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New RedHawks: what to make of Miami football’s transfer portal pickups

Swoop the RedHawk and Rufus the Bobcat got heated during Miami's Nov. 2 matchup vs. Ohio University.
Swoop the RedHawk and Rufus the Bobcat got heated during Miami's Nov. 2 matchup vs. Ohio University.

It was a busy offseason for Miami football and Head Coach Chuck Martin, at least as far as the transfer portal is concerned. 

Unfortunately for the ’Hawks, they lost three of their best defensive players to bigger programs. 

Three of the top five sack getters from Miami’s 2021 defense transferred this offseason. Linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. will join his brother at Cincinnati after leading the RedHawks in 2021 with 125 tackles. Pace also chipped in four sacks, 13 tackles for loss (TFL) and an interception. Kansas nabbed Lonnie Phelps, an edge rusher who recorded 13.5 tackles for loss last season and led Miami in sacks with 8.5. And Kam Butler, who finished with 14 TFL and eight sacks, is headed to Virginia.

(The other two of the top five aren’t returning either, Dominique Robinson and Ben Kimpler have graduated and are hoping to be drafted to the NFL this weekend. But that’s an issue for another column.)

AJ Mayer left too. The strong-armed backup quarterback will next lace up his cleats for Arkansas State of the Sun Belt Conference.

It’s going to be an uphill battle to replace the production of all of those players, especially the pressure artists on the defensive side of the ball. But Miami worked the transfer portal too. Here’s who they have coming in. 

Tre’Von Morgan (6-foot-6-inch, 218 pound Wide Receiver, Kentucky): It’s hard not to get excited about a receiver who’s shaped like an NBA small forward. Morgan battled hamstring injuries all of last season so he didn’t see any action for the Wildcats, but during his redshirt-freshman season at Michigan State, he caught two balls including a touchdown against Penn State. As a high school senior, Morgan was rated the best prep receiver in Ohio and the ninth best player overall by Rivals.com. His senior season, he caught twelve touchdowns out of 36 receptions. Morgan could be an exciting red-zone target for third year quarterback Brett Gabbert this season.

Nolan Johnson (6-foot-2-inch, 204 pound Cornerback, East Carolina): Johnson will start the season as one of the most experienced members of Miami’s secondary, having already played 30 games for ECU. Johnson brings versatility to the Miami defense; at East Carolina, he started games at both safety spots and corner. He’s defended three passes and forced two fumbles so far in his career. 

Ty Wise (6-foot-2-inch, 226 pound Linebacker, Indiana): Wise played all 12 games in his first year with Indiana, mostly on special teams. He finished with three tackles for Indiana last year and made Academic All-Big Ten. He joins his best friend, offensive lineman Caleb Schaffer on the RedHawks. Miami assistant coach Bill Brechin called Wise “Competitive, coachable and relentless,” in a tweet earlier this month.

Michael Dowell (6-foot-1-inch 215 pound Defensive Back, Michigan State): Another experienced addition to the Miami Secondary, Dowel played in 19 games at MSU, including six career starts, and all 12 games in 2021. For his career he’s recorded 67 tackles and three pass breakups. Dowel was ranked top safety prospect in Ohio during his senior year by ESPN and 247Sports. Expect to see him man the nickelback position often for Miami’s defense.

Corey Suttle (6-foot-4-inch, 245 pound Defensive Lineman, Iowa State): Another power five transplant now calling Oxford home, Suttle recorded five tackles in 14 games during his two seasons with the Cyclones. Suttle also played offensive line, tight end and threw discus in high school, so the RedHawks are getting a big athlete along their front four. 

John Brekke (6-foot-3-inch, 285 pound Inside Offensive Lineman, Holy Cross): Brekke committed to Miami University on Jan. 25, 2022. Brekke committed to the University of Buffalo on Jan. 18, 2022. You read that right. I won’t claim to know much about evaluating linemen, but Brekke seems big enough, and I love that he was toying with a conference rival like that. This seems like the type of guy you want on your team.

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