Miami football: Martin excited about quarterbacks as spring practice concludes

Credit: Michael Clubb

Credit: Michael Clubb

OXFORD — Brett Gabbert’s status on the Miami University football team’s quarterback depth chart was confirmed by how much he didn’t play in Saturday’s Spring Showcase intra-squad game.

The 22-year-old, who’s approaching his fifth season with the RedHawks, played just the first series for the White team — Team (Ara) Parseghian — before newcomer Maddox Kopp took over and played through the third quarter. He went 1-for-4 for five yards on the four-play possession.

“Brett doesn’t have anything to prove to me or anybody who knows anything about football,” said coach Chuck Martin, who led his 10th spring game, the last of a 15-session camp. “His parents were here. If they hadn’t been here, he might not’ve played at all.”

Led most of the way by redshirt sophomore quarterback Aveon Smith, the Red team — Team Schembechler — came away with a 19-0 win in a game played on Ben Roethlisberger Field in the David and Anita Dauch Indoor Sports Center under more conventional rules than last spring’s event. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Smith unofficially finished 3-of-7 for 92 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown pass to 6-4, 185-pound sophomore wide receiver Reginald Virgil.

“I think my spring went well,” said Smith, who was 108-of-219 for 1,299 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions in 10 games and rushed for a team-high 553 yards and six touchdowns while helping Miami finish 6-7 overall and 4-4 in the Mid-American Conference East Division last season. “I most definitely got better at throwing out of the pocket, but I’ve still got a lot of work to do, especially on making better reads, but I feel like the sky’s the limit.”

The right-handed Kopp, the 6-5, 217-pound transfer from Colorado who originally committed to Houston, went 9-of-15 for 74 yards. Martin, when asked to provide a current quarterback depth chart, ranked Smith and Kopp 2A and 2B with Gabbert clearly 1A.

“We’re putting more on (Gabbert’s) plate to take some of the pressure off other parts of the team,” Martin said. “He’s had an unbelievable spring. I’m as excited about our quarterbacks as I’ve ever been in 31 years of coaching.”

Gabbert was back with Miami this spring after entering transfer portal in late November only to step back from it in early December. He used the spring to get used to the adjustments installed by Martin and new offensive coordinator Pat Welsh.

“I feel like I had a great spring,” said Gabbert, who was sidelined by a broken left clavicle in last season’s opener at Kentucky and returned to play against Western Michigan and Akron before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in the second-last game of the regular season against Ohio. “I worked on picking up the nuances of the new offense. My body feels great. I have more chances to do more stuff. It’s all been great.”

The RedHawks survived what Martin described as a particularly rugged set of practices.

“We banged as much as we ever have,” he said.

Martin opened Saturday’s event with a pleasant surprise. Team Schembechler sent redshirt sophomore defensive back Silas Walters, a 6-foot, 197-pound walk-on from Lakota West, out for the coin flip. Martin looked at him and said, “If you win, you can choose offense or defense — or whether to accept a scholarship.”

Walters’ teammates ran from the sidelines and jubilantly swarmed him on the field. He confessed to being completely surprised.

“What made it even better is my parents and aunts and uncles and grandparents and girlfriend all were here,” said Walters, who played in 10 games last season.

“That was a no-brainer,” Martin said. “That’s one of the best parts of my job.”

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