Photo courtesy of Miami Athletics
By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Football Editor
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (Sports Network) - 2011 SEASON IN REVIEW: The RedHawks had an awful start and finish to their season, as the reigning MAC champions heading into 2011, finished with a dismal 4-8 overall record.
Don Treadwell had to wait for his first career win as a head coach, as things started off badly. Miami lost its opener to Missouri (17-6) on the road in his debut and then failed to tackle the Golden Gophers (29-23) in Minnesota. Treadwell's career record dropped to 0-4 after back-to-back losses to Bowling Green (37-23) and Cincinnati (27-0) at Yager Stadium.
The losing streak ended at four when the RedHawks defeated Army (35-28). Miami picked up its first victory away from home its next time out by downing Kent State (9-3) in a defensive struggle. Treadwell's team then lost to Toledo (49-28) before consecutive impressive winning performances versus Buffalo (41-13) and Akron (35-3). The RedHawks' hope for a title defense faded away as they lost their final three games to Temple (24-21), Western Michigan (24-21), and Ohio University (21-14).
Miami did not beat a team with a winning record and had trouble winning closely contested games in 2011. This all came the season after a 10-4 year that ended with a triumph in the 2010 GoDaddy.com Bowl.
OFFENSE: The RedHawks had the worst rushing offense (73.8 yards per game) in the nation last season. Miami is expected to have a running back by committee in 2012 unless someone emerges from the pack. Erik Finklea, Justin Semmes, Spencer Treadwell and Jack Snowball will all share the duties. The offensive line returns four of five starters from last season and that should help in terms of continuity.
The lack of success on the ground comes as a result of Miami's high frequency aerial attack led by Zac Dysert. The RedHawks' quarterback comes into his senior season trailing Ben Roethlisberger by 1,939 career passing yards. Dysert has thrown for at least 2,400 yards in each of his three seasons as a starter.
Dysert once again will have an array of talented wideouts to target. Nick Harwell earned a spot on the first-team All-MAC after he finished third in the league in receptions (97) and second in yards (1,425). Andy Cruse and Dawan Scott should see plenty of passes thrown their way.
DEFENSE: Miami's defense had solid numbers in 2011, ranking 24th in the nation in pass defense (195.2 yards per game), 39th in scoring defense (22.9 points per game), and 48th in total defense (363.7 yards per game).
The loss of linebackers Jerrell Wedge and Ryan Kennedy, two of Miami's top three tacklers, will be difficult to replace this season. Evan Harris (40 tackles, three TFL), Luke Kelly, and Jaytee Swanson will have to fill the void left by Wedge and Kennedy's departures for the defensive unit to stay among the best in the MAC.
Austin Brown and Mike Johns are back in the middle of the defensive line that averaged two sacks per game last season. Jason Semmes (4.5 sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss) and Wes Williams are going to very important for new defensive coordinator Jay Peterson, who hopes to instill a tougher attitude.
The RedHawks' secondary returns three starters including First-Team All-MAC selection Dayonne Nunley. Sophomore Brison Burris is expected to start at free safety as he returns healthy after missing time last year with a shoulder injury. Peterson's impact has been positive so far.
"Coach Peterson stepping up to be the defensive coordinator has been awesome. He brings a bunch of intensity to the group. He gets after us during practice and expects the same thing during the game." said Brown.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Seldom used junior placekicker Mason Krysinski will be the starter again after attempting all six of Miami's field goals in 2011. Krysinski went 2-of-6 on field goal attempts and 30-of-33 on extra point attempts last season, which hardly grants him any starting spot security, especially with Kaleb Patterson's arrival. Zac Murphy (39.1 yards per punt) will look to eclipse his total of seven punts of 50 yards or more.
OUTLOOK: The RedHawks failed to beat a team with a winning record last season. The team lost its final three games, but it was within one score in each of those losses.
"What a difference a year makes. We're so excited as we turn the corner to year number two with continuity, number one in the staff," said coach Treadwell. "Number two the returning players now have a system in place and a philosophy they understand better. Now, we are all working towards the same goal."
Miami's difficult schedule begins with a trip to Columbus to battle Ohio State. The home opener versus Southern Illinois will then be followed with a road game at Boise State. The RedHawks will finish their difficult non- conference schedule on October 6 when they square off with the Bearcats in Cincinnati. Treadwell's team will be at home for its two biggest in-conference challenges as Ohio University comes to Yager Stadium on October 27 and Kent State on November 10th. Miami has no choice but to be successful away from home with seven of its 12 games on the road.
Though the RedHawks have one of the top quarterback/wide receiver tandems in the MAC in Dysert and Harwell, they will need to have a more balanced attack this season to take pressure off of the offensive line that surrendered 47 sacks.
Miami-Ohio should get better but will not be quite all the way back to its 2010 conference championship winning form.