Merriweather takes back starting job

August 31, 2009


Apparently getting demoted in favor of a freshman was exactly the kick in the butt that Thomas Merriweather needed. After looking up at Danny Green from the two spot for most of fall camp, the junior back reclaimed his spot as starter.

“He just did a better job than the other guys at that position,” Haywood said. “He had great hustle and kept fighting to get his job back. He played a lot better.”

Only speculation can decide if Haywood planned on this all along or not. After the first fall scrimmage he moved Green ahead of Merriweather on the running back depth chart. With hindsight being 20/20, it now may appear that he was simply doing this as a mere motivation tool. Whether coach truly favored the freshman at the time or not, its seems his moved payed off for everyone in the end. After taking a healthy share of snaps with the first unit, Green has developed into a solid second option at back. Meanwhile, Merriweather kicked himself into another gear to become an even better player than before and now Haywood has his true starter back.

Merriweather played in 10 games during 2008. He rushed for three touchdowns against Charleston Southern and totaled 547 yards on the season.


WR Eugene Harris returns to practice

August 31, 2009


Sidelined by a summer surgery on his leg, Eugene Harris found the football field for the first time this season. Haywood remains unsure if he will take the field Saturday but admits this is a huge step in getting Harris back into playing condition. Harris is projected to be the RedHawks’ top punt returner in 2009 after a tremendous 2008 special teams campaign in which he scored twice. He also has grabbed 81 passes over the past two seasons.

Running back Taylor leaves RedHawks

August 31, 2009


Coach Haywood announced on Twitter this evening that sophomore running back JR Taylor left the team. This departure feels much like that of former QB Clay Belton, who also left the team two weeks earlier. Like Belton, Taylor found himself farther down on the depth chart than he envisioned himself. In 2008 he ran for over 100 yards in consecutive games and received the game ball in Miami’s only MAC victory of the season. This year, however, Haywood buried Taylor behind three other running backs on the depth chart. According to Haywood’s twitter post, Taylor will continue attending Miami University.

Michigan FB transfers to Miami

August 31, 2009


Coach Haywood wanted to implement the fullback position into the RedHawk offense and now he may have his man. Vince Helmuth, a 6’1″ 291 lb junior transfer from the University of Michigan, appeared at practice with the Miami football team today. At first glance it is easy to mistake his large frame for that of an offensive lineman. In 2007 ranked him the No. 1 player at his position and gave him a four-star position rating. Haywood said Helmuth still has to go through a five-day activation period. Since he is a transfer student, he will not see action beyond the scout team this year.

“He’s big, real big,” junior defensive captain Jordan Gafford said. “He’ll be a good player. He’s a big boy.”

Helmuth played in 14 games for the Wolverines. He is listed as a defensive tackle on the Michigan athletics website but served mostly in roles as fullback and on special teams. When coach Rich Rodriguez took over at Michigan, he eliminated the fullback position, which is why Helmuth decided to transfer.

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RedHawks hit the road for a real home game at Paul Brown Stadium

August 31, 2009

Miami's first official home game takes place in Cincinnati, not Oxford

Imagine playing football on the same field that your hometown NFL team claims as its own. For many Miami University football players, this dream becomes a reality Saturday against the University of Kentucky at Paul Brown Stadium.

“I think it’s very cool,” sophomore linebacker Alex Kaufman said. “Growing up in Cincinnati and growing up around Paul Brown Stadium and the Bengals you know the history behind it. To be able to go down to see and play on that field means a lot.”
Kaufman has been a Bengals fan since childhood. Nine years ago he went to watch his favorite team play in a brand new home, Paul Brown Stadium. Now in 2009 he prepares to take that same field himself.

The Lakota West graduate is not alone either. There are 16 other RedHawks from the Cincinnati area who share similar stories. Senior captain Dustin Woods ranks among this group that grew up alongside Saturday’s playing surface.

“I remember when the Bengals played in River Front Stadium,” Woods said. “I guess I’m that old. I think it will be really exciting, not just for the Cincinnati guys but everyone on the team.”

Although playing at Paul Brown will certainly be a special experience, Woods emphasized that it will not be a distraction. He says the team is intent on remaining focused on the task at hand, regardless of where it takes place.

“Once you get in that game time mode it’s just you and the player across from you,” Woods said. “You really don’t notice where you are in the moment. That’s what we need to focus on more than anything – the opponent and not so much the venue.“

Woods, like many of his fellow Cincinnati teammates, wanted to be close to home at college. For him, location served as a key selling point when looking at schools. Miami fit this need so well that he didn’t even make the short trip for a campus visit before making his decision.

“I’m a family man,” Woods said. “I wanted it to be close to home.”

In addition to the distance, Kaufman was also attracted by Miami’s winning tradition.

“Growing up 45 minutes outside of Oxford you grow up hearing about (Miami football),” Kaufman said. “They are in the newspaper every week and you just get comfortable with hearing about Miami sports doing well.”

