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Miami football is just getting started

<p>Sophomore defensive lineman Kam Butler celebrates Miami&#x27;s Mid-American Conference Championship game victory Dec. 7 at Ford Field.</p>

Sophomore defensive lineman Kam Butler celebrates Miami's Mid-American Conference Championship game victory Dec. 7 at Ford Field.

DETROIT — What if I told you the best is yet to come for Miami football?

Yes, the RedHawks just defeated Central Michigan to claim their first Mid-American Conference Championship since 2010 and will be on their way to a bowl game in the next few weeks. 

But the RedHawks are only scratching the surface. 

Nine of 11 offensive starters will be back next year. Seven of 11 on defense will return for the Red and White in 2020. 

Chuck Martin has built a program set up for sustained success. After bringing in the second best recruiting class in the MAC in 2019, according to 247 Sports, Martin’s 2020 haul is also ranked 2nd in the conference. 

And these highly touted high school stars waste no time contributing to the RedHawks once they arrive on campus.

Take a look at this year’s RedHawks — the depth chart is littered with young players already making giant plays key to this year’s conference championship. 

Quarterback Brett Gabbert, the MAC Freshman of the Year, threw for over 2,000 yards in his first season under center. The leader of the offense not only stole the job in camp from two more experienced players, but he has charged the RedHawks into big conference games and played above his age. 

He’s just scratching the surface. Imagine what he could turn into after four full years in Miami’s system. 

One of his favorite targets has been freshman receiver James Maye, who has a knack for hauling in deep passes right when his team needs it. It was Maye who set up Sam Sloman’s go-ahead kick at Ohio to steal the road victory and propelled Miami into the lead in the MAC East. 

Uh-oh, MAC teams — “Big Play Maye” hasn’t even been in Oxford an entire year. 

On the defensive side of the football, linebacker Ivan Pace is not even listed on the two-deep depth chart, but that doesn’t stop him from terrorizing offensive linemen on third down. Three weeks ago, against Akron, Pace tied an NCAA record with six sacks in one game. 

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Give him more time to turn into a more polished and complete defensive player and he might not be done seeing his name next to college football records. 

I could go on and on. 

Redshirt sophomore Sterling Weatherford is as good of a tackler as anyone in the MAC.

A pair of the five starting offensive linemen are freshmen. 

Freshman linebacker Luke Bolden will turn out to be a stud. 

So yes, today is a day to celebrate, Miami fans. It has been a long, painful journey back to MAC prominence since the 0-12 season of 2013. 

But stay familiar with the route to Detroit. My hunch is you’ll be back soon.