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There's always room for improvement when you finish as one of the worst teams in the conference on both sides of the ball. Miami (OH) will hope more experience will lead to better things in 2016 after a three-win campaign and two wins in MAC play.
A year after scoring 17.9 points per game, the offense has to improve with every relevant starter returning. Quarterback is still a question with Billy Bahl the main name to focus on, but Gus Ragland will definitely see time throughout the year as more of a runner. Not to mention, Bahl still completed just 44.8% of his passes last year for 8 TDs and 13 INTs. He started the last seven games of the year for the Redhawks.
The experience on the offensive line should help plenty with four starters returning, two of them being sophomores. Running back is set with top rusher Alonzo Smith (498 yards, 5 TDs) expected to lead the way with Kenny Young (284 yards) and Leonard Ross (165 yards) still around. It's the same situation at receiver where Rokeem Williams (543 yards) leads the core as one of the only seniors on the offense. That just goes to show how young this team still is. Jared Murphy (439 yards) and Chris Hudson (286 yards) will also help out in the receiving game.
Given all the returnees, simply put, this offense has to get better.
The defensive side might be more of a question, but the line has a couple of all-conference talent in tow with end J.T. Jones (10 sacks) and tackle Ikeem Allen. Those guys need to lead the way and set the tone for the defense as the Redhawks were actually mediocre against the run last year. They'll have a new face at middle linebacker while the two guys on the outside are returning starters. Bert Birdsall returns at corner after missing half of 2015 due to injury while they also bring in Ole Miss transfer Tee Shepard.
The struggles and turnovers by the offense led to even more problems for the defense last year and if the offense can hold onto the ball better, the defense should in turn post better numbers.
The bad news is that Miami's non-conference schedule will be extremely tough and could end in three losses with Eastern Illinois needing to be a win. But the Redhawks have a workable MAC slate that includes home games against lowly Kent State and Ball State. If they can win on the road against Eastern or Buffalo, five wins may be on the table.
And if they get better quarterback play and the defense can build off last season, it wouldn't be too surprising to see Miami with six wins. Maybe it's a stretch, but their schedule could allow them to do so with some improvement in Chuck Martin's third year as head coach.
2016 Miami Ohio Redhawks Football Schedule
Sept. 3 at Iowa
Sept. 10 vs. Eastern Illinois
Sept. 17 vs. Western Kentucky
Sept. 24 at Cincinnati
Oct. 1 vs. Ohio
Oct. 8 at Akron
Oct. 15 vs. Kent State
Oct. 22 at Bowling Green
Oct. 29 at Eastern Michigan
Nov. 4 vs. Central Michigan
Nov. 12 at Buffalo
Nov. 22 vs. Ball State
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