Summer Vacation: Great Hires And The Miami Redhawks

10:04 AM: Updated to account for Tracy Woods' dismissal.

NOTE: Confused? Don't miss the definitions and footnotes at the bottom.

Considering the summer we've had in college football, Miami (Ohio) got off easy. All they did was lose a coach to a bigger school and replace him with an extremely experienced, ready-for-his-opportunity assistant. No coach-in-waiting drama, no hiring-two-in-one-offseason issues. They just lost a guy and hired the most qualified replacement available. Easy peasy.

Then again, Miami's used to replacing good coaches. They lost Woody Hayes to Ohio State, Ara Parseghian to Northwestern, Bo Schembechler to Michigan, Bill Mallory to Colorado, Dick Crum to North Carolina, Tom Reed to N.C. State, Randy Walker to Northwestern and Terry Hoeppner to Indiana. This is old hat for them. (When I went to a game at Bowling Green in 2002, I was a little thrown by the flags flying in the parking lot. Almost every single person flying a flag had a medium BGSU flag and a large Ohio State flag. Our joke was that MAC teams were basically Triple-A squads for Big Ten programs. When it comes to Miami and coaches, that isn't a joke. The only surprise is that last year's successful Miami coach, Mike Haywood, was called up to a Big East school. Of course, Haywood's tenure in the Big East didn't last too long...)

The "Cradle of Coaches" has made more great hires than bad ones, and in Don Treadwell, they certainly brought in a man with diverse experience and a lengthy resume. Nobody is a guaranteed success, but Treadwell, most recently the offensive coordinator at Michigan State, looks like as safe a bet as anybody.

2010 Schedule & Results*

Record: 10-4 | Adj. Record: 5-9 | Final F/+ Rk**: 92
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
4-Sep Florida 12-34 L 5.8 - 24.3 L
11-Sep Eastern Michigan 28-21 W 21.5 - 27.7 L
18-Sep Colorado State 31-10 W 18.4 - 28.0 L
25-Sep Missouri 13-51 L 25.0 - 41.1 L
2-Oct Kent State 27-21 W 28.5 - 32.1 L
9-Oct Cincinnati 3-45 L 19.0 - 41.0 L
16-Oct Central Michigan 27-20 W 32.6 - 30.2 W
23-Oct Ohio 13-34 L 19.8 - 32.0 L
30-Oct Buffalo 21-9 W 20.6 - 24.3 L
10-Nov Bowling Green 24-21 W 31.0 - 20.5 W
17-Nov Akron 19-14 W 21.7 - 28.9 L
23-Nov Temple 23-3 W 32.1 - (-4.9) W
4-Dec Northern Illinois 26-21 W 36.3 - 22.3 W
6-Jan Middle Tennessee 35-21 W 30.8 - 24.3 W
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 21.6 98 23.2 44
Adj. Points Per Game 24.5 84 26.6 54

Without realizing anything about Miami's recent history, one would still look at the Redhawks' season as a rousing success. Miami won the MAC title, scoring an upset over Northern Illinois in the conference title game and winning the GoDaddy.com Bowl to reach ten wins for the first time since Ben Roethlisberger was wearing the red and white in 2003.

That they did this all a season after going 1-11 is just staggering.

Granted, Miami didn't really improve all that much -- they rose from 110th to 92nd in F/+, 109th to 100th in Off. F/+ and a more substantial 90th to 69th in Def. F/+. But after going just 1-2 in close (i.e. within eight points) games in 2009, they went 6-0 in 2010. There is certainly something positive in "learning how to win," though it's probably not altogether sustainable. Still, the defensive improvement was particularly impressive. Theirs was the 19th-best mid-major defense in the country, fourth-best in the MAC, and a year after allowing 410 points, that is a remarkable achievement. And much of the improvement came over the last half of the season.

Miami Defense, first eight games: 32.1 Adj. PPG Allowed
Miami Defense, last six games: 19.2 Adj. PPG Allowed

When you return a hefty amount of your talent from the previous season, late momentum is a strong indicator of future success, and UM had it at the end of 2010.

