The 150th season of college football will prove to be a momentous occasion for a lot of teams across the country, but we will turn our focus onto Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City as the #20 Iowa Hawkeyes host the Miami RedHawks Saturday. The ‘Hawks bring back a lot of returners for the 2019 campaign but face the tall task of breaking in a new, young quarterback against a brutal non-conference schedule to open up the season. Meanwhile, Iowa has its sights set on being a B1G power once more despite losing a pair of quality tight ends to the NFL.
For Miami offensively, its hope of competing against Iowa is dependent on the play of whichever quarterback sees the field on Saturday. Jackson Williamson will likely open the game with AJ Mayer and/or Brett Gabbert rotating in at different points in the game until one establishes himself. It’s a double-edged sword; you need to put guys out there to accurately evaluate them but quarterbacks also need time to get in a rhythm with receivers and get a feel for what the defense is trying to do. The quarterback situation has to be managed effectively if the QBs are going to make the most out of their snaps (which will likely feature screens, RPOs, and simple concepts as to not overwhelm them in this environment).
The RedHawk quarterbacks will not lack targets to throw the ball to as the team brings back Andrew Homer, Luke Mayock, Dominique Robinson, Jack Sorenson, and Maurice Thomas all returning for 2019. A position to watch Saturday for the ‘Hawks is running back as Jaylon Bester and Davion Johnson look to replace the lost production of Kenny Young and Alonzo Smith (both Bester and Johnson were effective in limited snaps in 2018). The offensive line is experienced (all five starters have been in the program for at least three years) and stout (average height of 6’5” and weight of 304 pounds).
The defense should be the strength of Miami in 2019 as it brings back a number of players with experience due to the injuries sustained in 2018. Doug Costin and Dean Lemon lead a defensive front that can be disruptive despite being undersized (three starters under 6’3”, all four under 300 pounds). The departure on Brad Koenig will surely be felt at linebacker, but Myles Reid and Ryan McWood are capable defenders in their own right. The secondary might end up being the strongest unit on the team with Bart Baratti, Travion Banks, and Manny Rugamba leading the way. Miami had one of the best special teams units in the MAC last season and looks to be just as good this season with the return of Sam Sloman and Kyle Kramer.
As for Saturday, Miami needs to start fast on both sides of the ball to weather the storm by Iowa early. If the ‘Hawks can get some stops and the quarterback can manage the game effectively, they can be competitive in this game. If not, it’s going to be a typical Iowa game: the team is going to lean on its trio of talented running backs, Nate Stanley is going to hit some play-action passes to keep drives alive, and the defense (led by defensive end A.J. Epenesa) will make it tough to move the ball. The RedHawks have the talent to make Iowa sweat it out for 60 minutes, but the quarterback(s) have to make it happen.