The 2008 season for the Miami Redhawks was lackluster, to say the very least.
In fact, one could say it was downright awful.
2-10 isn't exactly a championship season.
However, there were some bright spots on the team.
Special teams players get very little attention with all the superstar players in more prominent roles. There was little recognition that Miami actually had two premier players on special teams.
Nathan Parseghian, a senior placekicker, was 20-23 in field goal attempts and was tied for 11th in field goals made. That conversion ratio ranked him 6th out of all NCAA Division I kickers and garnered him All-MAC First Team honors. Parseghian also set a new Miami record with the best single season accuracy in team history.
The other highlight was the senior punter Jake Richardson. He led the NCAA most of the season in average punt distance, but finished third in the nation.
The First Team All-MAC punter was also invited to play in the annual East-West Shrine Game. He was only the sixth player from Miami to do so. His solid play ranked him fifth out of the 49 eligible punters in the 2009 draft.
The rest of the team left much to be desired.
The offense was ranked a dismal 96th out of the 120 Division I teams. The passing game was ranked a mediocre 68th, but the rushing game was barely effective ranked at 104. They only managed to convert 72 out of 182 third downs.
The defense didn't fare much better. They were ranked around 100th in each major defensive category.
Fear not Redhawk faithful.
This could be a much better year.
A lot changed during the offseason.
The Cradle of Coaches hired Mike Haywood of Notre Dame to be the new head coach. He and his staff have a combined 199 years of college coaching experience.
With Miami's dismal running game, a guy like Haywood could really turn things around on offense.
Raudabaugh looks to improve in his senior year from last season (1960 yds., 8 TD, 9 INT), but Miami now also has two serious weapons to give him some competition in freshman Austin Boucher and Zac Dysert.
Boucher recently rejected an offer to go to Ohio State, in lieu of having potentially a great deal more play time with the Redhawks. He could be a solid player with some experience and will likely give Dysert a run for his money in 2010.
Dysert was red-shirted last year, but is listed second on the team's current depth chart. Dysert holds the record for second-most passing yards in Ohio high school history.
The good news for everyone at the position is that Miami hired Morris Watts as quarterbacks coach. Under former head coach Shane Montgomery, the team actually had no quarterbacks coach. Watts was nominated for the Broyles Award in 2001, given to the nation's top assistant coach. He was also the quarterback coach in 2002 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
This could really boost the Redhawks' passing game.
Including the quarterback position, the Redhawks offense is returning eight starters, including their top five wide receivers and their top running back in Thomas Merriweather, who was injured most of last season. Their top two tight ends from last year went to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The defense that finished last in the MAC last year looks to improve exponentially with the addition of former Texas defensive coordinator Carl "Bull" Reese. He's known for turning defenses into elite squads, turning the Longhorns defense and prior to that, LSU's defense into the top defenses in the country.
Miami certainly has the tools to turn the team around this season.
Will they win a BCS bowl game this year? Probably not.
However they will definitely improve over last season and lay the foundation for a terrific team in the next few years.
The Redhawks kick off the season with the Rumble on the River against Kentucky Saturday, September 5th at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati and on ESPNU.
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