Every week, we try to be nice to one of the folks from the other side of the field. This week’s conversation was easier than usual, as our friend and MAC expert Matt Sussman from SBN’s Hustle Belt returns to spill the beans on the RedHawks.
1. How important is the experience between QB Zac Dysert and WR Nick Harwell to the team as a whole and how does it free up others to be successful?
They’re definitely the names on the scrolling marquee, but the issue is: who else can make plays? Andy Cruse, maybe, but right now that’s the list. Teams can game for those two and let Dysert have his 300 yards. But if a semblance of a running game can manifest, or if the offensive line can block, then you can use Harwell in all sorts of ways to make the rest of the team better.
2. Miami took a shot at Florida last year and very nearly caught the Gators napping. Is there a feeling around the Redhawk program that we might see something similar again this season?
I do remember that Miami-UF game, and a lot of it had to do with simply pouncing on turnovers and capitalizing on mistakes. If I recall the RedHawks didn’t score a touchdown that game, but it took until the fourth quarter for the Gators to finally pull away and make it look like a decent win. Now, MU teams are always annoying to opponents so they could make this one look close in the first half just like that game. But it’s going to require the complete cooperation of a Buckeyes offense running a new system with butterflies in their stomachs.
3. How do you see the Redhawks attacking this Buckeye defense on Saturday?
They’re going to pass but they need to run. They may not do it well, but they have to try and free up Harwell, Cruse and Dawan Scott somehow rather than having Dysert thread needles all afternoon. If he wants to do that, I could use a scarf for the winter. And like any MAC playbook, they’re going to need some gadgets, some misdirection, smokescreens, chicanery, anything to keep a stronger, faster, deeper defense guessing. Don Treadwell ran the offense at Michigan State, who was known for getting first downs despite all odds. I wouldn’t put it past him.
4. Miami’s attack has excelled in the air- what will they do this season to find balance and/or an effective running game?
It’s always a chicken-egg argument: is the O-line not blocking for the running backs or is the ball carrier not getting through? Offensive coordinator John Klacik (already somewhat maligned in some RedHawk fancircles) is no longer in charge of the O-Line, plus they return four starters (although center Jojo Williams was carted off the practice field Tuesday). If this unit gets better, this might bring the balance they need.
5. Who are some new faces that Ohio State fans should know?
I mentioned Dawan Scott. He was recruited as a running back but seems locked into one of the starting wide receiver spots. Dayonne Nunley is an under-the-radar cornerback who just might pick off a pass on Saturday. And the defensive line is possibly their most cohesive unit: Austin Brown and Jason Semmes are in charge of that one.
6. How will Miami address the no-huddle, in your opinion?
You’re not going to believe this, but defensive depth is not a strong point here! I’m not 100 percent sure on X’s and O’s on how they do this, but lots of MAC teams run no-huddle with success: Toledo, Ohio, Ball State, and I believe UMass is going to play like this as well. It’s a lot like how “Moneyball” principles have filtered from small-market teams to big-market ones. Coming from Bowling Green, Urban Meyer knows all too well how to wear down stronger teams by working quickly, and the same strategy can be used to overwhelm an inferior one.
7. Given his reputation, do RedHawk fans still celebrate Ben Roethlisberger?
Maybe not the ones who are also Browns and Bengals fans! You might get a different answer depending on who you ask on his legacy in the NFL, but two Super Bowl is hard to argue. He was a dynamite find by Terry Hoeppner who took the program to heights they never experienced in 2003. He is now the gold standard by which all other quarterbacks are measured. This is why Dysert sometimes falls a bit short, even though by year’s end he will probably finish second in MAC history in total passing behind Dan LeFevour.
Thanks to Matt Sussman of SBNation for taking the time to answer a few questions for us!