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1. The M stands for "malaise"
You know the story by now. Between 1949 and 1968, Miami (Ohio) was coached by Woody Hayes, Ara Parseghian, John Pont, Bo Schembechler, Bill Mallory, and Dick Crum. Perhaps the MAC's most historically successful program, both in terms of wins and in hiring good coaches, Miami went 32-1-1 from 1973-75 and finished in the AP top 15 three times.
After a downturn in 1988-89 (2-18-2), Miami hired Randy Walker, who restored the program's vitality (18-4 in 1997-98) and moved on to Northwestern. Terry Hoeppner followed him and coached Ben Roethlisberger and company to a 13-1 record and top-10 finish in 2003. He moved on to Indiana, and ... things got a little messy. The Cradle of Coaches stopped hiring future stars.
Shane Montgomery took over and, after a 7-4 first season, went 10-27 from 2006-08 and was canned. Michael Haywood took over and went 1-11 in his first season; he engineered an incredibly unlikely turnaround in 2010, in which Miami went 10-4 and won the MAC in a title game upset. He left for Pittsburgh, and Michigan State assistant Don Treadwell took over.
On paper, the Treadwell hire looked just fine. He was a successful, longtime assistant, and the Cradle seemed like a pretty good place for the 51-year-old to take on his first head-coaching job. Miami has gone 8-28 in the last three years.
So has Miami forgotten how to make good hires, or is the support system in place failing the coaches the school hires? Arkansas State has had four coaches in four years but just won a share of its third-straight Sun Belt title. NIU pulled off a similar trick. It's a chicken-or-egg situation, but regardless, Miami has been to one bowl game in nine years and has finished 2-10 or worse four times in that span. The Redhawks had the worst offense in the country in 2013 -- worse than UMass, worse than FIU, worse than South Florida. It might take a while to figure out how to get this team pointed in the right direction again.
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2. Notre Dame lite
Now it's Chuck Martin's turn to try to add positive things to the Cradle's legacy. Like Treadwell, Martin was recently the offensive coordinator at a local school (Notre Dame), but Martin's résumé is actually one of the most interesting you'll find.
He was a defensive coach for most of the early part of his career. He was Brian Kelly's defensive coordinator at Grand Valley State a decade ago, then took the GVSU head coaching job when Kelly left for Central Michigan. He experienced extraordinary success at the D2 powerhouse -- 74-7 in six years, with two national titles (2005-06) -- and then left to become Kelly's defensive backs coach at Notre Dame. His first offensive coaching job didn't come until 2012, when Kelly moved him to OC.
Rarely do you see a coach so dramatically shift from one side of the ball to another, but it worked just fine. Notre Dame's offense ranked 37th and 22nd in Off. F/+ in Kelly's first two years in South Bend, then ranked ninth and 24th with Martin pulling strings.
Miami is hoping that Martin's unique experience -- top defensive assistant, successful head coach, top offensive assistant -- is a winning combination. All we know for sure at the moment is that Martin is bringing a little bit of Notre Dame with him in the form of three transfers and four assistants with Irish ties (running backs coach Autry Denson, receivers coach Bill Brechin, tight ends coach Pat Welsh, and defensive line coach Corey Brown). Can't hurt, right?
2013 Schedule & Results
|Record: 0-12 | Adj. Record: 0-12 | Final F/+ Rk: 123|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Adj. Score||Adj. W-L||5-gm Adj. Avg.|
|31-Aug||Marshall||52||14-52||L||13.8 - 29.9||L|
|7-Sep||Kentucky||97||7-41||L||(-1.7) - 57.9||L|
|21-Sep||Cincinnati||64||0-14||L||0.1 - 18.1||L|
|28-Sep||Illinois||71||14-50||L||18.5 - 45.7||L|
|5-Oct||Central Michigan||111||9-21||L||17.3 - 27.8||L||-26.3|
|12-Oct||Massachusetts||118||10-17||L||13.0 - 37.3||L||-28.0|
|19-Oct||Akron||108||17-24||L||20.8 - 40.1||L||-19.9|
|26-Oct||Ohio||104||16-41||L||10.4 - 43.6||L||-22.9|
|5-Nov||Bowling Green||47||3-45||L||20.8 - 32.0||L||-19.7|
|13-Nov||Kent State||106||6-24||L||14.1 - 38.2||L||-22.4|
|19-Nov||Buffalo||80||7-44||L||12.2 - 35.7||L||-22.2|
|29-Nov||Ball State||57||14-55||L||16.9 - 44.6||L||-23.9|
|Points Per Game||9.8||124||35.7||107|
|Adj. Points Per Game||13.0||124||37.6||118|
Technically, Miami's defense did improve after the first three games of the season, but that's only because it almost literally couldn't have gotten worse. Miami was held under 14 points (which is almost exactly half of the national scoring average) in seven of 12 games and gained more than 300 yards just once (the RedHawks gained all of 303 against Akron). They never averaged better than 4.5 yards per play, and on seven occasions were held under 3.8.
