When Miami steps off the bus for Saturday’s game at Iowa, the defense will be key for pulling off an opening weekend upset.
Leading the way is a guy used to breaking tackles, not making tackles. Paul Moses, who started two games as a tailback in 2014 as a freshman, made the move to linebacker the next year. And while he is still learning the position, he had 71 tackles last season, third best on the team.
“It’s going great,” said Moses. “I’m progressing and getting 1% better each day. I’m seeing a lot of things much faster, the keys much faster, and getting better. Last year was my first year, and [now] I’ve got the experience.”
That’s evident in practice, when the 6 foot, 232 pound Moses moves fluidly into his drops and closes to the ball with instincts partially honed while carrying it. As a senior in high school Moses scored 13 touchdowns, boasted a 5.6-yard rushing average and on defense had 65 tackles, including 16 tackles for loss, while leading his Toledo Central Catholic squad to a state championship.
The Redhawks finished a disappointing 3-9 in 2015, and have won just five games since 2013. They last captured the MAC in 2010. If there is a turnaround in the offing for Miami on Saturday and the season to come, there’s little doubt it will be from the defensive side of the ball.
Last year, All-MAC defensive end JT Jones registered 10 sacks, good for second in the league. Miami returns another former offensive player to its defensive ranks, 6-5 quarterback-turned-defensive end, Austin Gearing. In 2012, as a redshirt freshman, Gearing ran the ball 145 times for 478 yards and a touchdown. Through the air he was 24 of 54. Last year he had 14 tackles, including three for a loss, while seeing playing time in all 12 games. Moses and Gearing’s on the defensive line will draw extra looks — and blockers — and will give the Redhawks’ backers ample room to roam and make plays in 2016.
Although they’ll miss their leading tackler Kent Kern from last year, the Redhawks have amply replaced the loss of their stopper at the second level.
“We’ve got players like Brad Koenig coming in. Junior McMullen is doing a great job right now and so is TJ [Williams],” said Moses of his unit’s efforts in camp. McMullen is a 6-1, 242 pound linebacker and senior TJ Williams registered 49 tackles and 2.5 TFLs last year.
Koenig, like Moses and Gearing, is an unlikely, yet critical, part of the Miami defense. He played in all 12 games last year after making the team as a freshman walk-on in 2014 and redshirting. This season will be his first as a scholarship player.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys, a lot of talent, a lot of fast guys. We run around, and we feel very confident this year,” said Koenig.
Moses is not daunted by the Hawkeyes and feels confident that the Redhawks will show well in their opener.
“Stay healthy and we’ve got it,” said Moses.
The Hawkeyes, who went 12-2 last year and fell in the Rose Bowl to Stanford, will make the opposing case on Saturday.
— Miami Athletics (@MiamiRedHawks) August 11, 2016
Photo courtesy Miami Athletics