As he looks to the approach of his second season calling the shots in Oxford, Michael Haywood leaves spring football more certain that the RedHawks are on the way back. The sooner they can apply this spring's lessons in game situations and have some success, the quicker they can put the misery of the 1-11debacle in 2009 well behind them.
Tradition carries a lot of weight at Miami, The Cradle of Coaches, and the onus is on Haywood to return the punch to his offense, the nasty edge to his defense, and put the RedHawks back in contention in the MAC East Division.
Spring workouts revealed that in senior tailback Thomas Merriweather and sophomore quarterback Zac Dysert, Haywood has the key components he needs to put some charge in that offense. Merriweather has the makeup to be the workhorse, and his production should give Dysert a comfort zone in which to function.
The defense came out of spring a more confident and cohesive bunch. Linebacker Jerrell Wedge and tackle D.J. Svabik had exceptionally strong performances, and the RedHawks will need them and their cohorts to continue to trend in that direction since the 2010 opener will take Miami to Gainesville to meet the very potent Florida Gators.
With 51 lettermen and a handful of talented early arrivals on hand, spring ball was a critical time for the Miami staff to commence the sorting out process. There was a whole lot of evaluating that needed to be done before the RedHawks can move forward. A spike in the passion and enthusiasm was encouraging to see, and Haywood hopes it is a harbinger of much better things ahead.NOTES, QUOTES
--Miami head coach Michael Haywood is leaving the policing of his players essentially up to them. This spring he formed a leadership comittee to oversee the study table, and mandate penalties in the event of violations of team rules.
--The RedHawks are looking to a trio of transfers to provide some immediate spark in their lineup. Michigan transfer FB Vince Helmuth, UConn transfer LB C.J. Marck, and Iowa transfer DL Jason Semmes should all forge a place on the depth chart by the start of the coming season.
--If there is indeed strength in experience and numbers, the RedHawks should be a strong bunch since 51 of the 80 returning players are letter-winners.
WR Nick Harwell -- The true freshman from Texas arrived in Oxford early, and went to work on earning a place on the two-deep. Harwell was so good in spring ball that he pushed other RedHawk veterans to upgrade their performances.
FB Justin Semmes -- The redshirt freshman from Michigan appears ready to make his move into the starting lineup. At 6-2 and 225 pounds, Semmes demonstrated the size to plow through people, and the quickness to make them miss.
TE Kendrick Bruton -- Despite earning letters in each of the past two seasons, the junior had just one reception for seven yards last year. But in spring ball Bruton made himself the favorite to start at tight end by continually catching the eye of his coaches. His older brother followed a similar career track at Notre Dame, and ended up an NFL draft pick.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Overall, we are very pleased with the progress of our team. There's a lot of competition for positions and that's exactly what we wanted to see this spring." -- Miami coach Michael Haywood on the gains made by the RedHawks over the springSTRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: Before Miami could work on its offensive scheme or plug in the right guys to give its defense an edgy feel, there were internal matters to address. Head coach Michael Haywood seems to think the RedHawks have turned over a new leaf in that regard. "Off the field, guys are living a quality of life that will allow them to be champions, and the majority of the team is headed in the right direction," Haywood said. On the field, Miami made gains in the areas of physical and mental toughness, and has a richness of veteran players that should allow it to push towards a .500 record this season.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The RedHawks saw very encouraging signs in the spring that their offense will be more crisp, efficient and versatile. Senior TB Thomas Merriweather has been rugged and reliable, while sophomore QB Zac Dysert's body language suggests that he is confident and capable to lead this team. The explosive emergence of junior TE Kendrick Bruton adds another intriguing dimension for Miami.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The RedHawks hope the nasty edge their defense displayed in the spring gets enhanced over the summer and becomes a legitimate tactical weapon by fall. The passion and enthusiasm was there, and players were getting into the backfield, disrupting things, and recording stops behind the line. It helps that LB Jerrell Wedge looks ready to assume the primary leadership role, and if others follow his example, Miami will be proud of its defense once again.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: After seeing a lot of action his first two seasons in Oxford, senior PK Trevor Cook sat out 2008, and then moved back into the lead role last season. Cook had a solid spring and should be reliable. The punting job appears to be a wide open affair, while senior Jamal Rogers looks to be the lead return man.
RB Orne Bey -- Blessed with surprising strength for his size (5-8, 170), and combines that with outstanding speed and quickness. Considered by some of the top recruiting services as a legitimate "sleeper" in his class, Bey saw most programs shy away from him since they felt he was too small, but Bey's ability to break loose for a big play made him attractive to the RedHawks.
WR Nicholas Harwell -- A Texas product who enrolled early at Miami and will benefit from taking part in spring ball. The Miami coaches like his combination of speed, crisp routes, and great balance while making acrobatic catches. Harwell (6-1, 175) is a military school grad who brings maturity as a freshman.
DT John Steele -- Recruited a year ago but needed some time to get his academic house in order. After a semester at Miami, his progress was sufficient to put Steele in the plans for the coming season. Steele's size (6-3, 280) has been his carrying card, but his strength and quickness have also improved during his time in Miami's system.
--WR Chris Givens missed the bulk of last season with a shoulder injury, but a good showing this spring indicates he is getting close to 100 percent, and ready to provide the offense with another option.
--Sophomore LB C.J. Marck, a transfer from Connecticut who sat out last season, was impressive in the weight room, and translated his gains there onto the field this spring, and made a very strong case for a starting role.
--Sophomore DL Jason Semmes, a transfer from Iowa who sat out last season, used the spring workouts to give the Miami coaching staff a first-hand look at his abilities, and forged a place on the depth chart heading into summer workouts.
--Junior OL Brandon Brooks was held out of contact this spring to give him time to rehab an injury.
Previous Report: 04/28/2010