Whether the first day of spring practice makes it official or it’s not until the season-opener, Chuck Martin enjoyed a record-setting day on Saturday.
The Miami football coach oversaw the first day of his 10th spring practice, making him the longest-tenured coach in the long history of the program known as the “Cradle of Coaches.” He had been tied with the late Randy Walker.
“It’s been amazing,” said Martin, who is 45-59 with one Mid-American Conference championship and is 1-3 in postseason bowl appearances. “It’s been a blast. The first couple of years weren’t much fun, but the last 6-1/2 years have been fun.”
Martin’s first two teams finished a combined 5-19 before quarterback Gus Ragland returned from an injury to lead the 2016 RedHawks to a six-game winning streak, a MAC East Division co-championship and a berth in the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Bowl.
Ragland is back with the program as the new quarterbacks coach, part of a revamped staff that includes different faces in five slots. On Saturday, they and Martin conducted the first of 15 practice sessions that are scheduled to be capped on April 22 by the annual Spring Showcase.
“It was a blast,” Martin said of the first practice with players wearing shoulder pads and shorts on Ben Roethlisberger Field in the David and Anita Dauch Indoor Sports Center. “There was a lot of fun and energy. The defense definitely is ahead of the offense. They were flying around.”
One of the key questions going into Miami’s spring sessions was the quarterback situation. Aveon Smith, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound redshirt sophomore, played in 10 games and started nine last season while 6-foot, 215-pound Brett Gabbert was limited by injuries to just four games. Gabbert entered the transfer portal in late November before withdrawing a couple of weeks later and deciding to stay in Oxford.
Also on hand is 6-5, 217-pound redshirt-sophomore Maddox Kopp, a Texas native who spent time at Houston and Colorado before transferring to Miami.
Gabbert, the 2019 MAC Freshman of the Year, looked sharper than the other two on Saturday. His day during the two-hour session included a touchdown bomb on a post pattern in an 11-on-11 drill. He also threw a pick-six, while Smith threw interceptions on back-to-pack passes.
“It’s competitive,” Martin said. “Aveon got a lot of game experience last season. Obviously, he’s way ahead of where he was last season. Brett is the returning starter. He’s back, and he’s a known commodity. Maddox has all the tools. I’m excited about what’s going on in that room.”
Other highlights from Saturday’s late-morning session included a diving catch along a sideline while well-covered by 6-4, 217-pound redshirt-senior Miles Marshall, the most experienced of the wide receiver corps, and several productive running and receiving plays by 6-2, 227-pound redshirt-sophomore running back Rashad Amos, a Georgia native and transfer from South Carolina.
Miami, which finished 6-7 overall and 4-4 in the MAC last season, has starters returning at 17 positions going into the 2023 season. The RedHawks are scheduled to open the regular season Sept. 1 at Miami (Fla.), followed by road games Sept. 9 at Massachusetts and Sept. 16 in the “Victory Bell” rivalry game at Cincinnati. The home opener against Delaware State is Sept. 23.
Miami practice schedule
Sunday, March 12, 3-5 p.m.
Tuesday, March 14, 3-5 p.m.
Thursday, March 16, 3-5 p.m.
Tuesday, March 28, 3-5 p.m.
Thursday, March 30, 3-5 p.m.
Saturday, April 1, 10 a.m. to noon
Tuesday, April 4, 3-5 p.m.
Thursday, April 6, 3-5 p.m.
Saturday, April 8, 10 a.m. to noon
Tuesday, April 11, 3-5 p.m.
Thursday, April 13, 3-5 p.m.
Saturday, April 15, 10 a.m. to noon
Thursday, April 20, 3-5 p.m.
Saturday, April 22, TBD
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