2014 CFN Preview - Miami University
Miami LB Kent Kern
Miami LB Kent Kern
Posted Jun 16, 2014

CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2014 - With a new coaching staff and a transfer QB, the RedHawks will be better. (Getty Images)

Miami Univ. RedHawks

Preview 2014

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Chuck Martin
1st year: 0-0
7th year overall: 74-7
Returning Starters
Off. 27, Def. 21, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 13
Ten Best MU Players
1. QB Andrew Hendrix, Sr.
2. LB Kent Kern, Jr.
3. SS Brison Burris, Sr.
4. LB Josh Dooley, Jr.
5. DE Bryson Albright, Jr.
6. CB Heath Harding, Soph.
7. WR Dawan Scott, Sr. 
8. PK Kaleb Patterson, Jr.
9. WR David Frazier, Sr. 
10. OT Jeff Tanner, Sr.
2014 Schedule

Aug. 30 Marshall
Sep. 6 Eastern Kentucky
Sep. 13 at Michigan
Sep. 20 at Cincinnati
Sep. 27 at Buffalo
Oct. 4 UMass
Oct. 11 at Akron
Oct. 18 at Northern Illinois
Oct. 25 Kent State
Nov. 1 Western Michigan
Nov. 15 at Central Michigan
Nov. 25 Ohio

There really was a time when Miami University football wasn't awful.

The RedHawks really did win the MAC title game in 2010, and the program really did rule the MAC world for a while, highlighted recently by the Ben Roethlisberger-led 13-1 campaign of 2003.

They don't call the place the Cradle of Coaches for nothing.

But the program fell completely off the map over the last few seasons coming up with an absolutely abysmal 2013 with an offense that failed to score more than 17 points in any game, and defense that couldn't pick up the slack. And that's where Chuck Martin comes in to try to restore the glory. He has a clean slate to work with.

For good and for bad, 16 starters are back from one of the nation's worst teams, and Martin needs to get a little time to change things around needing to do something, anything, for the awful offensive line while needing to infuse some pop to the attack that went nowhere.

The former Notre Dame offensive coordinator showed he could work with both Everett Golson in 2012 and Tommy Rees last year to make the O move in different ways, and he knows the defensive side coaching the Irish defensive backs for a few years after a wildly successful year as the national championship head coach at Grand Valley State.

In the past 13 years, Martin has coaches in seven national championship games. At Miami, all he needs to do is generate a few wins this year, and then he can worry about titles.

The offense couldn't protect the quarterback and couldn't generate any sort of a push up front to give the backfield space to move. There's talent at receiver, but can the quarterbacks start getting the ball down the field? Can Notre Dame transfer Andrew Hendrix be the answer? Four starters are back up front, but it has to be a far, far more cohesive unit, and Job Two is to find playmakers. If nothing else, the attack can't be any worse.

The defense wasn't much better, but seven starters return including a terrific group of linebackers and a young array of defensive backs. Again, in the glass is half full sort of way, only when you've lost everything are you free to do anything. Whatever happens this year will be a positive.

How fast can Martin make this happen? Miami went from 1-11 and totally miserable in 2009 to 10-4 and MAC champions in 2010. It's a tall task, but it's been done before.

What to watch for on offense: Anything the new coaching staff does will be better than what happened last season, and it all starts with establishing some semblance of a running game in the new  up-tempo spread attack. The RedHawks didn't generate any push up front, was a total disaster in pass protection, and finished the year with just 1,219 yards and five scores. How bad was the attack? The leading rusher was QB Austin Gearing with just 478 yards, and the No. 2 guy was Dawan Scott with 231 yards – he's a wide receiver. The top running back was Spencer Treadwell – the son of the former head coach, Don – running for a mere 171 yards and a score. With veterans up front, the line has to be a wee bit of a positive, and at the very least, it can't be a total disaster again. The goal will be to get the ball out of the quarterback's hands in a hurry, and to get the backs into space. Easier said than done, but again, any improvement will seem major.

