Preview 2017: Miami University RedHawks
Previewing and looking ahead at the Miami University RedHawks season – and what you need to know.
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What You Need To Know About The Miami University Offense
The RedHawks have an offense again. They still couldn’t run the ball – MU hasn’t been able to pound away in years – but the rise of QB Gus Ragland over the second half of the season led to a relative explosion.
Now, Miami should have one of the league’s best attacks, with Ragland working behind a line that returns four starters. All of the top backs return, and three of the top four receivers are back.
Biggest Key To The Miami University Offense
The running game needs to carry its own weight. In 2015, MU only ran for 1,556 yards and seven scores, hitting the 200-yard mark three times. It failed to run for 200 in a 35-game stretch from 2012 to 2014 – the ground attack hasn’t done much of anything over the years.
Last season, after Ragland took over, everything else started to work, running for 200 yards in four straight games, and winning all four. The top five rushing performances of the season came in the final six games – that has to continue.
What You Need To Know About The Miami University Defense
The RedHawks came up with a terrific defensive season, finishing 25th in the nation overall and holding its own in all phases. The only concern is on the defensive line, with J’Terius Jones and Austin Gearing gone from the ends – but that’s it.
The other nine starters return, led by CB Heath Harding in a fantastic secondary, while the 1-2 linebacking punch of Brad Koenig and De’Andre Montgomery should be among the best in the MAC. As long as the takeaways keep coming, the defense should be every bit as strong.
Biggest Key To The Miami University Defense
The RedHawks have to find the ends. J’Terius Jones and Austin Gearing weren’t killers on the outside, but they led the team in sacks and were key veterans for the defensive front against the run.
The tackles should be solid, but MU is all but starting from scratch with the rotation on the end. There isn’t much in the way of experience, but the pass rush has to crank up from the start.
Miami University Will Be Far Better If …
The return game has to be better. The RedHawks might be better offensively, but this still isn’t going to be the type of attack that blows up and hangs 50 on the board on a regular basis – the team needs to manufacture points from other areas, too.
Maurice Thomas is an all-star kick returner – averaging over 24 yards per try – but the team averaged just 19.4 yards per return. MU hasn’t averaged over 20 yards per kickoff return since 2010. The punt return problems were even worse, averaging just three yards per try.
Best Miami University Offensive Player
QB Gus Ragland, Jr. – The savior of the season, the 6-1, 211-pounder got past a torn ACL to rise up and rock over the second half, completing 64% of his passes for 1,537 yards and 17 touchdowns with just one pick, along with two rushing scores.
Accurate, smart with the ball, and efficient, he was a night-and-day difference for the offense after a rocky first game against Kent State. Once he found his groove, the offense became as effective as it’s been in years.
2. WR James Gardner, Jr.
3. OT Jordan Rigg, Jr.
4. RB Alonzo Smith, Jr.
5. RB/KR Maurice Thomas, Jr.
Best Miami University Defensive Player
CB Heath Harding, Sr. – One of the MAC’s best defenders, the 5-10, 186-pounder came up with 98 tackles in a terrific sophomore season – after starting out hot as a freshman – but missed almost all of last year hurt.
Healthy again last year, he turned in an all-star campaign with 67 tackles with four picks and 11 broken up passes. While he’s not all that big, he tackles as well as any defensive back in the MAC, and he’s a smart, elite coverman. A fifth-year senior, he’ll be a lock for All-MAC honors again.
2. LB Junior McMullen, Jr.
3. S Tony Reid, Sr.
4. LB Brad Koenig, Jr.
5. S De’Andre Montgomery, Jr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
RB Alonzo Smith, Jr. – Or Kenny Young, or Maurice Thomas. The 5-10, 221-pound Smith led the team with 709 rushing yards and three touchdowns, and he came up with two receiving scores, but he wasn’t explosive. As long as he can pound away a little bit, the offense might finally have a little balance.
Young brings a little more explosion, while Thomas is one of the best kick returners in the MAC. Behind the veteran line, they need to help out Mr. Ragland.
The Miami University Season Will Be A Success If …
The RedHawks take the East. It’s time to dream bigger, especially with the way the team was playing down the stretch – now it knows it can win. With a not-that-bad schedule, the MU misses Western Michigan and Toledo from the West, and the second half is a bit of a breeze with five of the last seven games against teams that didn’t go bowling. In reality, it’ll be a great season if MU goes to another bowl, but going to the MAC Championship is possible if it beats …
Key Game To The Miami University Season
Oct. 31 at Ohio. The East hasn’t been all that great, and Ohio has been able to take advantage as it turned into the steady star of the division. The Bobcats aren’t going to be explosive, and if MU can be rested and ready after getting ten days off after the date with Buffalo, it could be a fight. It’ll be a nationally televised game on a Tuesday night, and in one way or another, it’s going to matter in the division chase.
2016 Miami University Fun Stats
– Fumbles: Opponents 19 (lost 7) – Miami Univ. 17 (lost 13)
– Sacks: Opponents 42 for 254 yards – Miami Univ. 24 for 174 yards
– 3rd Quarter Scoring: Miami Univ. 111 – Opponents 57