By John Agovino, Associate College Football Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: It was a tough debut in 2009 for Mike Haywood as the coach of Miami. Haywood took over a squad that won just two games in
2008, but hopes of a slight improvement were not in the cards last year.
The RedHawks closed out 2008 with five losses and the team's losing ways
carried over as Maimi-Ohio dropped its first eight contests in Haywood's first
year at the helm. The RedHawks were shut out by Kentucky and Boise State to
start the year, and in losses to Northwestern and Ohio, the RedHawks combined
for just 13 points. After suffering a tough 27-22 setback to Northern
Illinois, the RedHawks finally found the win column by defeating Toledo,
31-24. The win snapped a 13-game slide for Miami, but that would be the
only win on the year for the squad, as the RedHawks closed out the season with
three consecutive losses to Temple, Bowling Green and Buffalo.
OFFENSE: Last year the RedHawks put all their hopes in the passing attack, and
that led to an extremely inconsistent rushing game that finished 119th in
However, in 2010 coach Haywood understands the team needs to be more run
oriented, which will lead to a balanced attack. Thomas Merriweather is the
veteran of the group and was the team's leader on the ground last year, but
that is not saying much considering he finished with just 291 yards. Roman
Lawson should also find time carrying the ball, but do not count out freshman
speedster Willie Culpepper.
"When you talk about speed, you think of Willie Culpepper," said Haywood.
"He's a gamebreaker anytime he touches the ball. He's got tremendous turnover
speed and does a great job of running with his eyes. In the spread offense, he
will be outstanding in the backfield."
Whoever is toting the rock will have plenty of holes to break though thanks in
large part to an offensive line that returns four starters and a slew of other
players with game time experience. The front line will also need to keep
quarterback Zac Dysert off his back, as the quarterback will be the key to the
offense's success. Despite the team's record, Dysert was a bright spot for
Miami, and the sophomore signal caller should be even better this time
around. The weight of the offense rested on his young shoulders a year ago,
which explains coach Haywood's urgency to run the football more in 2010. If
the ground game is unsuccessful there is a strong chance that Dysert will be
airing the ball out early and often, which could mean another strong season
for senior wideout Armand Robinson. Robinson and Dysert became a dangerous duo
last year and should be even tougher to stop this time around.
DEFENSE: On top of the poor play offensively, the defense for Miami also
struggled, as the team surrendered 34.2 ppg, ranking 108th in the nation.
While the offense was unable to run the football, the defense for Miami
had trouble stopping it, as opponents gashed the RedHawks for 186.9 ypg.
Mike Johns and Austin Brown return to the front line, but the biggest addition
for this defense will likely be Jason Semmes, who sat out last year after
transferring from Iowa.
The most dangerous player on this defense is middle linebacker Jerrell Wedge.
Wedge, who led the MAC with 18.5 TFLs this past season, is a disruptive player
that uses instincts and raw power to get into the opposing backfield. The
junior linebacker will be surrounded by sophomores Evan Harris and Luke Kelly.
The defensive backfield has the most experience, as three of the four starters
return, including safety Jordan Gafford. Brandon Stephens is the most
experienced cornerback, and he will likely be paired with D.J. Brown. However,
also look for freshman Allen Veazie to see substantial playing time in his
"Allen is a great man-to-man cover guy and he's not afraid to come up and hit
you," said Haywood.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Trevor Cook enters this senior season as the RedHawks' kicker
even though he went just 7-for-12 on field goals last season. Despite his
inconsistencies, Cook has a strong leg, which was proven by a 55-yard field
goal he put through the uprights a year ago. Jim Broadway took over the
punting duties this past season and will likely have a full season to improve
on his 34.6 yards per put average. Jamal Rodgers will once again be the team's
kick returner, but also look for the receiver to play a large role as the punt
returner as well.
OUTLOOK: The fans in Oxford are going through some tough times, as the team
has dropped 10 or more games three of the last four seasons. Prior to this
terrible streak, the team had only suffered through a 10-loss campaign
once in 117 years.
Coach Haywood has plenty of work to do with this team, which is still not at
the level to compete with the top teams in the conference. However, with that
said, the RedHawks have some promising newcomers and after winning just once
last year there will likely be a jump in the team's win total, even if it
is a small one. The schedule makers did not do the RedHawks any favors,
especially away from home, as coach Haywood's squad will have to face Florida,
Missouri, Cincinnati and some of the top conference teams on the road.