“They’ve got a lot of Ohio kids they never recruited before,” Martin said. “They hurt our league.
“They’re a great challenge. It’s a great opener. We’ve played lots of games like this. It’s exciting. It’s fun. It’s a great opportunity.”
While running back Jaylon Bester relished the opportunity to play an SEC team, he was looking forward to the opportunity to return to his 2019 form, when he led Miami with 171 carries for 741 yards and 14 touchdowns on his way to being named the RedHawks Offensive Most Valuable Player. Injury problems forced him to miss all of the 2020 season and limited him to three games in 2021.
“For me, this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” said the 5-foot-8, 181-pound senior from Carmel, Ind., who is listed as the starter on Miami’s depth chart. “I’m excited to be there.”
He knows Kentucky’s defense will make his comeback difficult.
“Their defense is athletic, but once I find space going north and south, I don’t plan on getting caught,” he said. “The goal is to get the ball into the end zone and get as many points as possible.”
Junior defensive tackle Austin Ertl is one of the few returning starters on Miami’s defense. The 6-foot-2, 290-pound Wisconsin native also has extra incentive going into the game.
“I’m super excited,” he said. “There’s nothing better than 7 o’clock under the lights, but I wouldn’t say I’m more excited than normal. I’m always excited. I can’t wait to get out there and start playing, but for me, it’s a little personal. I wasn’t recruited by bigger schools. They thought I was too small, so I have a little chip on my shoulder. I want to see how I do when I go up against bigger schools.”
Ertl also is anxious to see how a RedHawks’ defense loaded with new faces performs.
“They have a first-round quarterback with a crazy arm,” he said. “Inside, they have a lot of experience. I can’t wait to see what our defense is made of. Obviously, fall camp has its trials and tribulations and ups and downs. We won’t know what to expect out there in Week One.”
Martin is looking at least partly at the game as a learning experience.
“We’ll play a lot of guys,” he said. “There are still some jobs that need to be won. Practice is great, but we have to see what happens when the lights go on. The game is the game. Their quarterback is bigger than everybody on our defensive line except our nose guard. They’ve got skill and size and their offensive line blocks out the sun.
“This is the kind of game you have to have an appetite for. Maybe some guys won’t be cut out for it. Maybe they are and maybe they know, but you can’t know until you get into the arena.”
Miami at Kentucky, 7 p.m., ESPN+, 980, 1450