting through a true freshman season to now be ready to become a major factor with a great-looking receiving corps to work with. Give Bahl time, and he has the skills to carry the offense.
Biggest Key To The Miami University Offense
2003. That was the last time MU ran for over 2,000 yards in a season. It helped to have Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback for the high-powered offense that won the MAC championship, but it’s been a long, long time since the program had a decent running game. This year’s attack might not be Wisconsin when it comes to pounding away, but it needs to start averaging more than 3.6 yards per carry and it has to at least be effective. The top five runners last season – including QB Gus Ragland – were all freshmen, and the line is better with four starters back, but now there has to be just a little bit of production. The team ran for seven touchdowns last season, five came in the three wins.
What You Need To Know About The Miami University Defense
It improved. A major problem when the new coaching staff took over two years ago, the D allowed 434 yards per game and couldn’t stop anyone with a decent offense. Last season, the RedHawks allowed 405 yards per outing, but improved in a big way against the run. Defensive coordinators Matt Pawlowski and John Hauser have a young line to work with, but there’s talent with JT Jones one of the MAC’s top pass rushers and Ikeem Allen a veteran on the inside. The linebacking corps has to replace heart-and-soul type Kent Kern, but Paul Moses is a good one to build around, The secondary has huge upside with CB Heath Harding back and healthy to go along with a strong group of safeties.
Biggest Key To The Miami University Defense
Can the pass defense start to lock down a little bit? The RedHawks allowed fewer than 200 yards just four times last season, and three of them came in the wins with the other coming against a punchless Kent State. The pass rush is in place, the secondary has as much promising talent as any in the MAC, and now there’s hope for this group to start being more of a factor.
Miami University Will Be Far Better If …
It wins the turnover battle. The RedHawks just aren’t good enough to be on the wrong side of the turnover margin, especially against the decent teams. They won the stat just once, going a +3 against Cincinnati, and it mattered coming close in a 37-33 loss that should’ve been a blowout. MU was even in five games and in the negative six times. Worse yet, the RedHawks didn’t just lose the turnover margin in those games, they were annihilated going -3 or worse four times and -2 twice.
Best Miami University Offensive Player
QB Billy Bahl, Soph. – At least that’s the hope. The RedHawks have quarterback options with Gus Ragland along with a slew of young prospects, but the goal is for Bahl to grow into the role after taking his lumps. He has the size, he has the skills, and he has the potential, but he struggled way too much with 13 interceptions and wasn’t accurate. If Bahl’s not the best player among the pack, it had better be Ragland to get the O moving.
Best Miami University Defensive Player
DE J’Terius Jones, Jr. – There will be a rotation at one end spot, and on the inside there’s a little bit of hope around Ikeem Allen, but it’ll be Jones who takes up all the attention after coming up with ten sacks. He might have been streaky, and most of his production came late in the year, but he showed the flash of a great one to be the main man for the defensive front.
Key Player To A Successful Season
PK Nick Dowd, Soph. – The RedHawks need a lot of help in several different places, but losing reliable kicker Kaleb Patterson will be tough for a team that might be in several close games. The punting game stunk, so the loss of Christian Koch shouldn’t hurt too much after averaging just over 38 yards per kick, but overall, MU’s kicking game needs an overhaul.
The Miami University Season Will Be A Success If …
It’s a five-win campaign with a more competitive season overall. There are too many veterans and too much experience to look for anything less than a good run with bowl eligibility on the radar. MU should be able to beat Eastern Illinois and Eastern Michigan, but every other game will be a fight with Ball State, Buffalo, Kent State and Akron all winnable games that’ll still be tough. All it’ll take is three more wins to get to five if there aren’t misfires against EIU and EMU.
Oct. 1 vs. Ohio. It’s the MAC opener and it’s at home – it’s a huge chance to make a statement with winnable games against Akron and Kent State up next. Home games are scarce the rest of the way with just three in the final seven – beating the Bobcats for the second time since 2005 would be a big deal.
2015 Miami University Fun Stats
– First Quarter Scoring: Opponents 116 – Miami University 45
– Rushing TDs: Opponents 27 – Miami University 7
– Time of Possession: Opponents 31:17 – Miami University 28:43