Miami excited to start practice after three-game 2020 season

Miami coach Chuck Martin. (Photo by Joseph Garnett, Jr. /Getty Images)
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Miami coach Chuck Martin. (Photo by Joseph Garnett, Jr. /Getty Images)

RedHawks, who were limited by COVID-19 postponements last season, will open the 2021 season on Sept. 4

The Miami football team will open a 13-session fall practice schedule Friday at 8:50 a.m.

Big deal? You bet. After seeing last season’s spring practice schedule cut short and fall practice completely cancelled before a regular season that was limited to three games because of COVID-19 protocols, the RedHawks are champing at the bit to get on the practice field and start preparing for the September 4 season opener against Victory Bell-rival Cincinnati.

“I’m just excited to play football,” senior safety Mike Brown said during Mid-American Conference media day on July 20 at Detroit’s Ford Field. “I’m excited to be out there in the heat and getting yelled at by the coaches. Our main goal is to win the MAC championship, but after last year, we just want to take it week-by-week.”

Nine starters, including all of the skill players, return on offense and 10 are back on defense from the team that went 2-1 in the truncated 2020 season. Returning starters also include all of the specialists from the team that edged eventual MAC-champion Ball State, 38-31, in its “opener” before losing, 42-10, at Buffalo and ripping Akron, 38-7, at Akron in its finale.

The primary question facing eighth-year RedHawks coach Chuck Martin and his staff is who will replace offensive left tackle Tommy Doyle, picked by the National Football League Buffalo Bills in the fifth round of the draft, and center Danny Godlevske. Also gone is cornerback Emmanuel Rugambe, who wasn’t drafted before signing with the Cleveland Browns as a free agent.

Martin is confident in his team’s depth and strength in other areas, especially with returning players such as sixth-year wide receiver Jack Sorenson who were granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA in the wake of last season’s pandemic restrictions.

“We got all of our specialists back,” he said. “I know we only played three games, but defensively, I think we’re going to be very strong. We have some high-end defensive ends, and our linebackers are really good. We have a very good nucleus on that side of the ball. Offensively, all of the backups are back. I think we’re going to be much better offensively. Every team has some extra players. Every team feels good about their team, which is normal.”

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Despite the RedHawks’ experience, they were picked in a pre-season poll of MAC media to finish only third in the East Division.

“Polls are fun,” Martin said. “They’re exciting. I think there are 10 or 11 teams that can win it. Everybody knows how balanced the league is. You have to find a way to win the close games. The difference between finishing first or last could be 10 or 11 points. There are a bunch of teams on our side and on the other side (the MAC West Division) who will have to slug it out.”

The 6-foot, 195-pound Sorenson returns after hooking up with 6-foot, 205-pound sophomore quarterback Brett Gabbert for four touchdown passes in the season-ending win at Akron — the 700th overall win in program history. Sorenson, who has personally witnessed Miami’s turnaround from finishing 3-9 in 2015 to winning the 2019 MAC championship, relishes his shot at extending his journey and helping lead the RedHawks back to the top of the MAC.

“I think it means the world to me,” he said, “We didn’t get a shot last season. The team has a chance to show what we’re capable of. The coaches get another opportunity to show what they’re capable of. We get to show who we are and what Miami is and to show that this is our legacy.”

The RedHawks’ fall camp schedule, according to Miami media relations includes practices on these days: August 6-8; August 10-12; August 14-18; and August 20-22. All are scheduled to start at 8:50 a.m. except August 21 at 9:50 a.m. and August 22 at 8:35 a.m. and are open to the public.