Opponent Preview: Miami RedHawks

Ohio State opens the 2012 season and the Urban Meyer era Saturday afternoon against the Miami RedHawks in Ohio Stadium. Find out all you need to know about MU in this preview that includes facts, figures, a look at the last game between the two programs and in insider's view from the opponent side.

Miami University
Saturday, Sept. 1
Noon ET, Big Ten Network
Ohio Stadium; Columbus, Ohio

The RedHawks
Head coach: Don Treadwell, 4-8, second year
2011 record: 4-8 (3-5 Mid-American Conference East Division, tied for fourth place)
Series mark: Ohio State leads 4-0
School location: Oxford, Ohio
Enrollment: 16,000
Colors: Red and White
Stadium: Yager Stadium
Fight song: "Miami Fight Song"
Game Notes, including depth chart on page 8

Miami hopes to come back from a disappointing season a year ago with a successful 2012, and Don Treadwell thinks the team has a chance to do it.

The RedHawks had almost an impossible task a season ago. Coming off a stunning 10-win season – the first ever in college football after a team lost double-digit games the year before – and without head coach Mike Haywood, who left for Pittsburgh, Miami learned that what goes up in college football must come down. The team was 2-4 in games decided by one possession, and some close losses doomed the team to an 8-4 season.

Teams that often shoot up the standings one year come back to earth the next year, and Miami – with a Treadwell, the former Michigan State offensive coordinator – saw exactly that happen.

Now in his second year, Treadwell thinks a year of his team being in his system can help get the RedHawks – picked by many to contend in the MAC East – get back where the famed "Cradle of Coaches" thinks it should be.

"Nothing can take the place of your first year," Treadwell said. "Whether you're 12-0 or 0-12, there's so much to be gained in terms of laying that foundation with your staff and with your current team.

"I've always been so appreciative of the players that we've had because for this group of seniors that I have that happen to be in their fifth year, I'm their third coach. There's been a lot of change, a lot of things you have to get up and running philosophically and schematically, and now that we go into the second year, there's a much better comfort level."

Miami boasts a veteran crew – all starters have earned at least one letter – led by fourth-year starting quarterback Zac Dysert and one of the better defenses in the MAC, but the team is still more than a three-touchdown underdog as it gets ready to take on Ohio State.

In A Nutshell
The two names most Ohio State fans have likely heard going into this game are that of Dysert and wideout Nick Harwell, and there's a reason for that. Dysert is one of the top quarterbacks, statistically, in the country the past few years while Harwell, his top target, had a record-setting 2011 campaign.

Dysert – who has thrown for more than 11 miles in his career between Miami and Ada (Ohio) High School – threw for 3,513 yards and 23 touchdowns last year while running for four more scores. With 8,530 passing yards at Miami, he's on pace to catch school all-time leader Ben Roethlisberger (10,829) and is third among college quarterbacks entering the season behind USC's Matt Barkley and Oklahoma's Landry Jones.

Harwell, meanwhile, caught 129.6 yards worth of passes per game last year to sit second in the country. A first-team All-MAC choice last year, the junior had a Miami record 97 catches last season, including 15 for 229 yards – both MU records – at Temple last year. Senior Andy Cruse is also reliable and is nearing 100 career grabs but the production drops off from there.

After that, the offense is short on star power, one reason the team struggled putting points on the board last year. Miami had the worst running game, statistically, in the country last year, one reason the team threw more than it ran the ball. Erik Finklea was the top rusher last year but averaged only 3.2 yards per carry, so Justin Semmes and walk-on Robert Williams III will get the first cracks this year at playing tailback.

The offensive line also struggled a year ago, as Miami actually allowed more sacks – 47 – than OSU did, just one of two teams to fall into that category. Right guard Brad Bednar is an All-MAC candidate, while true freshman Brandyn Cook has impressed at LG. Zach Lewis and Marcus Matthews started last year as freshmen, but Matthews is listed as a reserve this year.

Defensively, Miami should have one of the better groups in the MAC, and Treadwell has praised the group for the work it did a year ago for keeping the RedHawks in games. MU gave up 22.9 points per game in 2011, third in the MAC. In all, the team was in the top third in the nation last year in tackles for loss, passing defense, first-down defense and scoring defense.

