“It’s a blast,” Martin said. “We’ve had a lot of fun. We have a lot of good young players who want to be good and want to be coached. They like to compete and get after each other, and we have a lot of older guys playing at a high level and doing things they couldn’t do a year ago. The older guys are clicking things off pretty early. They’re playing at a high level and not making a lot of dumb mistakes. When you watch the film, you don’t see a lot of dumb errors.”
Martin was especially pleased with the work of junior Paul Moses, sophomores Quinn Calcagno and Dean Lemon and third-year sophomore Brad Earnest at defensive end. Miami lost both of last year’s starters, Austin Gearing and J.T. Jones, to graduation.
“Those kids are a little farther along,” he said. “Some have played some. They’re playing at a high level, which is encouraging.”
Martin also was pleased to have Becker back on the field, teaming up with junior Ryan Smith to give the RedHawks a pair of talented, versatile tight ends. Smith stepped in last season to set career highs with 31 catches, 356 yards and five touchdowns, one season after Becker played in all 12 of Miami’s games and started 10 as a redshirt freshman.
“He’s looking good,” said Martin, who loudly criticized Becker’s route-running after he failed to make a catch while being well-covered. “Obviously, there’s some rust, and there’s the anxiety of coming back after (Smith) played so well, but there’s no job at tight end he can’t do. Some guys can block. Some guys can catch passes. I’ll take a good blocker or a good receiver, but he and Smith can run and catch and they’ll plant their face and block. The other guys improved while he was out, so he’s a little behind from where he was.”
Becker does feel pressure to get his game together, especially since the stakes have been raised for the entire program.
“Before I left compared to where we are now is unbelievable,” he said. “I’m at the point where I have to get my stuff together. There are things I have to do to compete and get back on the field, because they’re ridiculously good right now.
“Everything feels good,” he added about his foot. “It still feels weird sometimes, because I’m doing a lot more than I did in the first six months after the surgery, but it’s feeling fine. There’s nothing wrong with it. I never blame my foot for anything I mess up. It’s all me now.”