This was a historically bad offense in just about every way. The running game was the third-worst in the country, the passing game was the very worst, and while Miami was awful at creating scoring opportunities, the RedHawks were also almost the worst in the country at converting said opportunities into points. There were almost no redeeming qualities here, and punter Zac Murphy was easily the offense's MVP.
The offense was so bad that it made a defense that ranked 108th in the country look like strong unit.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||33.3%||123||Succ. Rt. +||73.7||124|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||33.6||118||Def. FP+||95.4||103|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||3.1||121||Redzone S&P+||63.7||124|
|Q1 Rk||122||1st Down Rk||119|
|Q2 Rk||124||2nd Down Rk||126|
|Q3 Rk||125||3rd Down Rk||125|
Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Austin Gearing||6'5, 220||So.||2 stars (5.2)||24||54||188||0||3||44.4%||16||22.9%||1.2|
|Drew Kummer||6'3, 198||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||18||48||267||1||0||37.5%||6||11.1%||4.0|
|Tom Tupa||6'4, 215||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|6'2, 226||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||2||14||56||14.3%||0||0||0||0.0%||4.0|
Austin Boucher's career began when, as a freshman, he had to fill in for the injured starter and threw for 333 yards in the 2010 MAC title game. It ended with him in the role of injured senior starter. He finally won the full-time job in 2013, but with a shaky line and no go-to skill position players, he struggled. Roethlisberger would have probably struggled to do much in this offense. But when he was lost to injury in late-October, things almost got even worse.
Freshman Austin Gearing took over, and while he showed decent potential as a runner, he completed just 44 percent of his passes. Worse yet, those passes averaged only 7.8 yards per completion. Even worse, he was sacked almost one-quarter of the time. Factoring in sack yards, Gearing averaged an incredible (for all the wrong reasons) 1.2 yards per pass attempt.
Let's put that another way: on average, it would have taken Gearing 8.3 pass attempts to gain first-down yardage.
Against Buffalo, Gearing was five-for-19 for 65 yards and a pick and was sacked seven times for a loss of 39 yards. That's an average of 1.0 yards per attempt ... and that's only barely worse than his season average. And another backup, Drew Kummer, was barely better.
Needless to say, Gearing has some work to do if he wants to start for Miami in 2014. Never mind that Kummer also returns, or that redshirt freshman Tom Tupa was relatively well-touted in high school. These three also have to deal with the transfer of Notre Dame backup Andrew Hendrix.
Granted, Hendrix was basically the Notre Dame version of Gearing -- interesting runner, entirely unsuccessful passer -- in 2013. He shouldn't be considered a guaranteed starter anywhere either. But he's athletic, he's familiar with Chuck Martin's system, and at the very least, he's another option. When you don't have an obvious starter, you at least want as many choices as possible.
