Twenty-two high school athletes signed their National Letters of Intent to play football for Miami University Wednesday. It is another large class for Head Coach Don Treadwell and his staff.
The class is not as highly ranked as last year’s, which was ranked third in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) and featured six three-star recruits according to Rivals.com. This class is ninth in the MAC and has three three-stars in offensive lineman Randy Heidman, quarterback Tommy Tupa and linebacker Zack Smierciack.
Treadwell has preached the importance of recruiting the state of Ohio and this class reflects that mentality, with 10 recruits coming from the state. Treadwell said the size of the class will help increase the depth of the RedHawks, something that was proven to be lacking when injuries hit the squad during their 4-8 season.
This class is also a versatile one, with several players that could potentially play on either side of the ball. Several players could also double as returners, an area of concern for the RedHawks, as they ranked 102nd in average kick return yards and 112th in average punt return yards.
The ‘Hawks lose quarterback Zac Dysert to the NFL draft, but have added a potential gem in quarterback Tommy Tupa. That name should ring a bell, as Tupa’s father, Tom Tupa, played in the NFL for 18 years as quarterback and punter after playing for Ohio State. The younger Tupa already has NFL size, at 6 foot 4 inch and 220 pounds.
“Tupa comes from a strong family background and we like that about him,” Treadwell said. “As a quarterback you want a QB who comes in understanding the value of being a student of the game. So we don’t have to coach him up and tell him how important that is. If anything, we may have to kick him out of the office because he’ll just want to be there all day, which is what good QBs want to do.”
The Red and White’s defense is in need of a few upgrades, after ranking in the bottom 20 in total defense, turnovers forced, scoring defense and sacks. They also came in second to last in rush defense.
Defensive coordinator Jay Peterson had high praise for a pair of incoming defensive linemen in Kris Davis and AJ Burdine.
Burdine, who hails from Elder High School in Cincinnati, is a 6 foot 3 inch and 270 pound athlete who may not be limited to playing on the defensive side of the ball. Burdine played some running back at Elder.
“His ceiling is unbelievable,” Peterson said. “The sky is the limit for that kid. Once he figures out ‘oh you mean this and I can be 290 one day and I can do this and I can do that.’ He don’t know what he don’t know.”
Davis hails from Warren Central High School in Indianapolis and will likely be a defensive tackle for the ‘Hawks.
Peterson described Davis as explosive and likened him to current RedHawk Austin Brown.
Peterson also mentioned defensive backs Heath Harding, Xavier Swinton and Damon Washington as players that could have an impact early.
“I’m very excited about those five guys in particular, but I love them all,” Peterson said. “I’ve been doing this long enough that I know there is always a guy who is a pleasant surprise. ‘I thought it was going to be this guy but it turned out to be this one.’ That is just icing on the cake.”
The RedHawks also brought in several offensive linemen with good size, something Treadwell said he and his staff have been looking to improve since he was hired as head coach.
“I remember looking out on the field noticing some of the top teams in the MAC and looking over at our lineman and going ‘whoa. We have our work cut out for us.’ You can’t make them any taller, so our thought is that if we bring them in and they are tall enough, in our minds 6-4 to 6-6 and then you allow the strength coach to do his job.”
The ‘Hawks certainly found a few of those, signing three lineman who are at least 6-foot-5 inches and 290 pounds in Collin Buchanan, Randy Heidman, and Jake Hilvert.
The RedHawks ranked 118th in rushing offense last season, relying heavily on the arm of Dysert. Treadwell said the team would like to rely more on the run next season, and incoming freshman Falon Lee is a dark horse to get some carries.
“He is the most versatile and durable running back I have ever coached and I have coached three running backs that have been drafted into the NFL,” Lee’s high school coach Ryan Sulkowski said.
One of the running backs Sulkowski coached is former Clemson star and current Buffalo Bill C.J. Spiller, who was taken ninth overall in the NFL Draft.
Much like last year’s recruiting class, Treadwell says this one will have a chance to compete for playing time.
“Our philosophy is that every freshman class will have an opportunity to compete to see if they are ready,” Treadwell said. “Some are, and some need to be groomed a little bit.”