Why should RedHawk fans go watch the Miami football team play this year? Considering this is coach Haywood’s first season in Oxford, this may be an unfair question to ask him. I did anyway.
Whether he was in charge of them at the time or not, the fact of the matter is that the team he currently coaches posted a record of 2-10 in two of the past three years. It ranks dead last in the MAC preseason poll and nearly lost to a D-1AA school last season. So new coach or not I feel the question still stands: why should fans, students in particular, go watch the RedHawks on the gridiron this season?
“Win or lose, you will be pleased with their performance every time they walk off the field,” Haywood said.
Ok, so this is not exactly the riveting answer I was going for and (all journalistic objectivity aside) hoping to hear. Come on coach. Tell me your RedHawks are ready to turn the Wildcats domestic! Tell me the blue field in Boise will run red with Bronco blood! Tell me the Victory Bell is coming back to Oxford to stay!
On second thought, maybe it’s good he didn’t say those things. And what’s more, each time I watch a practice I become increasingly convinced of his actual words, no matter how uninspiring they may be. Go down to Yager Stadium around 4:30 p.m. during the week and you will see something I never saw in my first four years at this school: football players competing in practice.
It struck me as odd when I heard shouting coming from inside the stadium as I walked down Webb Ewbank Way for my first reporting of the season. That gives you an idea of what the Montgomery era was like. I was legitimately surprised to hear yelling at a football practice. What really caught me off guard, however, was where the yelling came from. I stared in amazement as players, not coaches, shouted at other players.
My goodness, what could possibly be causing such a ruckus? No one was fighting. No one had messed up. They were just running a simple play at the goal line. Could they really be… just, you know… encouraging each other? As Allen Iverson might say, we’re not talking about a game, man. We’re talking about practice. What is everyone so excited about?
I found out later that this was not just a simple play I witnessed. Coach put sprints on the line. If the offense scored, the defense ran. If the defense produced a stop, the offense ran. It’s genius. Instantly Haywood cooked up a full course of effort with a side of team camaraderie.
This is just Exhibit A in a huge pile of evidence pointing toward change. Coach also had place kicker Trevor Cook attempt a live 50-yard field goal under similar circumstances. If he made it, practice was over. If he missed it, everyone ran. How’s that for simulating a late-game, high-pressure kick.
Still not convinced? I’ll give you 22 more pieces of evidence: every starting position on offense and defense. They are all up for grabs and coach means it. After the first fall scrimmage, he bumped freshman running back Danny Green into the top spot on the depth chart. Haywood doesn’t care what upperclassmen Merriweather, Bratton and Taylor did from the backfield in past seasons.
Well, they certainly got the message because coach told me that ever since that move all three progressed considerably in the following practices.
So what’s the point? Maybe Mr. Iverson is right. Maybe it is just practice and none of this makes any difference whatsoever. So what if Haywood can run a good camp, he still hasn’t won a game yet.
I certainly understand and sympathize with all naysayers. The product on the field in recent years has been mediocre at best and tough to stomach on a weekly basis. But as the old adage says, you practice like you play and right now the RedHawks are practicing with more energy, enthusiasm and discipline then they ever came close to playing with in 2008.
Like coach Haywood, I’m not saying this team is ready to turn the Wildcats domestic or the blue field in Boise red. Heck, this could easily end up being yet another 2-10 season. What I am saying, however, is that this team will compete. Haywood’s words and practices stand as testament to that fact.
Now that I think about it, my question to coach was indeed completely unfair. He may be coaching many of the same players that went 2-10 in 2008, but I will correct myself and say that he is certainly not coaching the same team.
“There may be a lot of the same faces but they’re new players,” Raudabaugh said. “There is new energy, new schemes and a new attitude and a new team. We are going to be able to play Miami football again.”
That is why you should come out to watch the RedHawks play football this year.