Offense***

Category S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 90 77 95
RUSHING 91 79 95 Adj. Line Yards:
PASSING 91 76 99 113
Standard Downs 87 62 94 Adj. Sack Rate:
Passing Downs 90 86 92 79
Redzone 97 108 85
Q1 Rk 64 1st Down Rk 73
Q2 Rk 101 2nd Down Rk 80
Q3 Rk 104 3rd Down Rk 107
Q4 Rk 56

Miami made the plays they had to make in the fourth quarter, but in all this wasn't a particularly great unit. They were relatively efficient, but the big plays were lacking. Miami passed to set up the run, and as they found out through necessity, their backup quarterback was as good as their starter. Starter Zac Dysert (2,406 yards, 7.0/pass, 65% completion, 13 TD, 12 INT) injured his spleen stretching for a touchdown and was replaced by a redshirt freshman, Austin Boucher. All Boucher did was almost directly replicate Dysert's per-play stat line (1,120 yards, 7.2/pass, 64% completion, 6 TD, 3 INT) and come through late in the MAC championship game against Northern Illinois.

As is often the case (when applicable) with coaching changes, however, let's see what we can glean from Don Treadwell's offensive philosophy. Here is Michigan State's offensive footprint from last season.

As we can see, State ran when they were supposed to run, passed when they were supposed to pass, and didn't vary from the script much. They played at a slow pace just like Miami, but their play-calling was much more aggressive, their offense more explosive than efficient (the Spartans ranked 11th in PPP+, 34th in Success Rate+).

If Miami is going to feature any sort of focus on explosiveness, receiver Nick Harwell could be the key. As a redshirt freshman last year, he was the right-hand man to then-senior possession receiver Armand Robinson (1,062 yards, 11.3 per catch, 72% catch), but he had by far the most explosive potential on the offense. Receivers who catch two-thirds of their targets or more while still averaging over 13.5 yards per reception are relatively rare -- only 18 receivers who were targeted at least 75 times, managed this feat. Still just a sophomore, Harwell has a load of potential.

The main question, of course, is who will be throwing to Harwell. Both Dysert and Boucher acquitted themselves quite well last fall -- Dysert easily had the worse TD-to-INT ratio of the two, but he had zero touchdowns to five interceptions against Pittsburgh and Missouri, and a comparable 13-to-7 against everybody else. It appears the competition will continue this fall.

Other tidbits:

  • Michigan State ran a significant amount more than Miami in 2010, which could mean extra pressure on whoever wins the battle for starting running back. Brandon Merriweather (921 yards, 5.2 per carry, +20.8 Adj. POE) graduated, and sophomore Tracy Woods (376 yards, 4.0 per carry, -7.1 Adj. POE), who was the most likely replacement, was dismissed from the team in early-June. That leaves junior Danny Green (87 career yards, -1.1 Adj. POE in 2010), redshirt freshmen Orne Bey and Nate Ley, maybe a freshman like Justin Wiley, Dawan Scott or Spencer Treadwell. With Woods' dismissal, this becomes a huge question mark (and it probably was before Woods' dismissal too). The good news is, whoever wins the job should get help from an experienced line that returns four starters, including second-team all-MAC guard Brandon Brooks.
  • New offensive coordinator John Klacik spent over a decade coaching for Youngstown State, where he briefly crossed paths with Treadwell on Jim Tressel's staff. Granted, the Tressel connection isn't quite as much of a boost to your resume as it was this time last year, but Klacik obviously made an impression on Treadwell at one point or another. Lord knows that impression probably wasn't made in the last six years, when Klacik served as head coach of the Lock Haven Bald Eagles; Klacik's tenure finished with a 32-game losing streak. (In fairness, it doesn't appear athletics are well supported at LHU -- their football page has not been updated in, uh, a while.)

Defense

Category S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 64 40 80
RUSHING 75 26 105 Adj. Line Yards:
PASSING 57 51 61 20
Standard Downs 71 38 92 Adj. Sack Rate:
Passing Downs 87 78 93 23
Redzone 43 35 48
Q1 Rk 118 1st Down Rk 67
Q2 Rk 57 2nd Down Rk 84
Q3 Rk 44 3rd Down Rk 87
Q4 Rk 45

New defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis also has Youngstown State ties, but he spent the last seven seasons in the same coordinator position at Kent State. The Golden Flashes had the sixth-best mid-major defense in the country (and the best in the MAC) last year, ranking 49th overall in Def. F/+.

