SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Miami (Ohio) Redhawks

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Terry Hoeppner (5th year, 27-21)
2002 record: 7-5 (none)
MAC finish: 3rd (East)
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 127.7 ypg
(9th in MAC, 80th in nation)
Pass: 277.6 ypg (3rd, 19th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 139.7 ypg (2nd, 44th)
Pass: 273.0 ypg (14th, 109th)
Projected Starters
Offense (7 returning starters in bold)
WR  88  Korey Kirkpatrick  Sr. 
WR  Mike Larkin  Jr. 
WR  82  Andre Henderson  Jr. 
LT   71   Ben Herrell   Sr.  
LG   54   Frank Smith   Sr.  
C   62   Todd Londot   So.  
RG  79  Nate Bunce  So. 
RT   74   Jacob Bell   Sr.  
TE   87   Matt Brandt   Sr.  
QB   7   Ben Roethlisberger   Jr.  
TB   11   Luke Clemens   Sr.  
Defense (4)
DE   57   Phil Smith   Sr.  
DT   52   Will Rueff   Jr.  
DT  91  Larry Burt  Jr. 
DE  44  Jarrod Rich  So. 
OLB  12  John Busing  So. 
MLB   3   Terrell Jones   Sr.  
OLB  32  Terna Nande  So. 
CB  28  Darrell Hunter  So. 
CB  Aphonso Hodge  Jr. 
SS   19   Matt Pusateri   Jr.  
FS  38  Steve Burke  So. 
Special Teams
26  Jared Parseghian  Jr. 
16  Mike Wafzig  Jr. 
KR  88  Korey Kirkpatrick  Sr. 
PR  28  Darrell Hunter  So. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  at Iowa 
Sept. 13  at Northwestern 
Sept. 20  at Colorado State 
Sept. 27  Cincinnati 
Oct. 4  Akron 
Oct. 11  Buffalo 
Oct. 18  at Ball State 
Oct. 25  at Kent State 
Nov. 4  Bowling Green 
Nov. 12  Marshall 
Nov. 22  at Ohio 
Nov. 28  at UCF 
It's been 17 years since Miami last won a Mid-American Conference title. That could change this fall thanks to one of the most experienced teams in the league. The 17 seniors on the roster are the most during coach Terry Hoeppner's five-year tenure. The most important returnee, though, is junior quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has passed for 6,343 yards and 47 touchdowns in two seasons.

The RedHawks return six other offensive starters and should improve on a 32.0-point scoring average. Yet the success of this team hinges on the improvement of the defense. Miami gave up 27.1 points per game and allowed 103 points in the fourth quarter. The addition of former Northern Illinois linebacker coach Pat Narduzzi as defensive coordinator already has led to a more aggressive, diversified attack. "We have a lot of talent, and the results we got this spring, especially from the young guys, was a confidence-builder," Hoeppner said.

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

The RedHawks' attack is run by one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the nation. Roethlisberger is coming off a banner season in which he completed 63.3 percent of his passes, threw for 3,238 yards and threw twice as many touchdowns (22) as interceptions (11).

Luke Clemens, who gained 1,009 yards on a 4.5-yard average, and Cal Murray are the only experienced tailbacks, but that shouldn't be much of an issue behind an experienced and big offensive line. Right tackle Jacob Bell, left guard Frank Smith and left tackle Ben Herrell headline a group that averages 6-foot-6, 295 pounds.

The wide receivers won't be as deep as last year's unit that featured 10 players with at least 10 receptions. But that doesn't mean they won't be as talented. Mike Larkin should increase his numbers of 39 catches and 436 yards. And the coaching staff is expecting big things from Andre Henderson, a transfer from Purdue who will have two years of eligibility at Miami.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

Any hopes of Miami reaching the MAC title game will be squashed if the defense doesn't improve.

"We have all the tools we need to play good defense," Narduzzi said.

Middle linebacker Terrell Jones, end Phil Smith and strong safety Matt Pusateri are the big names. The secondary was toasted for far too many big plays, but this unit should be much improved in 2003. Speedy cornerbacks Alphonso Hodge and Darrell Hunter will be an upgrade.

"We have a lot of talent and the results we got this spring, especially from the young guys, was a confidence builder," Hoeppner said.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Kicker Jared Parseghian has started to make a name for himself. Parseghian, the great-nephew of former Miami and Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian, made all 14 of his field goal attempts last season. If punter Mike Wafzig falters, the RedHawks can rely on Roethlisberger, who averaged 43.8 yards on 11 punt attempts.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

Miami will face a big-time schedule that features four 2002 bowl teams. The RedHawks open with road games at Iowa and Northwestern before traveling to Fort Collins to face Colorado State. Miami doesn't have its first home game until Sept. 27 against Cincinnati.

"I know that our coaches and players are both charged and ready for the challenges that lie ahead," Hoeppner said.

The RedHawks will need to be ready if they plan to better their 7-5 mark of a year ago. This team has the talent to contend in the tough MAC East, but the new-look defense must come through. The unit is talented but will need to pick up the nuances of a new scheme. If the defense can adjust quickly and produce big plays and score off turnovers, Miami might be in line for a trip to the MAC championship game.

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