|Austin Gearing||QB||6'5, 220||So.||2 stars (5.2)||129||583||1||4.5||3.6||36.4%|
|Spencer Treadwell||RB||5'10, 205||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||56||171||1||3.1||1.9||26.8%|
|Dawan Scott||WR||6'1, 191||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||37||231||0||6.2||4.3||59.5%|
|Grant Niemiec||RB||6'0, 214||So.||2 stars (5.2)||35||114||1||3.3||2.9||17.1%|
|Drew Kummer||QB||6'3, 198||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||23||90||2||3.9||4.7||30.4%|
|Spencer McInnis||RB||5'9, 189||So.||2 stars (5.2)||13||29||0||2.2||1.3||15.4%|
|Rokeem Williams||WR||6'1, 204||So.||2 stars (5.4)||9||77||0||8.6||11.9||44.4%|
|Paul Moses||RB||5'11, 200||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)|
|Dawan Scott||WR||6'1, 191||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||52||28||425||53.8%||20.8%||53.3%||8.2||52||7.0||44.4|
|David Frazier||WR||6'0, 175||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||50||28||302||56.0%||20.0%||42.9%||6.0||-63||6.3||31.6|
|Alvonta Jenkins||WR||6'0, 204||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||26||12||141||46.2%||10.4%||38.9%||5.4||-33||4.2||14.7|
|Rokeem Williams||WR||6'1, 204||So.||2 stars (5.4)||20||7||104||35.0%||8.0%||54.5%||5.2||-17||9.0||10.9|
|Jared Murphy||WR||5'10, 170||So.||2 stars (5.4)||16||6||62||37.5%||6.4%||66.7%||3.9||-37||3.7||6.5|
|Fred McRae||WR||5'9, 179||So.||2 stars (5.4)||12||6||75||50.0%||4.8%||62.5%||6.3||-8||3.5||7.8|
|Spencer Treadwell||RB||5'10, 205||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||10||8||38||80.0%||4.0%||57.1%||3.8||-49||4.6||4.0|
|Airion Kosak||WR||5'11, 182||So.||2 stars (5.2)||8||3||31||37.5%||3.2%||50.0%||3.9||-18||4.1||3.2|
|Austin Green||WR||6'0, 195||Sr.||NR||6||1||17||16.7%||2.4%||N/A||2.8||-13||0.0||1.8|
|Spencer McInnis||RB||5'9, 189||So.||2 stars (5.2)||5||4||28||80.0%||2.0%||50.0%||5.6||-16||4.8||2.9|
|Sam Shisso||WR||6'5, 200||So.||2 stars (5.2)||3||1||2||33.3%||1.2%||100.0%||0.7||-16||1.1||0.2|
|Kelvin Cook||WR||5'11, 170||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)|
|Zach Hovey||TE||6'5, 230||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)|
|Jordan Rigg||TE||6'5, 230||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)|
|Sam Martin||WR||6'3, 180||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)|
|TE||6'4, 251||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)|
5. Dawan Scott is a keeper
In my UMass preview, I mentioned the degree of difficulty receiver Tajae Sharpe faced in averaging even a mediocre 6.7 yards per target for a passing offense devoid of other weapons. But at least UMass ranked 110th in Passing S&P+. Miami ranked 126th, but Dawan Scott was even better, on average, than Sharpe. Scott only saw four or five targets per game, but he averaged 15.2 yards per catch with a 54 percent catch rate that was, sadly, one of the highest on the team. If the quarterback situation is even marginally stable, Scott could see 75 to 100 targets and 600 to 900 yards this year.
Of course, Scott isn't a running back. Miami will need one of those, too, and between Spencer Treadwell, Grant Niemiec, and Spencer McInnis, the RedHawks don't return one who proved much of anything in 2013. Miami can only hope for a rising-tide situation, where better coaching, better experience, and a little bit more talent improves everybody's averages.
Newcomers could play a major role at the skill positions. Scott is the only proven entity, and receiver David Frazier isn't awful, but plenty of opportunities will be made available. Freshmen like running back Paul Moses and receivers Kelvin Cook and Sam Martin will have every chance in the world to get touches from Day 1, and another Notre Dame transfer, reserve tight end Alex Welch, will have one last chance to make good on his four-star recruiting status.
|Zach Lewis||RT||6'6, 281||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||28|
|Marcus Matthews||C||6'3, 307||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||21|
|Trevan Brown||LG||6'4, 287||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||19|
|Jeff Tanner||LT||6'3, 293||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||11|
|Wesley Scott||RG||6'3, 264||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||11|
|Brandyn Cook||RG||6'2, 305||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||7|
|Terry Davis||LT||6'4, 318||So.||2 stars (5.4)||1|
|Julian Green||RG||6'4, 303||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||1|
|Ryan Callen||LG||6'5, 260||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0|
|Collin Buchanan||RT||6'5, 313||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0|
|Randy Heideman||OL||6'6, 305||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)|
6. An awful line is experienced
Miami quarterbacks were sacked once for every 10 pass attempts on standard downs and once for every five on passing downs. Gearing's inability to get the ball out of his hands certainly played into that, and the running backs' own lack of explosiveness almost certainly played into Miami's poor run-blocking rankings. Still, this was a pretty bad line.
