On Monday afternoon, Aveon Smith, the quarterback who led Miami University football to a 24-13 win over the University of Toledo in the 2023 Mid-American Conference (MAC) championship game, announced his intention to transfer from Miami on X (formerly known as Twitter).
Monday evening, Miami football’s official account on X announced the return of three of its star players. Linebacker Matt Salopek, quarterback Brett Gabbert and receiver Gage Larvadain will all play for the RedHawks in 2024, according to the posts.
Salopek was this year’s MAC Defensive Player of the Year. So far this season, he’s recorded 134 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and an interception. In Miami’s surprise Victory Bell win over the University of Cincinnati in September, Salopek recorded 18 tackles.
Gabbert is currently third in Miami football history for passing yards and touchdowns. He would need about 3,000 passing yards in the 2024 season to pass Super Bowl winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who sits second on the list. Gabbert led Miami to the MAC Championship as a first-year in 2019.
This year, he led Miami to its best start to a season through seven games since 2003 before suffering a broken tibia and fibula in Miami’s Week 8 loss to Toledo.
Larvadain recorded over 400 yards and four touchdowns through the first three games of the 2023 season, before suffering an injury Week 4. In Miami’s Week 2 game against the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Larvadain had 273 yards and three touchdown catches.
Smith was the backup to Gabbert in 2022 and 2023. He played in nine games last season due to two separate injuries for Gabbert and went 5-4 as a starter. He led Miami to a win over Northwestern University, the RedHawks’ first Big Ten win since 2003, and a stunning comeback victory over Ball State University in the last game of the regular season to secure bowl eligibility for the RedHawks.
Smith came into this year’s Week 8 game against Toledo after Gabbert went down, and the RedHawks lost 21-17. After that, he led the RedHawks to five straight wins, including the crown jewel of his Miami career, the win over Toledo in the MAC Championship game.
The college football transfer portal opened Monday morning. It’s likely more RedHawks will leave in the coming weeks. Miami will also likely gain new players.
Barring transfers, Miami will also return all five starting offensive linemen and eight out of 11 starters on its defense, which was the best scoring unit in the MAC since 2000.
Placekicker junior Graham Nicholson, who tied the FBS record for most consecutive kicks made in a season with 25 straight in 2023, could also return, and so could punter Alec Bevelheimer, who led the MAC in yards per punt in 2023.