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2019 MAC Football Season Preview: Miami RedHawks

Can a change at quarterback help get Miami over the hump?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 30 Miami OH at Buffalo Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

2018 was a tumultuous season for the Miami RedHawks as they had to battle injuries from Week 1 onward, all sis of their losses came against teams that ended up in bowl games (including 10+ win Army, Buffalo, and Cincinnati teams), and tough one-possession losses against Marshall, Western Michigan, and Army to keep them out of bowl season. Despite all of that, the ‘Hawks went 6-2 in MAC play with wins over very good Ohio and Northern Illinois teams.

2019 presents a new challenge for the Red and White as they have to replace efficient quarterback Gus Ragland due to graduation, do-it-all running back Kenny Young, and stellar defender Brad Koenig. The good news is that a lot of the projected starters for this season saw a fair amount of game action due to the injuries in 2018. The same cannot be said for the quarterback room, where the three main competitors for the starting job have two games played between them.

What will 2019 have in store for the RedHawks?

Key Losses

The losses for Miami cannot be overstated. Ragland earned Second Team All-MAC honors in 2018 with 2,547 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, and five interceptions as he also added seven scores on the ground. Young and Alonzo Smith accounted for 1,100+ rushing yards and 13 TDs while the former caught 42 passes for 384 yards and four scores as well. Losing James Gardner (a All-MAC First Teamer in 2017) early in the season was a huge blow but Nate Becker’s loss will be a blow to the depth of the tight end position. Jordan Rigg and Sam McCollum brought a lot of stability and strong play to the offensive line; they will be missed.

Defensively, the ‘Hawks have some losses that have to be accounted for. They lose both LBs of their 4-2-5 defense (Koenig and Junior McMullen) while also losing three defensive backs (DeAndre Montgomery, Joshua Allen, and Deondre Daniels).

Key Returners

As far as the QB1 battle goes, it’s really a two-horse race between sophomore Jackson Williamson and redshirt freshman AJ Mayer. In Miami’s spring showcase, Williamson went 3/11 for 45 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 32 yards and a score. Meanwhile, Mayer went 6/9 for 42 yards and a TD. The battle will rage on in fall camp before we have a decisive victor, but whoever wins should be planning on experiencing some growing pains as a first time starter because a spring practice is nothing like live football in the fall.

There’s a fair amount of experience in the running back room as Maurice Thomas, Jaylon Bester, and Davion Johnson have demonstrated big play ability in their Miami careers. The Red and White’s love affair with big possession receivers continue in 2019 with Andrew Homer, Luke Mayock, and Dominique Robinson all being 6’4” or taller and representing three of the top pass catchers from a year ago. Jack Sorenson had a nice breakout season with a team-leading 53 receptions for 742 yards and a pair of scores. On the offensive line, Miami brings back an experienced group headlined by Third Team All-MAC honoree Danny Godlevske.

On defense, Doug Costin was a force on the defensive line with 10.5 TFLs and six sacks while Bart Baratti was an impact player in 2018 with nine TFLs, five QB hurries, and three sacks. The defensive backfield is probably Miami’s deepest position as Travion Banks, Mike Brown, and Zedrick Raymond all played well last year while Manny Rugamba is now eligible to play after transferring from Iowa. We can’t forget the special teams either as kicker Sam Sloman an punter Kyle Kramer are coming off of strong seasons.

2019 Schedule

2019 Miami RedHawks Football Schedule

Date Opponent 2019 Result
Date Opponent 2019 Result
August 31 - Sat @ Iowa N/A
September 7 - Sat vs. Tennessee Tech N/A
September 14 - Sat @ Cincinnati L, 0-21
September 21 - Sat @ Ohio State N/A
September 28 - Sat vs. Buffalo L, 42-51
October 5 - Sat BYE
October 12 - Sat @ Western Michigan L, 39-40
October 19 - Sat vs. Northern Illinois W, 13-7
October 26 - Sat @ Kent State W, 31-6
November 6 - Wed @ Ohio W, 30-28
November 13 - Wed vs. Bowling Green W, 38-23
November 20 - Wed vs. Akron W, 41-17
November 29 - Fri @ Ball State W, 42-21

There’s no way to get around it: Miami’s nonconference slate in 2019 is absolutely brutal. Iowa is coming off of a nine-win season and will be contenders in the B1G West, Cincinnati won 11 games and are one the favorites to win the AAC in 2019, and Ohio State could very well be playing in the College Football Playoff in Ryan Day’s first season at the helm with Justin Fields at QB. Tennessee Tech, however, went 1-10 last season against a FCS schedule.

The RedHawk’s MAC schedule poses more difficulty as it is frontloaded with four teams that went bowling last season, including both competitors in the MAC title game. Kent State brings back a lot of experience and could be a tough match-up in between the NIU and Ohio games. The ‘Hawks wrap up the season with Bowling Green and Akron programs that are undergoing a rebuild while Ball State could be an intriguing game depending on how the season goes.

2019 Outlook

The beginning part of the schedule may look unforgiving, but Miami brings back a lot of pieces in every phases despite not having a clear answer at quarterback. The defense and special teams should be a strength for the RedHawks once again in 2019, while there are plenty of supports in place on offense to help a young quarterback. As much as Miami likes to use running backs and tight ends in the passing game, whoever gets the nod at QB won’t have to put the team on their shoulders.

The contest at Cincinnati will be a pivotal game for the ‘Hawks as they have shown that they can compete with UC, so ending the streak and building some morale and momentum into MAC play would be tremendous, especially for the quarterback. Ohio is another game of great interest as the Bobcats are the favorites in the MAC East and will be wanting revenge for last season’s loss, so it will be interesting to see how Miami handles that environment. The Buffalo and WMU contests represent opportunities for MU to right some wrongs from 2018, but it’s hard to tell how those teams will be due to graduations and transfers out of those programs.

Realistically speaking, it’s hard to imagine Miami coming out of nonconference play with anything other than a 1-3 record. Putting an inexperienced QB in those environments is tough on a team and it’ll be hard to overcome when you’re facing teams of that quality. The good news is that there isn’t a MAC game on the schedule that’s unwinnable: UB and NIU lost some key players, WMU’s Jayden Reed transferred out, Ohio’s Ohio, etc. It all comes down to quarterback play and if Miami is able to get steady play out of that position, a bowl game isn’t out of the realm of possibility.