The silver lining is that constant shuffling can be blamed for at least part of the struggles. Miami used six different starting line combinations in the first nine games, and while injuries and tinkering can hurt you in the present tense, the result is a pretty good array of experience for a new coaching staff. In all, Miami returns eight linemen with starting experience and enters 2014 with 99 career starts, one of the higher totals in the land.
Experience only matters if talent is involved, but there's hope here. First, the run-blocking numbers were still slightly better than other offensive numbers; second, there are quite a few former three-star or high-two-star recruits in the mix. Maybe Hendrix (or whoever wins the quarterback job) will have a decent five in front of him.
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||53.6%||124||Succ. Rt. +||76.4||124|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||27.3||109||Off. FP+||95.5||101|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||4.2||70||Redzone S&P+||85.6||101|
|Q1 Rk||116||1st Down Rk||120|
|Q2 Rk||117||2nd Down Rk||88|
|Q3 Rk||114||3rd Down Rk||103|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Bryson Albright||DE||6'5, 226||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||12||39.5||5.3%||11.5||4.0||0||1||0||0|
|J'Terius Brown||DE||6'3, 239||So.||2 stars (5.2)||9||18.5||2.5%||6.0||3.0||0||0||0||0|
|Mwanza Wamulumba||DT||6'3, 281||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||9||16.5||2.2%||0.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Jimmy Rousher||DT||6'3, 273||So.||2 stars (5.2)||9||14.5||1.9%||3.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Mitchell Winters||DT||6'5, 271||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||6||8.5||1.1%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Ben Krieger||DL||6'3, 200||Jr.||NR||2||2.0||0.3%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Albert Phillips||DE||6'2, 239||Jr.||NR||2||1.5||0.2%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Tim Johnson||DE||6'2, 229||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Mack Duffin||DE||6'4, 260||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)|
|Zach Swarts||DT||6'5, 270||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)|
7. Wanted: girth
As you see above, Miami was actually very good at minimizing the impact of big plays. The RedHawks flowed to the ball pretty well, and it seems the linebackers and defensive backs tackled well enough to limit damage.
The problem, of course, was that opponents were still allowed to gain six yards anytime they wanted to. Despite six RedHawks racking up at least four tackles for loss each, Miami still had some of the worst success rates in the country, and a majority of the damage was done up front. Miami ranked dead last in Adj. Line Yards and second-to-last in Opportunity Rate.
Returning ends Bryson Albright and J'Terius Brown combined for a rock-solid 17.5 tackles for loss but were the size of outside linebackers, averaging 233 pounds. The top three returning tackles, meanwhile, average 275. Size isn't everything, but there is still a minimum threshold, and Miami didn't meet it in 2013. And unless the RedHawks are doing some serious eating and weight work in the offseason, the problem isn't going to be rectified in 2014. Miami will have to hope that quickness plus extra experience is an equation for improvement.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Kent Kern||MLB||6'1, 231||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||11||76.0||10.2%||5.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Josh Dooley||WILL||6'0, 212||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||12||63.5||8.5%||2.0||0.0||0||3||1||0|
|Tyler Tucker||SAM||6'2, 218||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||12||36.0||4.8%||2.5||0.0||0||2||0||0|
|Nate Gerbus||MIKE||6'1, 223||So.||2 stars (5.4)||11||24.0||3.2%||0.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|TJ Williams||WILL||6'1, 210||So.||2 stars (5.4)||4||7.0||0.9%||0.5||0.0||1||0||1||0|
|Tre Clifton||LB||6'2, 222||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||4||3.0||0.4%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Joe Donlan||LB||6'1, 227||Jr.||NR||3||2.5||0.3%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Zach Smierciak||LB||6'2, 219||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Sam Connolly||LB||6'2, 225||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)|
|Trey Knes||LB||6'5, 225||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Brison Burris||S||5'10, 183||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||11||55.0||7.4%||0.5||0||1||4||0||0|
