I could spend 10,000 words saying everything that was wrong with Miami football last year. Actually, I couldn't. I could repeat maybe ten words over and over again one thousand times. Two of those words would be Treadwell and Klacik, and two more would be "Peter principle." Given enough time, I could come up with six more. But let's be honest -- there isn't enough time, and you don't feel like waiting around to hear more about a season I basically refused to review in the first place. So: onward and upward!
Miami went 0-12 last year. Miami is currently on a 16-game losing streak, tied for longest in the FBS with a Georgia State team that's only been playing on this level for a couple years. Don Treadwell was fired five games into last season. His comrade in incompetence, John Klacik, owner of the longest coaching losing streak in like 50 years or so, was fired at the same time. The firings didn't help things the rest of the season, but damned if there wasn't light at the end of the tunnel. Next question.
So What's Up With This Season?
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Well, Miami hired Chuck Martin. Martin was one of the hottest coaching candidates on the market last offseason. He took a $200,000 pay cut to leave South Bend for Oxford, and his departure for the worst team in the country was so stunning that six athletic directors called Miami AD David Sayler to ask how he was able to seal the deal. But it turns out Martin is unconventional, and in a good way.
For example, he promises recruits an ass-kicking. Not glory, not accolades. He promises that he will kick them in the behind, and they'll be better as a result. Turns out this approach works, as anyone who's been following Miami's off-season recruiting can tell you. Not many people sell ass-kickings these days; Martin has pretty much cornered a niche market.
Miami has also completely revamped its strength and conditioning program under Martin's watch. Where Don Treadwell was apparently afraid that football players were too fragile to go after it in the weight room, S&C coach Paul Harker has been, well, kicking ass (I'm beginning to understand the recruiting appeal) and taking names with a new sheriff in town.
All of this is a long way of saying that the story of this upcoming season is one of potential, and not one of known quantities. The signs point to a team that will very likely lose most of its games, but will be going full-bore until the final whistle. And that, friends, would be an improvement.
Miami didn't have an offense last year. Seriously. They finished last in just about every major offensive category. And after Treadwell and Klacik tried to install a triple-option offense everyone knew Miami didn't have the personnel for, they reverted to a regular offense in week 4 or so, meaning the team was basically doing spring offensive workouts in the middle of the season to catch up. Again, Peter principle.
So what will this season hold? Well, Martin has spoken about what he hopes to achieve offense-wise in the future, but given how awful the line was last season, no one really knows what will happen. The line will certainly be better than last season -- there's no way it can be worse -- but really, I don't think anyone not living in Yager Stadium has much of an idea how the RedHawks plan to work around what was last year's biggest on-field weakness. (Line play affected everything. Dawan Scott led Miami in touchdowns last season. He scored two of them. Two.)
The one thing most people are certain of is that Notre Dame transfer Andrew Hendrix, who's using his fifth year of eligibility, will be the starting quarterback. Hendrix had his ups and downs in South Bend, and his career generally looked like that of a top prospect who couldn't live up to the billing after he was surpassed by younger players. But he no doubt understands Martin's offense better than anyone on the team, simply because he's been working with it for several years.
Unsurprisingly, the defense was bad last season as well. But like everyone else, they've been killing it in the weight room and figure to be fiercer than last season. Good things are expected of linebacker Kent Kern, who anchors the returning defensive starters.
New defensive coordinator Matt Pawlowski was the Chuck Martin to Chuck Martin's Brian Kelly at Grand Valley State, coordinating fearsome defenses that led to Division II titles. He has 30 years of experience in coaching, nearly all on the defensive side of the ball, at levels ranging from high schools to the MAC. (He previously coached at Ohio and Eastern Michigan.) The one constant: his defenses go after you, keep going after you, and go after you some more.
The Special Teams
Miami lost punter Zac Murphy, arguably the team's best player, to graduation. (That "best player" thing isn't a joke. He got notice on all-American lists. No one else did.) Stalwart kicker Kaleb Patterson, another rare bright spot from last season, also returns. There's some whispers that he will handle punting duties as well.
As for the return teams, well, Miami hasn't had a decent return game since Ryne Robinson. Different players have been worked out as returners through the spring, and I hope we can find someone to average double digits per return.
Here's what Miami faces week-by-week this season.
|vs. Eastern Kentucky
|at Northern Illinois
|vs. Kent State
|vs. Western Michigan
|at Central Michigan
Marshall is expected to be a loss; it's entirely possible that the Thundering Herd are the best team Miami will face this season. But the RedHawks should be 1-1 going into a payday at the Big House. Other likely wins: Massachusetts at home (as bad as this team was last year, they nearly beat the Minutemen on the road). That's the only one that I'd say is likely, but I'd also pencil in Kent State and Western Michigan as "entirely possible and wouldn't surprise me." Miami gets lucky and avoids Toledo, BG, and Ball State in cross-division games this year. The RedHawks will benefit from one of the easier conference schedules they've seen of late.
So What's Success?
Again, this team has nowhere to go but up. "Success" probably should be "winning a game for the first time since 2012." But I wouldn't take a one-win season as success, and I doubt the team would either. I'm looking at three wins with constant competitiveness and improvement as a success, and I would frankly be ecstatic about winning four games. Again, this is a team whose leader in touchdowns last year scored two touchdowns. We're not talking about your run-of-the-mill back-of-the-MAC team; we're talking about legitimate questions as to whether they would have lost to a Division II squad. Three wins and improvement is awesome; four wins is a freaking bowl game, as far as I'm concerned.
You know what I have to say to that?