Two of Kaufman’s teammates at Lakota West High School now play with him at Miami. He feels that moving up a level alongside these men greatly enhanced their relationship on and off the field. Redshirt freshman DJ Brown played with Kaufman at LWHS and said that having a former teammate play with him at Miami helped him acclimate to the team faster as it gave him a familiar face to lean on.

The flip side of this coin is that the Cincinnati area players often join forces with high school rivals as well. Former Miami wide out Ryne Robinson, who now plays for the Carolina Panthers, played against Woods during their prep football days only to later become his teammate as a RedHawk.

When Miami takes the field Saturday, excitement certainly will not be in short supply. The match against the Wildcats serves as the season opener of coach Haywood’s first campaign as a RedHawk. It gives the team a much needed fresh start and pits them against a BCS conference opponent. Paul Brown Stadium won’t be the centerpiece of Saturday’s anticipated affair, but rather the stage on which it all takes place.

“I’ve been a Bengals fan pretty much my entire life,” sophomore offensive lineman Steve Bray said. “I played in Cincinnati a long time. I’ve always seen it and been to a lot of games but never got the chance to play on that big of a field. Should be a special experience.”

Miami Football Season Preview

August 27, 2009


For the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians, baseball season is all but over. For fans of these clubs, however, it simply means more time to focus on the sport America loves most: football.

At Miami University, which draws the vast majority of its students from the aforementioned cities, the time has come for the football team to take center stage. A new head coach is in town and the season opener is just a week away. The burning question now is ‘what can Miami fans expect to see from the RedHawks on the gridiron in 2009?’

Miami is one of five teams in the Mid American Conference turning to a new skipper and one of nine teams returning its starting quarterback. This provides the squad with a unique contrast between new and familiar. Disregarding any and all opinions about the quality of Daniel Raudabaugh’s past play, however, he too looks to provide significant change as well.

For the first time in his Miami career, Raudabaugh will receive the attention of a quarterbacks coach. Former head coach Shane Montgomery did not include this position on his staff, opting to coach the gunslingers himself on top of his many other duties. The addition of Morris Watts, however, means the signal callers are now given completely undivided attention from a more than seasoned veteran.

“The big thing about Daniel,” Watts said, “is that he really has a command of our offense right now. He understands it thoroughly, so everything he is doing he is pretty much doing on time. “

Watts brings 44 years of coaching experience, including 12 years at Michigan State University, four years at Louisiana State University and one year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has his hands full at Miami as the RedHawks currently run five quarterbacks on their roster. The most recent depth chart puts Raudabaugh as the starter with redshirt freshman Zac Dysert as his backup. New recruit Austin Boucher, who turned down the likes of Ohio State University and Stanford University and the University of Cincinnati, slides into the third spot with the recent departure of Clay Belton.

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Another position of plenty for the ’Hawks is running back. Junior Thomas Merriweather, Senior Andre Bratton and redshirt freshman Danny Green are all considered contenders for the starting spot at in the backfield. Green currently ranks first on the depth cart after impressing Haywood in the team’s first fall scrimmage. Sophomore JR Taylor, who rushed for over 100 yards in consecutive contests last season, is not currently in the running due to a less than impressive fall camp. Haywood insists he will not run his backfield by committee but also says we can expect to see at least three backs used per game.

Three areas of concern Haywood identified are cornerback, fullback and tight end. He feels the depth at these positions is lacking and will rely on young talent to step up and perform. Miami fields two freshmen fullbacks and recently had junior Jordan Stevens switch from defensive end to tight end.

Looking further at the incoming class of freshman, several first years have already worked their way into the two-deep depth chart. True freshman Austin Brown, who comes with a dominant 6’2” 266 lb frame, will start at defensive tackle, while first years Pat Hinkle and Wes Williams take second string positions at safety and defensive end respectively. Both centers listed on the two-deep, Brad Bednar and John Anevski, are true freshman as well, giving the RedHawks youth on both the offensive and defensive line.

“Those are the key areas in which you win football games,” Haywood said.

The main competition in the MAC looks to be made up of the usual suspects. In the eastern division, members of the media picked the University at Buffalo to repeat as champions. The Bulls return 13 starters from 2008 including running back James Starks and wideout Naaman Roosevelt. Starks posted consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and scored a total of 17 touchdowns last year. Roosevelt smashed school records by catching 104 balls for 1,402 yards and 13 touchdowns.

In the west, Central Michigan State University is predicted to return to the top. The defending champion Ball State Cardinals lost standout quarterback Nate Davis to the NFL draft, paving the way for Chippewa gunslinger Dan LeFevour to take over the division. LeFevour joins 17 other returning starters on a team that defeated the RedHawks in the MAC championship game two seasons ago.

Miami kicks its season off Sep. 5 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati against the University of Kentucky. With fall camp winding down, the MU players are anxious to take the field and show everyone what they are capable of.

“Guys are ready to go out there and hit somebody else,” Raudabaugh said. “Somebody in a blue-colored helmet.”

We’re talkin’ about practice, man. Not a game. Practice.

August 26, 2009

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.