|Jay Mastin||S||6'1, 214||So.||2 stars (5.3)||8||49.5||6.6%||1||0||1||3||1||0|
|Heath Harding||CB||5'10, 175||So.||2 stars (5.4)||11||47.0||6.3%||3||0||3||4||2||0|
|Marshall Taylor (2012)||S||6'4, 185||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||11||33.0||4.6%||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Chrishawn Dupuy||CB||5'9, 175||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||11||23.0||3.1%||1||0||2||0||0||0|
|Randy Anderson||S||6'2, 190||So.||2 stars (5.2)||4||18.0||2.4%||0||0||0||2||0||0|
|Jarrell Jones||S||5'10, 184||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||7||8.0||1.1%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Buchi Okafor||CB||6'2, 185||So.||2 stars (5.4)||4||7.0||0.9%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Orne Bey||DB||5'8, 181||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||2||1.5||0.2%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Bert Birdsall||DB||6'0, 146||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)|
|Xavier Swinton||DB||6'1, 191||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)|
|Lo Wood (Notre Dame)||CB||5'11, 194||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||11||8.0||1.1%||1||0||0||0||0||0|
8. Building off of big-play prevention
If the line can improve its resistance at least a little bit, the back of the defense could still be strong in the explosiveness field. Four of the top five linebackers return, as do six of the top seven defensive backs. Marshall Taylor, who barely played in 2013, could play a role, as could some well-touted freshmen and redshirt freshmen. And a third Notre Dame transfer, cornerback Lo Wood, is eligible immediately.
These are all good things, and the overall level of experience (and Wood's presence) could offset the costly loss of a solid aggressive cornerback in Dayonne Nunley. Nunley was a mainstay and play-maker in Miami's secondary for years, earning defensive MVP honors in the GoDaddy.com Bowl as a freshman and trying his damnedest to make plays for a defense that needed them later in his career. He'll be missed, but he's almost the only player of consequence who's gone.
Front line holds up, back line thrives. That's the goal.
|Drew Kummer||6'3, 198||Jr.||3||27.3||0||0||1||33.3%|
|Kaleb Patterson||5'9, 175||Jr.||12-12||2-3||66.7%||5-8||62.5%|
|J.J. Greenwood||KR||5'10, 178||Sr.||15||18.3||0|
|Fred McRae||KR||5'9, 179||So.||11||20.5||0|
|Fred McRae||PR||5'9, 179||So.||12||9.2||0|
|David Frazier||PR||6'0, 175||Sr.||2||12.0||0|
|Special Teams F/+||44|
|Field Goal Efficiency||44|
|Punt Return Efficiency||17|
|Kick Return Efficiency||121|
|Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency||6|
9. Just imagine where the RedHawks would have been without special teams
Miami went winless for just the second time in its FBS history last season, losing games by an average of almost 26 points and losing just twice by single digits. They did this despite a downright solid special teams unit that featured a great punter, a good place-kicker, a strong punt returner, and decent kickoff coverage. Miami was a top-50 team in the special teams department, which just seems like a total waste of time and effort.
Punter Zac Murphy is gone, which hurts, but Kaleb Patterson is still a decent kicker, and Fred McRae still has lots of potential as a return man. This might not be a top-50 unit again, but it won't be a weakness.
2014 Schedule & Projection Factors
|TBD||at Central Michigan||106|
|TBD||at Northern Illinois||51|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||-20.4% (116)|
|Two-Year Recruiting Rk||116|
|TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin*||-2 / -7.8|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||15 (8, 7)|
10. Just win a couple of games
The MAC isn't exactly loaded with great teams, so if you improve by 20 spots or so in the rankings, you pass a lot of traffic along the way. Miami fell so far, so fast, however, that I have to figure they're not ready to pass many teams just yet. New energy will help immensely, as will a little bit of new blood from down the road (okay, across a state) in South Bend.
And hey, if the new pieces stick quickly, then going undefeated at home in conference play isn't exactly out of reach. (Nor is stealing a road win.) But a year of minimal expectations probably isn't a bad thing. Just stabilize, get out of the 120s, win a couple of home games, and claim victory.
If Chuck Martin turns out to be a solid hire, and Miami gives him the support a good hire needs, then the RedHawks could quickly reassert themselves a bit in the MAC hierarchy. But aside from the random title run of 2010, there hasn't been much assertion of late. This might take a little while.