After inheriting a squad that had just gone 0-12 in 2013, Chuck Martin has slowly but surely helped the RedHawks improve: from 5-19 in his first two years, to 11-14 in his next two years, to finally their first .500 season since 2010 last year. A lack of bowl spots to go to the number of qualified teams meant that the RedHawks did not receive a bowl birth, which was unfortunate because they could’ve been so much more.
Miami’s propensity for losing close games has been well documented so I won’t get too into it here, but the conservative play-calling style that Martin employs has led to them playing “tight” late in close games, losing nine of their last 11 decided by one possession, which just doesn’t happen normally. Even if you extend the sample size all the way to since Martin took over five years ago, it doesn’t get much better, as the RedHawks have won just seven of 27 one-possession games since his arrival in Oxford.
2018 was a weird year for Miami as they won some big games including one at eventual conference champion Northern Illinois, but the number of blown opportunities plus the bowl-berth denial despite a 6-6 record led fans to feel disappointed with the season despite it being their best in almost a decade.
This streak of slow but steady improvement has led to some expectations being raised, but the RedHawks lose a lot from last year’s team, and a bowl berth in 2019 may be tough to come by.
Miami loses every quarterback that threw a pass, three of their top four rushers, their #2 receiver, and two starting linemen from last year’s team that put up 28.1 PPG. Needless to say, this offense is a question mark.
QB Gus Ragland is a pretty big loss. He wasn’t asked to do a lot due to the RedHawks’ conservative play style, but he was consistent. The projected starter, Alex Malzone, decided to transfer, so someone is going to have to take a big step up, the most likely names being Jackson Williamson and AJ Mayer, although Blaine Gabbert’s brother Brett is a true freshman who could turn some heads.
The running game loses their top two plus Ragland, but they return 444 rushing yards between upperclassmen Maurice Thomas (233 yards, 3.8 YPA) and Jaylen Bester (185 yards, 5.6 YPC). Youngster Davion Johnson turned some heads in camp and averaged five a pop last year in limited action.
A talented group of pass catchers will return to Oxford between big senior Luke Mayock (319 yards, 14.5 YPC, three touchdowns) and deep threat Jack Sorenson (742 yards, 14.0 YPC, two touchdowns). Dominque Robinson (156, 12, 4) is another guy with size that should see some increased production, and tight end Andrew Homer (231, 14.4, 3) will round out the four big returners.
The line will need to replace both starters on the left side but returns the other three including a key piece in C Danny Godlevske, who should compete for all-conference honors as a junior.
The RedHawks have a system that works well, the question will be can they find a guy that will be able to run it. They played a pretty wide rotation last season as a way of preparing for this year, so even in the run game where they suffered some pretty serious departures, there is still some experience. The quarterback situation is key but this should still be a serviceable unit.
The RedHawks were hit pretty hard with injuries last season, but two big names in LB Brad Koenig (99 tackles, five sacks, four forced fumbles) and DT Doug Costin (six sacks, 4.5 TFL at 295 pounds) helped carry them through to a really good year all things considered. Koenig is gone after a great career, but the RedHawks bring back Costin, along with names like Zedrick Raymond and Mike Brown in the secondary.
Raymond and Brown are a pair of potential all-conference guys who both shined last year, especially in the back half when Miami was dealing with some injuries. Bart Baratti is another name to watch at nickel who was great rushing off of the edge.
Joining Costin on the line are two guys with ample experience on the ends in Ben Kimpler and Dean Lemon, and a pair of sophomore big men in Jahmal Wynter and Andrew Sharp could look to compete for the nose position.
There isn’t a lot to speak of on the second level in terms of experience. Of the two projected starters, Myles Reid and Ryan McWood, Reid has some experience but McWood is a virtual unknown despite being a junior, and there is little to speak of behind them in the two-deep. They won’t be able to compete with the numbers that the unit put up last year with Koenig at the helm but this team has a pair of great co-coordinators and I expect them both to be solid.
Last year’s defense had a ton of talent, and if it weren’t for some injuries it could have been one of the best in the G5. Nonetheless, those injuries provided some great experience for guys that wouldn’t have gotten it otherwise like Raymond, and I expect the defense to be very good (by MAC standards) yet again.
The RedHawks are projected to go 3-3 in blowout games this year according to my model, what happens in the other six will decide whether or not Ohio goes bowling for just the third time since 2004.
The way the rotation broke out last year there is a lot more experience returning than the returning starters numbers would indicate, especially on defense, and challenging Ohio for the MAC East crown isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
This team is talented enough to warrant a bowl berth, but the non-conference schedule is tough, and history suggests that the RedHawks will struggle in those close games. While there is a lot to like on this team, I’m not confident calling bowl eligibility much more likely than a coin flip (and the model agrees, projecting 5.9 wins on average). This may be do-or-die time for Martin though, a fifth-year out of six without a bowl berth and I wouldn’t be surprised if his conservative play-calling style begins to come under fire, especially if they struggle in close games again.
|Date||Opponent||OPP. RANK||Proj. Margin|
|21-Sep||at Ohio State||5||-26.3|
|12-OCT||AT WESTERN MICHIGAN||86||-5.0|
|26-OCT||AT KENT STATE||111||2.1|
|29-NOV||at BALL STATE||113||3.0|
Average Projected Record: 5.9 wins, 6.1 losses (4.6 wins, 3.4 losses)