HUNTINGTON, W.Va.–The Thundering Herd’s high flying offense’s first test of the year will come against what was one of the worst defenses in the country in 2012. The Miami Redhawks ranked 104th in the country in total defense (467.7 yards per game), 100th in scoring defense (34.9 points per game) and was 119th (241.q yards per game) against the rush.
However the Redhawks were dealing with some injuries in 2012 that hurt Miami’s ability to control opposing offenses. Defensive tackle Austin Brown suffered a knee injury in week three at Boise State and missed the rest of the season. The redshirt senior is back anchoring the defensive line this year.
“I would expect the defensive line will be better just getting him on the field,” says Herd offensive coordinator Bill Legg. “They got two additional starters back on the defensive line and both have shown they’re very good players.”
Those additional returning starters include defensive end ends Bryson Albright and three-year letterman Wes Williams.
“I think he’s a really good defensive end,” praises Legg. “He had to play middle linebacker because of injury situations. I refer to him as the rush backer type of guy, kind of a hybrid guy. If they were a 3-4 defense he would be an outside linebacker. You see a lot of those undersized defensive ends in college go on to the NFL and play outside linebacker and that’s kind of the mold he fits.”
The Redhawks are generally a four-down defense with two true inside linebackers and an adjusting backer. Legg says Miami will try to adjust coverages to keep safety Brison Burris involved in run support.
“Now that might be Cover 3, Man Free, or Quarters. They mix the coverages quite a bit so we’ll have to see how they’ve chosen to play us. They’ve had a theme with every team they’ve played but not necessarily the same week to week,” explains Legg.
Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato will have to keep an eye out for the Redhawks’ Jim Thorpe Award Watch List cornerback Dayonne Nunley. The senior defensive back has 12 career interceptions, which ranks sixth on Miami’s career list heading into the season.
“He’s a talented guy who is very athletic,” knows coach Doc Holliday.
Of course the Redhawks will tasked with trying to come up with a way to stop one of the top offensives in the country last season. Believe or not, The Herd thinks it can be better offensively this season. The biggest reason for that is because of the progress the coaches believe they’ve made along the offensive line. Herd defensive end Alex Bazzie has practiced against that group all summer.
“We have a lot of respect for the o-line. I think they’re a complete line that understands each other well. They’re communication is on point. It’s tough to face an o-line that great communication skills and great chemistry. Once you face an o-line like that it’s kind of hard to beat them,” asserts Bazzie.
While the Miami defense knows it must find a way to contain Cato and his receiving corps, if Marshall can ramp up the running game it could be a very long night for the Redhawks. Center Chris Japserse says it is the offensive line’s mission this year to improve The Herd’s rushing attack and make certain a lead doesn’t slip away.
“We’ve got to finish and a lot of times late in games last year we couldn’t finish even though we’d scored so many points. Our objective is to outscore out opponent. We need to be able to finish at the end of games,” says Jasperse.
One of the best offenses from 2012 versus one of the worst defenses, on paper this should be a runaway for the Thundering Herd. But it is the first game of the season and anything can happen.