Miami RedHawks Look to Return to Tradition, Championship

Originally appeared on EndZoneNews.com.

Photo from MURedHawks.com
Photo from MURedHawks.com

The Miami RedHawks have had one of the biggest roller-coaster rides over the last two seasons in college football.

Just two seasons ago, the Miami RedHawks finished with a despicable record of 1-11 behind first-year head coach Mike Haywood.

The very next season, Haywood led a resurgence in 2010, as the Redhawks fought improbable odds to land in the Mid-American Conference championship game. However, after winning that championship game, Haywood accepted a job with the Pitt Panthers, only to be fired over a domestic violence incident.

This crazy sequence of events left the Miami RedHawks without a coach going into the GoDaddy.com Bowl on January 6. The team eventually named defensive backs coach Lance Guidry as the interim head coach for the game, and defeated Middle Tennessee 35-21.

Entering a new season with a new coaching staff and a target on their backs, Miami is looking to return to the roots of RedHawk tradition. And taking over as the new head coach of the team is Don Treadwell, who was hired on December 31 2010, but did not coach the team in their bowl game.

“Maybe from the outside everything appears to be new,” Miami defensive coordinator Peter Rekstis said in an interview with National Football Authority. “But Coach Treadwell is an alum. He brings the truest enthusiasm and love for the university and the program itself.”

“He has a deep respect for the university, for the degree we offer, and the tradition of the football program,” Rekstis added.

Coming off a season with a 9-4 record, a conference championship and a bowl victory, the Miami Redhawks have handed Treadwell all the tools to be successful. However, winning isn’t the most important thing to the Redhawk alumnus, as reinstalling Miami tradition appears to be high on his agenda.

Part of that tradition includes “discipline, tough football teams and teams that don’t beat themselves. I think that’s been the trademark of coaches who have been at Miami,” offensive coordinator John Klacik told NFA.

With the 2011 season approaching, Treadwell and staff will need to build upon the success of the 2010 season to grow in a steadily improving MAC.

“You have to take the approach that you’re going to get better every day in practice,” Klacik said.

“I think one thing about our players is they now know they can win,” he added. “I think that confidence factor of going through a season and winning those types of game obviously helps prepare them for this season.”

Certainly the confidence will follow a team who defeated the highly ranked Northern Illinois team in a conference championship game, which the RedHawks slipped into after Ohio dropped their last game to Kent State. Not to mention, following that win with another in the GoDaddy.com Bowl against Middle Tennessee State.

“The first meetings that we had with the team and the staff this year, we talked about the great respect we had for some of the mental-toughness aspect of all the turmoil that was going around this program and this football team to be able to persevere,” Rekstis said.

“I don’t think anything can be taken away from how this team was able to fortify itself and fight through and win.”

But that was 2010, and the Miami coaching staff is now preparing their players for a tough upcoming season.

With tough division opponents like Temple, Ohio and Bowling Green, as well as, Western Division foes like Central Michigan, NIU and Toledo that all possess speedy offenses in an ever-quickening game of college football, athleticism will have to play a big part in Miami’s defensive success according to Rekstis.

“We need to continue to improve on our athleticism,” he said. “The more athletic we become, the more flexible we can become.”

The spread offense has begun to fill a majority of offenses’ playbooks across the nation. The MAC is no different. Adapting to this quicker style of play is something Rekstis and the defense is prepared for.

“You used to be able to play one or two athletic linebackers on top of four DBs,” Rekstis said. “I don’t know if you can really do that anymore. All of your linebackers need to be extremely athletic or you need to play with multiple defensive back sets, which we’re okay with doing.”

The RedHawks will look to returning players, such as, defensive lineman Austin Brown, linebacker Evan Harris and defensive backs Pat Hinkel, D.J. Brown and Dayonne Nunley to remain strong in stopping their opponents in their tracks in 2011.

As for the RedHawks offense, Klacik says the team has no problem with quarterbacks Zac Dysert and Austin Boucher battling out to be the team’s starter.

“Some people would say you’ve got a quarterback controversy,’” Klacik said. “Well, I think when you have two guys who can win that’s a good problem to have.”

“We’re not trying to find a quarterback, we’re trying to find the quarterback that can help us win consistently.”

Dysert started for the RedHawks first seven games last season before suffering a season-ending rib injury. Before getting injured, Dysert completed nearly 65 percent of his passes for 2,406 yards and 13 touchdowns.

But once Dysert went down with injury, Boucher stepped in and had great success. He went undefeated in the final four regular season games, and led the team in both their conference championship win versus Northern Illinois and their bowl win against Middle Tennessee State.

Whoever is named the starter this season will be without last year’s leading receiver Armand Robinson, but will have weapons like Nick Harwell, Chris Givens, Lucas Swift and Andy Cruse–who were all highly praised by their OC.

An area where the RedHawks offense needs improvement is in the run game and scoring where they finished 113th and 98th in the nation respectively.

“You’ve got to establish the run. That’s the first thing we’ve got to do,” Klacik said. “You can’t turn it over and when you get the ball in the red zone, you’ve got to score points. Those are big steps that we need to take.”

With leading running back Thomas Merriweather graduated and his back up, Tracy Woods, dismissed from the team, Miami turns to junior Danny Green or maybe even a freshman to step up and carry the load.

Coach Klacik acknowledged that the level of play the RedHawks showed at the end of last season were the “things we need to carry over” if they want to succeed in a tough Mid-American Conference.

But before Miami even reaches MAC play this season, they have a tough out-of-conference schedule including Minnesota, Army, Cincinnati and Missouri to kick off the season. They will have to get through these BCS opponents unscathed to be competitive once they do reach conference play.

“You’ve got to stay away from the injuries, that’s always a challenge when you’re playing that caliber of teams,” Klacik said, but is looking forward to the opportunities these games bring.

“It gives you an opportunity early to play some kids and get them experience. I think it’s a good measuring stick, whether you win or lose a game against a BCS team. You can find out whether you can handle adversity. You can find our if they’re going to learn.”

But Klacik advises not to count out the RedHawks agains their early season BCS foes.

“Because our guys are in the mode now where they have a different confidence level,” he said, “I think they go into those games now thinking they have a chance to win.”

“That’s the attitude we want them to have.”

It’s going to take a lot of growth for Don Treadwell and his staff to get the Miami RedHawks back to Detroit for a conference championship game this season.

“Repeating is extremely hard, at any level, in any conference, in any sport,” Rekstis said. “Any championship football team is going to need that mental edge and certainly the right amount of luck.”

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