Rekstis will have some fun toys to play with in Oxford. Miami's front seven was one of the best in the world of mid-majors -- they ranked in the overall Top 25 in both Adj. Line Yards and Adj. Sack Rate, and every major contributor returns. There were playmakers throughout the front seven; they had two linemen who registered at least 10.0 TFL/sacks and four linebackers who registered at least 8.0. It all starts with two players: tackle Austin Brown (40.0 tackles, 10.0 TFL/sacks, 2 FF, 2 PBU) and middle linebacker Jerrell Wedge (69.5 tackles, 15.0 TFL/sacks, 2 FF, 2 FR, 2 PBU).

Kent State's defense ranked higher than Miami's overall because of the secondary. The Golden Flashes prevented big plays rather well, ranking 64th in PPP+; Mizmi, meanwhile, ranked 80th. The run was a particular problem -- if an opposing running back got beyond the front seven (which didn't happen particularly often), he went a long way. Free safety Pat Hinkel (57.5 tackles, 3.0 TFL/sacks, 3 INT, 4 PBU) returns, but he'll need a little more help as the last line of defense this year.

Other tidbits:

  • Miami could have the best set of cornerbacks in the conference. D.J. Brown (41.5 tackles, 2.0 TFL/sacks, 2 INT, 13 PBU) had just about the perfect stat line for a cornerback (just flip a couple more PBUs for INTs), and two freshmen made their presence known at the position as well: Dayonne Nunley (41.5 tackles, 7.0 TFl/sacks, 6 INT, 2 FR, 4 PBU) and 5-foot-8, 140-pound Demetrius Quarles (24.5 tackles, 3 PBU).
  • End Jason Semmes (34.0 tackles, 10.5 TFL/sacks, 3 PBU) deserves a little bit of love here too, if just so I can re-emphasize how good the front seven was. Semmes and Will Diaz (9.5 tackles, 4.0 TFL/sacks) are interesting ends; Austin Brown and Jordain Brown (23.0 tackles, 6.0 TFL/sacks) are strong tackles; and Evan Harris (71.0 tackles, 9.5 TFL/sacks, 6 INT, 3 PBU), C.J. Marck (36.5 tackles, 8.0 TFL/sacks, 2 FF) and Ryan Kennedy (25.0 tackles, 8.5 TFL/sacks in six games) complement Wedge at linebacker. Great depth for a MAC team.

Miami-OH's 2010 Season Set to Music

Because of Miami's surge in 2010, how about ten great "rise" songs:

"I'll Rise," by Ben Harper
"Rise," by Josh Rouse
"Rise," by Public Image Ltd.
"Rise Above," by Black Flag
"Rise Up With Fists!!" by Jenny Lewis
"Rising Up," by The Roots
"Sunrise," by Yeasayer
"Tequila Sunrise," by The Eagles
"Time for the Sun to Rise," by North Mississippi Allstars

We'll go with those nine and the entire Rise album by Chris Thomas King.

Fun Stat Nerd Tidbit

Receivers With Catch Rates >66.7% and >13.5 Yards Per Catch in 2010 (min. 75 targets)
Greg Salas, Hawaii (119 receptions, 1,889 yards, 74.4% catch rate, 15.9 yards per catch)
Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (111, 1,782, 75.0%, 16.1)
Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina (88, 1,517, 66.7%, 17.2)
Kealoha Pilares, Hawaii (88, 1,306, 71.0%, 14.8)
Juron Criner, Arizona (83, 1,258, 68.6%, 15.2)
Titus Young, Boise State (71, 1,215, 71.7%, 17.1)
Julio Jones, Alabama (78, 1,146, 71.6%, 14.7)
Cody Wilson, Central Michigan (81, 1,120, 76.9%, 13.5)
Jeremy Ebert, Northwestern (62, 953, 76.5%, 15.4)
Dane Sanzenbacher, Ohio State (55, 948, 70.5%, 17.2)
Dwight Jones, North Carolina (62, 946, 68.9%, 15.3)
Nick Harwell, Miami (Ohio) (64, 871, 66.7%, 13.6)
Doug Baldwin, Stanford (58, 857, 69.0%, 14.8)
A.J. Green, Georgia (57, 848, 67.9%, 14.9)
T.Y. HIlton, Florida International (59, 840, 70.2%, 14.2)
Jamel Hamler, Fresno State (54, 812, 69.2%, 15.0)
James Cleveland, Houston (57, 800, 67.9%, 14.0)
Tavon Austin, West Virginia (58, 787, 70.7%, 13.6)