The strength is up front, where Jason Semmes – yes, Justin's brother – and Austin Brown have All-MAC capabilities. Semmes was the team's top big-play guy last year with 9.5 TFL and 4.5 sacks while Brown is a senior leader. The team is also glad to have end Wesley Williams back from injury, while depth has grown thanks to Mwanza Wamulumba and Luke Kelly.

Cleveland St. Ignatius grad Pat Hinkel has starred at safety the past two seasons but has moved to give the team more depth at linebacker after the graduation of two starters. The secondary has some talent, as All-MAC candidate Dayonne Nunley has nine interceptions the past two years at cornerback while D.J. Brown can play both DB spots and opposite corner Chrishawn Dupuy has been one of the top players in camp.

Miami will have to have its special teams improve. The RedHawks struggled in every area of the kicking game last year, making only two field goals, placing 96th in the nation in kickoff returns, 114th in punt returns and 117th in net punting.

Possible Ohio State edges: OSU should have some success both running the ball and shutting down Miami's run game, while the special teams battle definitely tilts toward the Buckeyes. It's hard not to imagine the Buckeyes fired up for Urban Meyer's first game, too. Ohio State's pass rush could also break out against a Miami line that gave up a lot last year.
Possible Miami edges:Meyer has professed to being worried about Ohio State's pass defense, and the Buckeyes will be tested by Dysert and Harwell against Miami. The RedHawks deep defensive line will be an early test for a reworked OSU front five, and Nunley will be a worthy foe for OSU's top wideouts.

Five Questions
Each week, we'll endeavor to ask five questions of an opposing team expert to try to bring some unique insight into that squad. This week, Adam Dietrich of Scout's own RedHawk Insider joins us.

What are Miami's expectations for the 2012 season? Can they bounce back from last year's tough campaign?
Despite the fact that this team is coming off a four-win season, expectations are high. Offensively, QB Zac Dysert is one of the top game managers in the country and he has a nice receiving corps to target. The defense is above average and filled with experience. Overall, if the offensive line can protect Dysert, most fans think this team is bowl bound.

Everyone is talking about Zac Dysert and Nick Harwell, the QB/WR duo that excelled last year. What does each do well?
Let's be very clear – this duo really is one of the best in the country. Miami fans haven't had All-American level talent to brag about since the Roethlisberger days, but Dysert and Harwell are both future NFL starters. Dysert's greatness lies in the fact that he is a complete package player. He has spent three seasons behind a subpar offensive line and has been able to make throws that few players can. While not a true dual threat like Braxton Miller, Dysert keeps plays alive with his feet, his eyes downfield, and a cannon delivery. His favorite target the past two seasons has been Nick Harwell – a sleeper from Missouri City, Texas, that was ranked the 269th receiver in the 2009 class. Since arriving in Oxford, Harwell has shown that he is one of the premier route-runners in the country. He has average speed and size but boasts the uncanny ability to shake defenders and the smarts to get open at the right time.

Last year the RedHawks had one of the worst running games in the country. Do you think any improvements have been made there?
While the run attack was certainly one of the main focuses for second year coach Don Treadwell's 2012 recruiting class, the quality additions he has made are simply too inexperienced to make a difference this week. Ohio State's defensive linemen and linebacking corps will live in Miami's backfield on Saturday. Expect to see a few different schemes from Miami trying to run the ball, but don't expect much success.

What can Ohio State fans expect from the RedHawks defense? Who are the stars there?
The Miami defense lacks the high profile names that the offense features, but there are quite a few returning starters. Defensive tackle Austin Brown is a two time All-MAC player that is slightly undersized but crafty enough to really plug up the middle of the field. On the outside, Dayonne Nunley is a junior cornerback that has started every game of his career and has tallied 9 interceptions despite his 5-8 stature. This defense will likely try to hold the Buckeyes early by packing the box and forcing young Braxton Miller to throw against veteran corners, but in the long term, the RedHawks probably don't have enough depth to contain the running game for four quarters.

