by P. Carl Giordano, Managing Editor

HC Don Treadwell starts his career as a head coach at his alma mater, the latest in a dignified list of RedHawk graduates who became the head coach at Miami, a list that includes Ara Parseghian, Bo Schembechler, Bill Mallory and Randy Walker. The ex-RedHawk wide receiver has been an assistant coach for 25 years, most recently serving as offensive coordinator at Michigan State for the last four seasons. Treadwell follows MAC Coach of the Year Mike Haywood, whose career rose like a rocket when he turned the RedHawks around, but who also flamed out just as quickly, as he was dismissed shortly after taking the job at Pittsburgh after being arrested on domestic violence charges.

Jr. QB Zac Dysert started 19 games in the last two seasons, throwing for 5017 yards and completing 63% with 25 TDS and 28 its. Desert was injured down the stretch a year ago, and the RedHawks rallied behind soph Austin Boucher, who had slightly better numbers (64%, 5 TDP, 3 its., 248 ypg passing in last 4 games of 2010). Boucher was 4-0 as a starter after Dysert suffered a lacerated spleen (ouch!) and was forced out of the lineup. It’s not clear which player will eventually win the job, as Dysert’s history of interceptions keeps the door open for Boucher.

The loss of graduated RB Thomas Merriweather (5.2 ypc, 20 catches, 13 TDS) is going to be a problem. Soph Tracy Woods was ordinary as a true freshman last season, carrying 94 times for 397 yards (4.0 ypc), but he is the heir apparent heading into the fall. Eventually, Merriweather’s successor might be incoming frosh speedster Dawann Scott (2218 YR, 31 TDS in his senior season alone).

The WR corps must replace star Armand Robinson, who was one of the top receivers in the league last season. Sr. Chris Givens (97 career catches; injury issues each of the last two seasons) and soph Nick Harwell (64 catches, 871 yds. in a splashy true frosh campaign) are a solid pair, but not quite in Robinson’s class. Explosive incoming frosh WR David Frazier, who averaged more than 20 ypc as a high school senior, looks like an immediate contributor and could end up as the third wideout in o.c. John Klacik’s attack.

The OL came together last season when jr. Matt Kennedy made the switch from right tackle to the left side. In the first nine games last season, Miami failed to gain more than 71 yards eight times. Once Kennedy settled in on the left side, they averaged 162 ypg on the ground in the final five contests. Kennedy returns along with three other holdover starters, but the unit still needs to improve its pass protection, as the RedHawks yielded 2.5 sacks per game a year ago, 91st in the country.

Last season’s defense was the stingiest RedHawk stop unit since 2004, and nine starters return from that crew. Second-team all-MAC CB David Brown and soph CB Dayonne Nunley (6 its.) lead a secondary that ranked 26th in pass efficiency defense. Sr. MLB Jerrell Wedge was named 2nd-team all-MAC with 101 stops and 11½ tackles for loss, OLB Evan Harris had 94 tackles and 6 interceptions, and former Iowa transfer DE Jason Semmes led the team with 6 sacks. Run-stuffing DTs Austin Brown (no relation to David) & 302-lb. Jordain Brown (also no relation) led the charge as the front seven held foes to 128 ypg on the ground (25th). With the top eight tacklers returning, d.c. Pete Rekstis is confident his unit can hold up its end of the bargain as Miami attempts to defend its MAC Championship.

Summary: The media picked Miami to win the MAC East title, but do yourself a favor and don’t drink the Kool-Aide. The RedHawks rebounded from a 1-11 season last year to 10-4 in 2010 thanks to an astounding reversal of form in turnovers. Miami was -24 in the 1-11 nightmare of 2009, but +11 a year ago, so the RedHawks got more than their share of the bounces last season. Miami has to replace its two most reliable offensive producers in Merriweather and Robinson. Also remember the RedHawks have to play their toughest conference opponents (Toledo, Temple & Ohio) on the road and have tough non-conference games against Missouri & Cincinnati, so it seems more likely Treadwell’s crew will be scrambling for six wins and bowl eligibility than lining up in the conference championship game again. Slow starts have been the norm for Miami, as the RedHawks are 10-21 against the number in August & September games since “Big Ben” Roethlisberger left for the NFL.

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