2011 Miami Univ. Preview – Offense
Miami University WR Nick Harwell
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Miami University RedHawk Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: New offensive coordinator John Klacik will be running a relatively basic pro-style attack, but he'll use plenty of different sets. The strength of the team is a passing game that should be among the best in the MAC with two great quarterback options in Zac Dysert and Austin Boucher and some terrific receivers. The problem is a veteran line that needs to get more of a push for a ground game that finished 113th in the nation and did little in pass protection. The offense will get the ball moving through the air and will try to get vertical on the ground, but there might not be the immediate balance that the new coaching staff is hoping for.
Star of the offense: Junior QB Zac Dysert
Passing: Zac Dysert
222-343, 2,406 yds, 13 TD, 12 INT
Rushing: Tracy Woods
94 carries, 376 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: Nick Harwell
64 catches, 871 yds, 6 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior RB Danny Green
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OT John Anevski
Best pro prospect: Dysert
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Dysert, 2) WR Nick Harwell, 3) OG Brandon Brooks
Strength of the offense: Quarterback, Receivers
Weakness of the offense: Running Game, Pass Protection
State of the Unit: Miami of Florida might have been known as Quarterback U., but Miami University can make a claim to the honor, at least in the MAC, with two phenomenal talents who form the best duo in the league and one of the best in America. There's experience, accuracy, and talent with the RedHawk passers combining to complete 64% of their passes for 3,552 yards and 19 touchdowns, and while there were 15 picks, the passing game was special at times.
There might be an ongoing fight for the starting job, but junior Zac Dysert is the team's top option. At 6-4 and 212 pounds, he has great size and enough talent for a look by the next-level types, and now he's back and healthy after getting knocked out for the year with a lacerated spleen. He completed 65% of his throws for 2,406 yards and 13 scores, but he threw 12 picks including four in the loss to Florida and four more in the blowout loss to Ohio. While he's not a top runner, he's mobile enough to take off from time to time and moves around well under pressure. Along with throwing picks, staying healthy is a problem suffering a broken thumb a few years ago along with last year's scary injury. With a great short to midrange arm, he spreads the ball around extremely well and is a great decision maker.
When Dysert went down, Austin Boucher stepped up and led the RedHawks to a title. The 6-1, 210-pound sophomore completed 64% of his throws for 1,120 yards with six touchdowns and three scores, and he ran for 24 yards with a little bit of mobility. He's not big like Dysert and he doesn't have the same arm, but he's great at keeping the mistakes to a minimum, with two of his picks coming in the bowl win over Middle Tennessee, and he showed the moxie and the magic to come through late to beat Northern Illinois for the title. Smart, he's a decisive, crisp passer with the skills that could've taken him to Ohio State. Instead, he followed his twin brother, Collin, a linebacker, to play at MU.
Watch Out For … Dysert to return strong. While he has to prove he can limit the mistakes that proved costly at times, he's the talent and the veteran who can do a bit more down the field in a pro-style look. That's not to say that Boucher can't get the job done, though.
Strength: Starting talent. It could be argued that Miami has the two best quarterbacks in the MAC. The coaching staff can't make a wrong choice between Dysert and Boucher and can win big with either one. They both have great arms and nice midrange skills.
Weakness: Interceptions. Dysert had to carry the offense at times early in his career and forced too many passes, but he still has 28 picks and 25 touchdowns in two years. MU is 1-8 when he throws two picks or more.
Outlook: Passing game coordinator Charlie Fisher has two tremendous talents to work with and there's no wrong answer. Dysert has been the franchise to revolve the offense around, and Boucher, who went 4-0, is a proven winner with a championship and a bowl victory on the résumé.
Unit Rating: 7.5
State of the Unit: The RedHawks were 113th in the nation in rushing, preferring to use the short passing game like a running game, but they have a nice back in Thomas Merriweather to work with. He ran for 921 of the team's 1,376 yards and 12 of the 14 rushing scores, and now it'll be a running back-by-committee approach. The coaching staff knows how to get the most out of a group of backs, with head man Don Treadwell coming up with a great rotation at Michigan State, and now he'll use a variety of options to get the ground game going.
Getting the first look to replace Merriweather will be junior Danny Green , a 5-10, 203-pound quick option who finished fourth on the team with 41 yards to go along with four catches for 16 yards. He worked his way up to second on the depth chart at one point, but his work has mostly been as a kickoff returner. The team's top recruit of a few years ago has yet to show off the skills that got everyone so excited, but he has the size and the one-cut ability to explode through a hole. He could be used a lot more as a receiver.
