#95 Miami (OH) Football 2017 Preview

Miami (OH) Redhawks
Overall Rank: #95
#4 Mid-American
Following a 0-6 start, Miami saw their schedule lighten up and they made a quarterback change. The result was six wins in a row to miraculously reach a bowl. The Redhawks fell 17-16 to Mississippi State in the St. Petersburg Bowl, but this program is heading in the right direction and is ahead of schedule. As long as Miami can build off the momentum they ended with in 2016, this is a team that will compete for a MAC East title.
2016 Record: 6-7, 6-2
2016 Bowl: St. Petersburg Bowl vs. Mississippi State (L 16-17)
Coach: Chuck Martin (11-26 at Miami, 11-26 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: George Barnett, Eric Koehler
Defensive Coordinator: Matt Pawlowski, John Hauser
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Alonzo Smith, RB, 709 yards
Passing: Gus Ragland, QB, 1,537 yards
Receiving: James Gardner, WR, 750 yards
Tackles: Tony Reid, DB, 98
Sacks: Brad Koenig, LB, 3.0; Ikeem Allen, DL, 3.0
Interceptions: De’Andre Montgomery, DB, 4; Heath Harding, DB, 4
Other Key Returnees: RB Kenny Young, RB Maurice Thomas, QB Billy Bahl, WR Jared Murphy, TE Ryan Smith, LB Junior McMullen
Key Losses: OL Collin Buchanan, DL JT Jones, DL Austin Gearing, DL Zack Smierciak
Overall the offense was not anything special last season, but they got much better when Gus Ragland took over the quarterback spot. He went 6-1 as a starter, with the only loss coming against Mississippi State in the St. Petersburg Bowl. In those seven games he threw for 1,537 yards and 17 touchdowns with just one interception. With eight other starters back on offense, the expectations are growing rapidly. Wide receiver Rokeem Williams is one of the losses, but James Gardner and Jared Murphy combined for 88 catches 1,302 yards and 11 scores. Ryan Smith is a very good pass catching tight end and there is plenty of talent hoping to step up and help replace Williams. The ground game was the strength last year and should be again in 2017 despite the emergence of Ragland. Alonzo Smith, Kenny Young and Maurice Thomas give the Redhawks three very good rushers. Smith led the way with 709 yards and three score, but Young and Thomas were more productive and are both very explosive backs.
The defense was very good last season. But despite the return of eight starters, there are some major questions. Most notable is who is going to rush the passer. Starting ends Austin Gearing and JT Jones are gone after combining for 10.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles-for-loss in 2016. There is not much returning experience behind them. Experience along the rest of the defense is beneficial, but the entire unit could take a step back if nobody can consistently get to the passer from the end. At linebacker, Miami is loaded with Junior McMullen, De’Andre Montgomery and Brad Koenig all returning to their starting spots. With Heath Harding and Deondre Daniels manning the cornerback spots and leading tackler Tony Reid at safety, throwing against Miami should be even more difficult than it was a year ago, as long as the new ends can get some pressure on the opposing quarterback.
The Bottom Line:
This is a team that should compete for a MAC East title. On paper, the West is strong this year and the Redhawks main competition will likely come from Ohio. The Redhawks have a potentially huge showdown in Athens, Ohio on Halloween night. That contest could decide who goes to the title game.
Projected Bowl: Camellia Bowl
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 136.3 (107th in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 230.6 (65, 6)
Total Offense: 366.9 (104, 10)
Scoring Offense: 22.8 (114, 10)
Rushing Defense: 144.4 (37, 2)
Pass Defense: 208.8 (40, 4)
Total Defense: 353.2 (25, 1)
Scoring Defense: 23.8 (31, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.08 (58, 3)
Sacks: 1.85 (84, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 3.23 (120, 12)

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