by P. Carl Giordano, Managing Editor

Don Treadwell has a nice pedigree. He’s been an assistant under former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel at Youngstown State. He served under the late, well-respected Randy Walker. He was an offensive coordinator for Mark Dantonio at Michigan State when the Spartans set school records for passing yards, total offense and scoring. He’s got a head for attacking football.

Last season that pedigree paid a few dividends, as the RedHawks had one of the most productive passing combinations in the country. QB Zac Dysert (3513 YP, 66%) hooked up with first team all-conference jr. WR Nick Harwell 97 times for a whopping 1,425 yards (even more impressive if you consider Harwell missed last season’s opener at Missouri).

Unfortunately for Miami fans, that was about it for the highlights. The RedHawks broke from the gate 0-4, dashing the high hopes placed on them by the media after returning 17 starters from 2010's 10-4 MAC champions. A horrible offensive line performance resulted in Miami ranking 120th in rushing yards and 119th in sacks allowed, as Dysert (right) was running for his life all too often. The fact that leading rusher Erik Finklea is a converted linebacker and last season’s 2nd best ground-gainer, jr. Justin Semmes, is a former fullback speaks volumes on the lack of quality at the position in Oxford. It’s possible an incoming frosh, Jamire Westbrook or Jack Snowball, might be the lead back when Miami opens at Ohio State September 1. The offensive line returns all five starters, but obviously changes are in order. The coaching staff moved starting tackle Matt Kennedy to tight end in spring and will trust new OL coach Ed Stults can whip the rest of the crew into cohesion.

The offense scored just 21 ppg, as Treadwell’s offensive strategies weren’t absorbed quite as fast or as well as he might’ve wished. While ranking 14th in passing yards at 299 per contest, the RedHawks were held to 21 points or fewer in half of their games.

Defensively, things were much steadier last season as Miami ranked third in the MAC in points allowed and second in pass defense. First-team all-conference CB Dayonne Nunley (left) made 58 stops and broke up 13 passes, and CB D.J. Brown was named 2nd-team all-conference in 2010. With those two in coverage, Miami will be tough to throw on again this fall.

There’s talent up front as well, with sr. DT Austin Brown (3rd all-conference) joining four other returning starters in the front seven. Sr. DE Jason Semmes, who was a redshirt at Iowa in 2008 and transferred here the following season, has 20 tackles-for-loss the past two years and finished 2011 with 42 tackles and a team-leading 4½ sacks. The linebackers could improve as well, as sr. MLB Evan Harris, who had 94 stops in 2010, saw his production and playing time fall off last season as he finished with just 40 tackles. Harris should be ready to recapture his ‘10 form after another spring and fall working with d.c. Jay Peterson. Sr Pat Hinkle was moved from strong safety (where he averaged 53 tackles per season the last three years) to LB in the spring, opening a spot for soph Brison Burris in the 2ndary. Eight senior starters on defense is a definite plus.

Summary: Is the glass half empty or half full? Must remember that four of Miami’s eight losses last season were by a TD or less, so things might very well have gone differently. The RedHawks returned 17 starters last season and 16 this year, so more than half the team are at least two-year starters heading into their third as regulars. Treadwell, a receiver by trade when a collegian, knows how to develop offensive talent, helping enhance the careers of Spartan stars QB Kirk Cousins, WR B.J. Cunningham & Mark Dell and RBs Edwin Baker & Javon Ringer. He’s got the makings of a solid defense and a top-drawer QB-WR connection as well as a decent possession target in 6-4 sr. WR Andy Cruse. If Stults improves the offensive line and one of the young running backs comes through, Miami will bounce back with vigor this season.


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