Red and White hope to take back the MAC
Published: Monday, August 20, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 20, 2012 23:08
The Miami University football team is looking to return to the top of Mid-American Conference (MAC) after going 4-8 last year in Head Coach Don Treadwell’s first year. The team won the MAC Championship two years ago and are looking to find that magic again.
“We really want another MAC Championship,” senior defensive tackle Austin Brown said. “That’s been our main focus.”
The team was picked to finish third in the MAC East football pre-season poll behind rivals Ohio University and Bowling Green State University (BGSU). The Red and White lost to both teams last year.
Much like seasons past, the ’Hawks will face a difficult non-conference schedule with games against rival University of Cincinnati and perennial Bowl Championship Series-buster Boise State University.
However, no non-conference game will likely be as tough as the season opener; a trip to the horseshoe to face the Ohio State University (OSU). The game will mark of the start of the Urban Meyer-era at OSU and is only the third time the two teams have played since 1950. OSU has won both games.
“We’re very excited about being able to play them,” senior quarterback Zac Dysert said. “But every game is important to us.”
The RedHawks will also face a tough conference schedule, although they do get pre-season favorite Ohio University at home. The Red and White will play the Bobcats and Falcons in back-to-back weeks in a stretch that might end up deciding who takes home the MAC East crown.
The nation’s No. 14 ranked passing offense returns its three most important pieces: quarterback Zac Dysert, junior wide receiver Nick Harwell and senior wide receiver Andy Cruse. Among returning players, Harwell leads the nation in receiving yards and is on the Biletnikoff Award Watch List, which goes to the nation’s top receiver.
“We’re pretty happy about the offense,” Dysert said. “We’re getting better everyday and that’s the goal. We’ve got a great receiving core.”
However, if the ’Hawks want to return to MAC prominence, they will have to improve their rushing attack. The Red and White finished dead last in the nation in rushing last season and started five different players.
“It’s still up in the air,” Dysert said of the starting running back spot. “But we’ve got a lot of guys competing for it which is nice to see.”
Among the top contenders for the starting spot are sophomore Robert Williams III, who walked on to the team in 2011 and junior Erik Finklea. Finklea started two games last year including the season opener against the University of Missouri. True freshmen Jack Snowball and Jamire Westbrook could also challenge for carries during the season.
The RedHawks also have a new defensive coordinator in Jay Peterson, undertaking the challenge of improving the nation’s 48th-ranked defense from last year.
Benefiting him will be the return of senior linebacker Pat Hinkel and junior cornerback Dayonne Nunley. Hinkel will be making the move from safety to linebacker this season.
The defensive line should be strong this year, with three returning senior starters in Mike Johns, Jason Semmes and Austin Brown.
“Coach Peterson definitely brings a bunch of intensity, along with some new schemes.” Austin Brown said. “So we are defiantly embracing that and are headed in the right direction with that.”
Miami will start its 2012 season at Ohio State Sept. 1st with a noon kickoff.