The Miami RedHawks football team took the practice field for the first time on Sunday during the spring practice session. Much like last year, many familiar faces littered Ben Roethlisberger field inside the indoor practice facility, while at the same time, solid contributors such as Heath Harding, Ryan Smith, and Tony Reid are gone and must be replaced by younger RedHawks.
As a result of the experience head coach Chuck Martin's team returns, position groups were able to dive right into complex drills and schemes, a rarity for most teams on the first practice since November.
"It's exciting," redshirt junior quarterback Gus Ragland said after practice on having so many key pieces back. "We're sitting here a year later in the same position."
Despite so many familiar faces, a few unfamiliar ones will be need to step up in order for the Red and White to reach their goal of winning the MAC East. Sam Martin and Jared Murphy are no longer lining up outside to catch passes from Ragland, but freshman receiver Dom Robinson raised some eyebrows during team drills Sunday, even drawing comparisons to his teammate and All-MAC receiver James Gardner.
"At times, I thought it was James and looked up and it was Dom," said Martin after watching the athletic receiver haul in deep passes. "Good for Dom and good for Miami football."
Robinson, a former high school quarterback from Canton, Ohio, struggled early on in his career at Miami as he tried to adjust to the timing and route-running of being a college football wide receiver. However, the 6'4" RedHawk showed significant progress Sunday, receiving the attention of his quarterback as well.
"Dom's a different breed," Ragland said of Robinson. "When you walk on the field and look at Dom, he just doesn't look like everyone else."
On the defensive side of the ball, Coach Martin will look for senior linebackers Brad Koenig and Junior McMullen to take the next step as leaders, not just great players. Both Koenig and McMullen return with a combined 368 career tackles and will certainly anchor the defense that was primarily led by Harding and Reid in 2017.
"They've been on the cusp of being really great leaders," said Martin of two linebacker duo. "They haven't put it all together."
Joining Koenig and McMullen is junior defensive back Josh Allen. From the time he was a freshman, the Charlotte-native has contributed, but the 'Hawks will need for him to take the next step in his development this season.
"He's a little confidence away from being a game-breaking defender," Martin said of Allen. "I was telling him before practice, 'I want you to get a little reckless.'"
The RedHawks will continue spring practice Tuesday. Miami fans can catch the 'Hawks in action at the Spring Showcase Saturday April 21.