What are the overall thoughts on Coach Treadwell and the staff he's put together.
Treadwell, a 1982 Miami grad, was hired to alumni acclaim after Miami went 10-4 in 2010 and former Head coach Mike Haywood had left for greener pastures at Pittsburgh. He had previously served as the offensive coordinator at Michigan State and was able to recruit some staffers from East Lansing to beautiful Oxford but a majority of his assistants come from the late 1990s Youngstown State staff that Buckeye fans are more than familiar with. Overall, it is an interesting mix off on-field philosophies, but a solid recruiting staff that brought in Miami's highest ranked class in the past decade.

Five Fast Facts
1. Miami is 13-42-2 against Big Ten teams, last beating a school from the league in 2003 when it posted a 44-14 win at Northwestern. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 353 yards and three touchdowns in that contest.

2. The RedHawks are 0-4 all-time against Ohio State and have been outscored 144-30 in that span, including an 80-0 pasting in the teams' first meeting in 1904.

3. Ohio State hasn't lost to a fellow Ohio team since Oberlin College defeated the Buckeyes in 1921. Treadwell hails from Oberlin, which is in northern Ohio in Lorain County, just southwest of Cleveland.

4. Miami is 664-402-44 in program history. The win total places 24th among all Division I teams.

5. There are plenty of coaching ties between the two programs. Miami offensive coordinator John Klacik and Treadwell each coached under Jim Tressel at Youngstown State, while D-line coach Nick Siatras graduated from OSU. More historically, Woody Hayes and former OSU player Sid Gillman each were head coaches at MU. Paul Brown graduated from Miami.

Last Time Out
Ohio State and Miami also lifted the lid on the 2005 season, and the suspension of quarterback Troy Smith didn't much matter as the Buckeyes cruised to a 34-14 victory on Sept. 3 in front of 104,695 in Ohio Stadium.

The loss sullied The Opening of the Shane Montgomery era at Miami, as the former MU assistant was in his first game taking over for Terry Hoeppner, who had left for Indiana.

Coming off a disappointing 8-4 season, Ohio State wasted little time taking command against the RedHawks, who were projected to be one of the best teams in the MAC coming off an 8-5 season and returning 17 starters, including highly touted quarterback Josh Betts. The Buckeyes opened a 10-0 lead after one quarter, a 20-0 advantage at the half and a 34-0 lead after three quarters of play.

"I think we're ready to go," senior lineman and captain Rob Sims said afterward. "I think we're a little in front of schedule, actually. Everybody's got the same dream here. Everybody thinks about the same thing when they go to bed at night, and that's to win the national championship."

The No. 6 Buckeyes were proficient from the start, scoring on their opening drive of the season. Antonio Pittman ran three times for 29 yards, wideout Ted Ginn Jr. caught a pass and had a 7-yard run, and quarterback Justin Zwick was 5 for 6, finishing the 12-play, 74-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes.

It was a romp from there, as Zwick finished 17 of 23 for 155 yards and that touchdown. Pittman finished with 100 yards on 14 carries, while Brandon Schnittker had a rushing score. Ginn and Holmes each caught five passes – with Ginn hauling in a TD score from redshirt freshman QB Todd Boeckman – while Josh Huston made a pair of field goals in his debut while taking over for star kicker Mike Nugent.

But the biggest play might have been a 26-yard interception return by Donte Whitner for a touchdown that gave OSU a 20-0 lead at the half. Whitner jumped in front of a swing pass by Betts and took it to the house, putting the Buckeyes in firm command with 1:21 left in the first half.

The third quarter started much like the first as the Buckeyes went 80 plays in nine yards, the capper a 1-yard plunge over the line by Schnittker. Boeckman and Ginn hooked up on a picture-perfect 42-yard bomb late in the third to make it 34-0.

Betts was harassed throughout the day by Ohio State's defense, which kept him under constant pressure. The Buckeyes finished with five sacks, with one each going to Bobby Carpenter, A.J. Hawk, Mike Kudla, Anthony Schlegel and Whitner.

Betts finished 24 for 44 for 250 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He led two scoring drives in the fourth quarter, during which 10 of his completions and 111 of his yards came.

With the win – Ohio State's 100th on opening day – in the books, the Buckeyes turned their attention ahead to a huge showdown with No. 2 Texas, which loomed one week later in the Horseshoe.

"A lot of guys have been looking forward to it probably since we were getting recruited," safety Nate Salley said.

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