Miami (Oh.) is just a few months removed from finishing its fourth straight losing season (10-38 from 2011-14) and seventh since 2006, but there’s no lack of excitement surrounding the RedHawks in the beginning parts of fall camp under second-year coach Chuck Martin.
Even with a 2-10 (2-6 MAC) record in 2014, there were several positive signs that the program had taken several steps forward in Year 1—not only was Miami able to reel off wins against UMass and Kent State, but it lost five games by one possession (including Cincinnati and Central Michigan). This is important considering the RedHawks went 0-12 and lost seven games by 30 points or more in 2013.
With 12 starters returning to the field – eight on defense – and now a little more familiar with Martin’s playbook, Miami is looking to add on to the progress already made.
And even though the offense is without most of its experience from last season, there’s optimism that it will improve from its mark of 22.3 points per game (10th in MAC).
“This is our second year with the offense, so we don’t have to install stuff as much,” said redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jared Murphy, according to the school’s official athletic website. “We’re still catching the freshmen up—we ran the same offense in the spring and are pretty comfortable with it, and now it’s more kind of looking at the technique of running routes and how to attack.
“The offense looks way ahead of where we were last year at this time at camp,” he continued. “It’s hard to tell. …it kind of feels like we are game-week ready.”
In 2014, Miami finished No. 8 in the MAC with 375.3 yards per game—nearly 150 yards more on average than its FBS-worst 225.8 in 2013. The RedHawks scored 24.6 points against conference opponents, which was also a significant increase after posting 10.3 per outing the year prior.
One of the reasons for the turnaround was thanks in part to senior quarterback Andrew Hendrix, who has ran out of eligibility. Hendrix, a Notre Dame transfer, threw for 3,280 yards, 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last season, earning third-team MAC honors while helping Miami to the conference’s second-most passing yards (277.8 per game).
Redshirt freshman Gus Ragland is poised to take over the offense – he’s No. 1 on the depth chart, according to OurLads.com – after sitting out in 2014, but senior Drew Kummer (58 career attempts) will continue to push him throughout camp.
“[The quarterbacks] are doing awesome,” said Murphy. “It’s something we don’t really worry about in the receiver room; we’re real confident in all of the guys competing for the job and we feel like any one of them can win the game for us.
“It’s not our job to worry about who it’s going to be. We’re just going to go out there and make plays from whoever is throwing the ball to us.”
Murphy, who finished the 2014 season with 42 receptions for 600 yards and four touchdowns, is Miami’s top-returning pass-catcher. But that doesn’t mean he’s the only viable option—sophomore Sam Martin and junior Fred McRae IV are set to have big years, not to mention five receivers from the second-ranked 2015 recruiting class in the MAC.
Four of them stand at 6-foot-2 or taller.
“That whole recruiting class is big and athletic, a little unlike what we’ve had in the past. We’ve had some smaller guys in our classes,” Murphy said. “Obviously they’re getting their feet underneath them learning the playbook and stuff, but they all have a lot of potential and are really talented.”
Miami opens against Presbyterian on September 5.