Combining forces with Green will be sophomore Tracy Woods, a 5-10, 208-pounder who finished second on the team with 376 yards and a score highlighted by an 85-yard effort against Colorado State. A strong receiver, he caught 18 passes for 151 yards, but he struggled to come up with too many big plays. Extremely quick, he gets through the hole in a hurry, and while he can be a physical runner, he needs to be a better blocker.
At 5-7 and 178 pounds, senior Tyrone Jones is a smallish, lightning quick runner who walked on to the team and spent most of his career as a special teamer and a defensive back. Originally a receiver and corner, the new coaching staff moved him over to the backfield and wants to get him the ball in space. He has the cutting ability needed to make big things happen.
Veteran Justin Semmes is back at fullback, at least when the offense uses one. The 6-2, 226-pounder isn't a hammer of a blocker, but he's capable, and he can be used as a between-the-tackles runner who can bring some semblance of power to the mix. He only got one carry for three yards, but he caught three passes for 12 yards and a score.
Watch Out For … Green. Is this when he finally shows why he was the crown jewel of a recruiting class? He has the potential to be the type of back who makes big things happen, but he has to start making the most of his opportunities. The ground game needs him to break out.
Strength: Quickness. Green, Woods, and Jones can all move. The MU running back doesn't have to be a 25-carry workhorse, but he has to be able to fly through holes and crank out five yards per carry. Merriweather averaged 5.2 yards per carry, and the new top options should be able to rip off big runs from time to time.
Weakness: Production. 96 of Merriweather's 921 yards came on one run. The ground game simply didn't produce like it needed to at times, and while it'll be tempting to throw and throw some more with the tremendous quarterbacks leading the way, the backs have to do more.
Outlook: The job will be to make one cut through the hole and fly. The coaching staff doesn't want a lot of dancing, and there won't be much in the way of East-West running, but this group can and will get vertical by bursting through the holes in a hurry. Rule No. 1 under Treadwell will be to hold on to the ball. Rule No. 2 will be to hold on to the ball. Follow the first two rules, and everything else should work out, even if the MU ground game doesn't come up with big yards on a regular basis.
Unit Rating: 4.5
State of the Unit: The offense will use a fullback from time to time, but MU will almost always have at least three receivers on the field and could use more to give the smart passers options to work with. Leading receiver Armand Robinson will be missed after making 94 catches for 1,062 yards and six touchdowns, but there are several veteran targets coming back to help make up for the loss of the All-MAC star. Several players will work in the rotation and the wealth will be spread around, but there are a few good players who could be the No. 1 guy on a game-by-game basis.
It's now Nick Harwell's receiving corps. The 6-1, 180-pound sophomore had a great first year finishing second on the team with 64 catches for 871 yards and six scores exploding over the second half of the season. The two-time MAC Offensive Player of the Week caught 11 passes for 219 yards in the loss to Ohio and caught ten passes for 125 yards and a score in the win over Bowling Green. The Texan has excellent speed and is a great route runner, and now he's going to be the main man for the passing game early on as a top playmaker after the catch and a reliable playmaker.
Senior Chris Givens had a disappointing year with just 26 grabs for 385 yards and a score, but he'll forever go down in MU history making the catch off a last-gasp tipped pass in the MAC title game against Northern Illinois to set up the game-winning touchdown. Injuries were a problem throughout the year, but when he's right he has the ability and the potential to be a gamebreaker at the outside X position. He missed most of 2009 with a shoulder injury, and he hasn't put up big numbers, but he has the speed and potential to be a blow-up playmaker on the outside.
6-4, 213-pound junior Andrew Cruse is an H-Back type of receiver who'll work at the inside Z position. Big and tough, he's a good, reliable target who caught 25 passes for 342 yards and two scores including a game-winning 71-yard play to beat Central Michigan. 179 of his yards came against the Chippewas, and he didn't so much the rest of the game. He has the size and the speed to create mismatches, and now he has to be more consistent.
Finding a spot somewhere in the mix will be senior DeMarco Paine , a reliable 5-10, 180-pound veteran who finished third on the team with 32 catches for 270 yards. He's not a gamebreaker working at the H, but he's reliable on short to midrange routes. While he's a good receiver, his worth is mostly as a punt returner.
Junior Lucas Swift is a 6-2, 175-pound speedster who saw a little bit of time catching two passes for 13 yards, and now he's going to work in a rotation at the outside X with Chris Givens. Also looking to see time right away is 5-10, 180-pound redshirt freshman J.J. Greenwood , a smallish, quick receiver who can get open without too much of a problem at the inside.
