5 things to know about Miami football spring game

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

OXFORD — The Miami RedHawks will showcase what they currently have during the annual spring game on Saturday at 11 a.m. inside the Dauch Indoor Sports Center.

Here are five things to keep an eye on as the defending Mid-American Conference champions approach the 2024 season:

What’s the quarterback situation looking like?

Right now, RedHawks quarterback Brett Gabbert isn’t practicing much, and Aveon Smith entered the transfer portal two days after Miami won the MAC championship.

Smith landed at Alabama A&M weeks later, so finding a strong backup QB wouldn’t be a bad focus.

Gabbert, who suffered a season-ending leg injury in a home loss to Toledo during the 2023 regular season, is currently third in Miami football history for passing yards and touchdowns. He is expected to regain his starting role once fully recovered.

“We’ve got a lot of key guys out hurt that’ll be fine,” RedHawks coach Chuck Martin said after practice on Tuesday. “We’ve got a lot of young guys who have an opportunity to play the game, and they haven’t figured out how to play the game right away.”

Those taking reps under center are redshirt junior Henry Hesson, freshman Thomas Gotkowski, redshirt junior Orin Edwards, redshirt freshman Blake Lichtenberg, redshirt junior Maddox Kopp and redshirt sophomore Matt MacLeod.

Will an experienced offensive line be the team’s strength?

Miami has four starters coming back on the offensive line that helped the RedHawks rush for 158.1 yards a game and allow just 24 sacks in 2023.

Returning are senior Kolby Borders, redshirt senior Reid Holskey, redshirt junior Will Jados and senior John Young.

“We just want to get better,” Borders said earlier this spring. “There’s a lot of stuff that we know we can do better on. There’s a lot of things that we feel we left on the table, even though we won a lot.

“Our young guys are going to play hard. A lot of the young guys are willing to play hard and put their facemask on somebody.”

Can some new skill players step it up?

With the loss of wide receivers Gage Larvadain (South Carolina) and Joe Wilkins Jr. (graduation), Miami is searching for new skill players to hit the spotlight.

Running back Rashad Amos, a 1,000-yard yard rusher, announced his entrance into the transfer portal on Dec. 26.

Martin said it’s up to some fresh faces to make a noticeable impact during the final stretch of the spring practice period.

“Right now, it’s not very pleasant to watch,” Martin said. “But it’s awesome for them because they have an opportunity to figure out, ‘Hey, do I want to be a consistent performer at this level, or do I not want to be a consistent performer at this level?’ They’ve got a lot of work to do.”

How big of an impact can Miami’s two stud linebackers make?

Redshirt senior Matt Salopek, the 2023 MAC Defensive Player of the Year, is back, and so is senior Ty Wise. The two linebackers had a combined 266 total tackles last season.

Miami shut out two conference opponents in 2023 and allowed less than 11 points per game in MAC play to rank as the league’s best-scoring defense since 2000.

“The biggest thing for me is obviously I have my goals for this season — personal goals, but obviously the team is most important,” Wise said during a recent practice. “We want to win every game. We want to go to the playoffs. We want to win the conference championship.

“But I have goals and aspirations after that, and I know I need to mentally be at a place where I’m a leader — whether it’s being a vocal leader, lead by action, lead by example, whatever. I know me and (Salopek) are people younger guys look up to, and the dynamic is, (Salopek) has been here a while. Everyone loves and respects him. He kind of has the backend — tells them they can communicate with him. I’ve kind of got the front end.”

Where does Miami’s secondary stand?

Redshirt junior Eli Blakey, sophomore Raion Strader, senior Ambe’ Caldwell and redshirt junior Silas Walters are the only players listed on the spring roster who played in the MAC Championship game against Toledo in 2023.

Working their way into the mix are redshirt sophomore Devin Johnson, redshirt junior William Hardrick, redshirt senior Jayden Williams, redshirt junior Caleb Tubbs, redshirt junior TJ Rush, freshman Jackson Pons, redshirt freshman Mychal Yharbrough, redshirt junior Cam Kirk, redshirt junior Ryan Kahn, redshirt freshman Carter Herriman and redshirt freshman Kohl Jarvis.

About the Author