What to watch for on defense: It all starts with the defensive front and generating pressure into the backfield. The secondary struggled to keep the big plays to a minimum, partly because the front only came up with 14 sacks to go along with 62 tackles for loss. The line was shoved around way too easily and didn't stop anyone's running game, allowing 5.1 yards per pop and 223 yards per game. The RedHawks gave up 200 yards or more in six games, allowing 300 or more three times, and got worse as the season went on allowing 611 yards to Kent State and Buffalo in back-to-back games in November. Seven of the 14 sacks came in two games against Central Michigan and Bowling Green, and now there has to be more hits on the quarterback and plays behind the line on a consistent basis.

The team will be far better if … the offense scores when it gets the chance. With an attack that finished second-to-last in the nation in total offense, scoring offense and passing efficiency, nothing worked. The O failed to move the chains, there weren't any big plays down the field, and long drives were non-existent. So for an offense that came up with a mere 117 points on the year, it's vital to come away with points every time it gets within range. The kicking game wasn't a problem overall, with a decent year from Kaleb Patterson, but he only hit two red zone field goals. The RedHawks got inside the 20 just 19 times and got points on 12 of the drives. By comparison, Florida State got into the red zone 73 times and scored on 71 of the drives.

The schedule: There isn't a 100% sure-thing layup on the slate if the team plays like it did last season, and that includes Eastern Kentucky who comes up in Week Two after the date with Marshall. After two home games come the paycheck days on the road against Michigan and Cincinnati to kick off a run of five road games in six weeks. The lone home game against UMass has to be a win, and the team has to find its stride late with three home games in the final four including winnable dates against Kent State and Western Michigan. Along with the game against the Broncos, the RedHawks have to play Northern Illinois and Central Michigan on the road.

Best offensive player: Senior WR Dawan Scott. It's actually going to be new starting quarterback Andrew Hendrix, at least that's the goal, but Scott could turn out to be a star if the quarterback situation is better. If Hendrix gets time to operate, the receivers are there to start making more big things happen with David Frazier combining with Scott. No one had to worry about the running game, the safeties hung back, and there wasn't anything happening down the field. Give Scott a shot, and he could be terrific with good size and excellent speed. Able to run as well as catch, he was the leading receiver and the second-leading rusher.

Best defensive player: Junior LB Kent Kern. He rose up and did everything he could to make up for a line that didn't do much of anything to keep running games in check. While he's not that big, he's a good hitter and was one of the team's better players behind the line. Combining with Tyler Tucker and Josh Dooley, Kern should help make the linebacking corps the team's biggest strength early on. If the group can start hitting the quarterback, all the better.

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Andrew Hendrix. All of a sudden, the RedHawks have a quarterback who could be the difference-maker they've been looking for. The former Notre Dame quarterback wasn't able to move up the charts enough to take the starting gig in South Bend, but now he's the right guy at the right time, transferring over to be Chuck Martin's new starter. The offense needs something that works, and it needs a catalyst. Hendrix alone can't take the team on his back and make it a MAC champion, but he'll get the offense moving.

The season will be a success if … the RedHawks win four games. After not doing anything right last year, and after blowout after blowout, the combination of a new coaching staff, all the returning experience, and a quarterback like Hendrix should be enough to get by Eastern Kentucky, UMass, and win at least two other games against teams like Western Michigan, Akron and Kent State.

Key game: Oct. 4 vs. UMass. You don't schedule an FCS opponent at home if you don't believe you're going to buy a free win, so assuming a loss to Marshall, the potential 17-game losing streak should end against Eastern Kentucky. No matter what happens in that game, assuming a loss to a solid Buffalo team in the MAC opener, the RedHawks have to beat UMass at home. Last year the Minutemen came up with their only win of the season in a 17-10 midseason date in Amherst. Miami can't blow this layup at home.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Points: Opponents 428 – Miami University 117
- Sacks: Opponents 49 for 310 yards – Miami University 14 for 72 yards
- Time of Possession: Opponents 32:20 – Miami 27:40

- 2014 Miami University Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players