Senior Kendrick Bruton will mostly be used as a blocker. The 6-4, 255-pound tight end only caught ten passes for 129 yards and a score, and while he didn't blow up as a receiver, he's a good hitter who has the hands and the receiving skills to do far more. He'll combine with 6-2, 230-pound sophomore Dustin White , who caught four passes for 30 yards with three of his grabs coming against Missouri. Nowhere near the blocker that Bruton is, he'll be more of a big wide receiver when he gets in.
Watch Out For … Harwell to become an All-MAC star. He earned Second Team All-MAC honors last year, and now with Robinson gone he'll be the go-to target who should finish with over 80 catches as the main star for the attack.
Strength: The offense. It might not be as pass-happy as it was last year, but the offense is going to butter its bread with the short-to-midrange passing game. The MU receivers will all get plenty of chances and plenty of opportunities.
Weakness: Tight end production. The wide receivers got so much work that the tight ends were mostly ignored. Bruton is a blocker and White needs to prove he can handle a bit more work. Bruton is a good athlete who could be used far more.
Outlook: Losing a 94-catch target in Armand Robinson is hardly a plus, but the RedHawks have enough good veterans and enough nice talents, led by Harwell, to keep the air show going. Everyone will be involved and the passes will be spread around, but Givens needs to stay healthy and Harwell has to show that the second half of last year wasn't a fluke.
Unit Rating: 6
State of the Unit: Injuries were a problem for the consistency for the offensive front with several different configurations used on the left side. The pass protection was rough and the running game was non-existent, but there's enough size and experience returning to demand far more. The MU line has been awful for the last few years and it needs to finally start to become a strength.
The biggest loss is at left tackle where Matt Kennedy is gone, and now it'll be sophomore John Anevski's job to lose after getting a start at left guard and getting a little work throughout the season at both spots on the left side. At 6-3 and 290 pounds he has good size and decent feet, but he has to be better in pass protection than Kennedy and a stronger and more consistent run blocker.
Back at left guard is Brandon Brooks, a former left tackle who moved over to left guard and became a Second Team All-MAC performer. At 6-5 and 325 pounds he's a very big, very strong blocker who struggles with the speedier pass rushers, but has the bulk to be more of a blaster of a run blocker. Hurt throughout the first half of the season, he came back and was a huge boost to the line and the offense. Now he'll be the anchor the line works around.
After starting all of last year at center, 6-4, 290-pound junior Brad Bednar will move over to right tackle. Extremely smart and a good veteran, he has the skills to shine in the new position with a little bit of time, but he could quickly move back to center without a problem. A 26-game starter, he'll be a key part of the line in some way and he could move around.
If Bednar stays at tackle, junior JoJo Williams will get the call at center after starting against Missouri at left guard and starting six times in 2009. He's not huge at 6-2 and 280 pounds, but he's a tough, versatile interior blocker who'll work as a key swing backup if he doesn't get the starting nod.
Where will Josh Harvey play? After starting every game last year at right tackle, he'll either go back to his spot on the outside or will move inside to right guard. The 6-5, 324-pound sophomore has the look of a tackle but the power to work at guard. With the smarts and the raw strength to be an anchor, he has the potential to be a good one.
6-3, 285-pound redshirt freshman Jeff Tanner was supposed to be a part of the guard mix as a true freshman, but he ended up taking the year off. Now he'll be a key backup at both guard spots, and while he's not huge, he has the versatility to be an instant factor.
At 6-5 and 245 pounds, junior Matt Kennedy is way too light, but he's a veteran left tackle with 21 starts under his belt. A left tackle, he doesn't have the bulk, but he's quick. To get more work, though, he has to start being better in pass protection and hasn't used his athleticism well enough. A technician, he's not going to blast way and needs to wall off his man.
Watch Out For … Lots of movement. The line was steady on three spots and needed work on the left side, and now the line has to use all the experience and the options to find a steady starting combination.
Strength: Experience. This was a veteran group last year, and even with two starters gone there's plenty of time logged in for all the top options at the five spots. Now the line has to form a cohesive unit that starts to block better.
Weakness: Run blocking. Granted, the offense revolved around the passing game, but there wasn't enough of a push on a consistent basis for the ground attack. There's never an excuse, no matter what the offensive style, to average under 100 rushing yards a game.
Outlook: The Miami offensive line hasn't blocked anyone in years. There was hope going into last year with all the returning experience, and now the hope has to be for all the returning starters to form a more cohesive unit. The line has to start pushing someone around, and the coaching staff is looking for the line to be far more physical. Giving up fewer than 35 tackles would be nice, too.
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