Good company there for Harwell, and good news for whoever wins the quarterback job.

Summary and Projection Factors

Below is a small handful of projection and change factors most pertinent to the Football Outsiders' preseason projections you will find in this summer's Football Outsiders Almanac 2011.

Four-Year F/+ Rk 110
Five-Year Recruiting Rk 96
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin**** +11 / +10.5
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 17 (8, 9)
Yds/Pt Margin***** +1.7

There is quite a bit to like about Miami this year -- an outstanding front seven, two solid quarterbacks, and a potential go-to receiver, to name three. But it is certainly worth reiterating that the Redhawks went 6-0 in close games last year and, from an F/+ perspective, really did not improve as much as their record would indicate. The improvement they did make is likely rather sustainable, but it was still only a step or two forward.

I really, really like Don Treadwell. I like the job he did in a fluid situation at Michigan State last year (head coach Mark D'Antonio suffered a heart attack, and Treadwell served as interim coach, beating Wisconsin in the process), and I think he could be capable of very good things in Oxford (and, therefore, the major conference job that he would naturally inherit in a few years). They are by no means a runaway favorite in the MAC, but they'll have a very good chance to defend their East Division crown. Our initial projections suggest an impressive four-way race between Miami, Temple, Ohio and Kent State, and that sounds about right to me.

 

 

---

* For more on the 'Adj. Score' and 'Adj. Record' measures below, feel free to read this Football Outsiders column. Adj. Score is a look at how a team would have performed in a given week if playing a perfectly average team, with a somewhat average number of breaks and turnovers. The idea for the measure is simple: what if everybody in the country played exactly the same opponent every single week? Who would have done the best? It is an attempt to look at offensive and defensive consistency without getting sidetracked by easy or difficult schedules. And yes, with adjusted score you can allow a negative number of points, which is strangely satisfying.

** F/+ rankings are the official rankings for the college portion of Football Outsiders. They combine my own S&P+ rankings (based on play-by-play data) with Brian Fremeau's drives-based FEI rankings.

*** What is S&P+? Think of it as an OPS (the "On-Base Plus Slugging" baseball measure) for football. The 'S' stands for success rates, a common Football Outsiders efficiency measure that basically serves as on-base percentage. The 'P' stands for PPP+, an explosiveness measure that stands for EqPts Per Play. The "+" means it has been adjusted for the level of opponent, obviously a key to any good measure in college football. S&P+ is measured for all non-garbage time plays in a given college football game. Plays are counted within the following criteria: when the score is within 28 points in the first quarter, within 24 points in the second quarter, within 21 points in the third quarter, and within 16 points (i.e. two possession) in the fourth quarter.  For more about this measure, visit the main S&P+ page at Football Outsiders.

**** Adj. TO Margin is what a team's turnover margin would have been if they had recovered exactly 50 percent of all the fumbles that occurred in their games. If there is a huge difference between TO Margin and Adj. TO Margin (in other words, if fumbles and unlucky bounces were the main source of a good/bad TO margin), that suggests that a team's luck was particularly good or bad and might even out the next season.

*****Phil Steele has long tracked Yards Per Point as a means of looking at teams that were a little too efficient or inefficient the previous season. A positive Yds/Pt Margin means a team's offense was less efficient than opponents' offenses, and to the extent that luck was involved, their luck might even out the next year.

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