After a transition season ended in disappointment, the RedHawks look to return to the top of the Mid-American Conference.
Miami failed to defend its conference title in 2011 under first-year head coach Don Treadwell, who took over for Mike Haywood after the RedHawks had a stunning turnaround in 2010. Treadwell, who played at Miami and was previously an assistant coach at the school, will be under pressure to contend for the East Division title in 2012.
The RedHawks finished 4-6 overall and 3-5 in the league in a season that was as inconsistent as the record would indicate. Miami lost its first four games, rebounded to win four of five, but dropped its last three and was out of the East race going into the final week of the season.
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Miami didn’t play well against top competition. The RedHawks failed to beat a team with a winning record last season. The conference wins came against Kent State, Buffalo and Akron, which finished with a combined 9-27 record. The RedHawks’ only non-conference victory came over Army, which finished 3-9.
Miami’s non-conference schedule will offer few chances for victory in 2012. The RedHawks visit Ohio State, Boise State and Cincinnati. Miami was slated to host Missouri, but with the Tigers’ move from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference, that game was cancelled.
Quarterback Zac Dysert, who had an outstanding season in 2011, and star wide receiver Nick Harwell, will lead the offense. But an offensive line that allowed 44 sacks and a running game that was non-existent will have to be addressed. Miami’s defense should again be the team’s strength.
TOP OF THE CLASS
DT David DeLeon (Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School, Bamberg, S.C) — DeLeon was rated a three-star recruit by Rivals.com and Scout.com. He finished last season with 69 tackles, including 17 for a loss of yardage and six quarterback sacks. Landing DeLeon is considered a big catch. He chose Miami over Minnesota, Colorado, Pitt and Illinois.
RB Jack Snowball (Wadsworth High School, Wadsworth, OH) — Snowball was Ohio’s Division I co-Offensive Player of the Year and a first-team all-state selection in his senior season. He rushed for 2,594 yards and scored 31 touchdowns in 2011. Snowball never fumbled in his high school career.
LB Kent Kern (St. John’s Jesuit High School/Toledo, OH) — He was also a standout running back in high school, but will play defense in college. Kern recorded 255 tackles, including 37 for a loss of yardage, 14 quarterback sacks and caused 11 fumbles in his high school career.
Semmes, Finklea expected to battle at running back
–The competition at running back will be one of the areas to watch in spring practice. Justin Semmes didn’t play in the final two games last season because of an ankle injury, but could be the frontrunner. He averaged 84.5 yards in his two starts and ran for 100 yards against Akron. Converted linebacker Erik Finklea was the leading rusher among running backs with 352 yards.
–PK Mason Krysinski, who made 2 of 6 field-goal attempts last season, will have to earn his job in spring and fall practice as he enters his junior season. Preferred walk-on Alex Flexer, who didn’t see action as a freshman, and incoming recruit Kaleb Patterson could push for the job. Patterson kicked a 54-yard field goal in high school.
Practice priorities: Coach Don Treadwell and his staff will have a full offseason to work with their players. That will be an advantage since Treadwell didn’t take over the program until January of 2011 a year ago. Shoring up the offensive line, which allowed 44 sacks last season, and the running game will be the first order of business in spring practice. The defensive line, ravaged by injuries last season, will also get a long look by the coaching staff.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “This year we filled it to the brim because we’ve had the advantage to be out on the road. You talk about a great time to build a foundation.” — Miami Coach Don Treadwell in the Oxford (Ohio) Press, on the RedHawks’ 25-player recruiting class.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
KEY LOSSES: Chris Givens, the team’s most reliable possession receiver, and offensive lineman Brandon Brooks finished their careers last season. The top three players on defense, linebackers Jerrell Wedge and Ryan Kennedy and safety Anthony Kokal, have also moved on. The RedHawks added 25 players in this season’s recruiting class, including four offensive linemen and three running backs. Miami also picked up five defensive linemen and three linebackers.
PLAYERS TO WATCH IN 2012:
WR Nick Harwell is the biggest playmaker in the Mid-American Conference. He caught 97 passes for 1,425 yards — an average of 14.7 yards per catch — as a sophomore. Harwell also averaged 129.5 receiving yards a game and caught nine touchdown passes.
QB Zac Dysert — The quarterback job was up for grabs a year ago. That won’t be the case going into this season. Dysert completed 65.8 percent of his passes (245 of 448) for 3,513 yards as a junior. The biggest issue about Dysert was his decision-making and he answered that question. He threw 23 touchdown passes with only 11 interceptions.
CB Dayonne Nunley — Nunley had another big season as a sophomore. He had three interceptions, broke up 13 passes and had 16 passes defended in 2011. Nunley was fifth on the team with 58 tackles, including eight that went for a loss of yardage.
S Pat Hinkel — Hinkel will be one of the leaders on defense in his senior season. He was fourth on the team with 70 tackles and intercepted a pass. Hinkel has made 142 tackles the last two seasons.
–DE Wes Williams will compete for playing time in spring ball. He missed the last nine games of his junior season because of a leg injury.
–DL Mwanza Wamulumba should be back on the field in spring practice after missing his entire sophomore season with a torn Achilles tendon.
–TE Steve Marck is expected to return from a knee injury that caused him to miss all of last season.