“For a lot of guys, this was their first time, and it showed,” he added.
Graduation and transfers cost the RedHawks several key players, especially on defense, from a team that in 2021 went 7-6 overall and finished second behind Kent State in the Mid-American Conference East Division with a 5-3 record. Miami went on to defeat North Texas State, 27-14, in the hastily conceived Frisco (Texas) Football Classic. Among the losses were defensive ends Ben Kimpler, Dominique Robinson, Kameron Butler and Lonnie Phelps, Jr., linebacker Ivan Pace, Jr., cornerback Mike Brown and safety Sterling Weatherford.
“We lost four of the best defensive ends we’ve ever had,” Martin said. “You haven’t heard any other names at defensive end for, like, 10 years. We lost eight guys who I would consider to be starters. On the other hand, we’ve got six guys who I would consider to be starters coming back.”
One of them is senior linebacker Ryan McWood, who was lost for the 2021 season early in the first game after tearing several muscles in the area of his thighs. Through a combination of additional years of eligibility based on redshirt and pandemic and the injuries, the 6-foot-2, 222-pound McWood is back for his seventh season in Oxford. At times on Saturday, he was lined up beside his brother, 6-foot-1, 203-pound redshirt-freshman linebacker Oscar McWood.
“It felt good mentally,” Ryan McWood said about getting back on the field. “My body felt good. The movement was a little slow.”
Martin values having a player of McWood’s experience back for a defense with an inexperienced secondary.
“It’s kind of scary on the back end, where games are won or lost,” Martin said. “It’s good to have guys like him back, not just for the way they play but for their leadership and the way they help us get organized – not just the defense, but the whole team.”
McWood was seen Saturday morning handing out tips to players such as cornerback Eli Blakey and linebacker Camden Rogers.
Miami also could benefit from the addition of transfers such as redshirt-junior defensive back Michael Dowell, a Lakewood St. Edward graduate who played at Michigan State before transferring to Miami. Dowell was ranked as Ohio’s top safety prospect by ESPN and 247Sports and by Rivals.com as the state’s second-best safety as a high school senior.
Miami is scheduled to open the 2022 season on Sept. 3 at Kentucky, followed by the home opener against Robert Morris on Sept. 10.
“We’ll just develop kids,” Martin said. “We’re not opening against Kentucky at the end (of spring). It’s a little different in fall practice. We’ll get done what we need to get done. We’ll develop kids individually. We’ll make them drink from the fire hose and make sure they know how bad they were.”
Fans are welcome to watch spring practice sessions. The schedule: Sunday 10 a.m., Tuesday 3 p.m., Thursday, 3 p.m., March 29, 3 p.m., March 31, 3 p.m., April 2, 10 a.m., April 5, 3 p.m., April 7, 3 p.m., April 9, 10 a.m., April 12, 3 p.m., April 14 3 p.m., April 16, 10 a.m., April 19, 3 p.m., April 23, 1 p.m. (Spring Showcase).