Gameday: Scouting the Miami RedHawks
Sept. 3, 2009
Prior to every Kentucky football game Cat Scratches, the official blog of UK Athletics, will offer an in-depth scouting breakdown on the Cats' opponent. Cat Scratches will provide UK fans keys to the game, players to watch for and analysis on the upcoming game in a quick-hit fashion. Want to know what's in store for the Cats? Cat Scratches will be the place to be every Thursday.
The skinny on Miami
Miami (Ohio) is in the beginning of a new era under first-time head coach Mike Haywood. It's a new coaching staff, a new system and a new attitude in Oxford, Ohio. The "Rumble at the River" will present a huge opportunity to play in a pro stadium just down the road from its university. It will provide the rebuilding program prime exposure and a possible home-field advantage. People around the program insist that Haywood has already changed the culture of the program, but a victory against a Southeastern Conference opponent would go a long way in jumpstarting the new-look program.
Keys to the game
Because of virtually an entire new coaching staff that has never coached together, Miami is a virtual unknown. And that's where their strength - and potential UK weakness - lies. UK head coach Rich Brooks has admitted that they're playing a bit of a guessing game because the current Miami coaching staff hails from different schools. Will the Cats see shades of Notre Dame, Texas or Duke, where Miami's head coach and coordinators hail from, or will they see a little bit of everything? That alone could pose early problems for UK.
If there is one component Brooks and Co. can prepare for, it's a solid Miami passing game. Senior Daniel Raudabaugh possesses a big-time arm, is just short of passing for 5,000 career yards and is on the verge of becoming one of the MAC's top passing threats. Raudabaugh has plenty to work with on the outside at wide receiver, quite possibly Miami's deepest and most talented position. Dustin Woods (35 catches), Jamal Rogers (team high 41 grabs) and Geno Harris (33 receptions) are all reliable receivers, but junior Chris Givens provides the best big-play threat (14.7 yards per catch, seven touchdowns).
The challenge for Miami is that it will go up against one of the SEC's - and quite possibly the nation's - most talented secondary. You already know about preseason All-American Trevard Lindley (nine career interceptions, 34 career pass breakups), but keep an eye out for the return of cornerback Paul Warford and sophomore Randall Burden, who should both see a lot of time in the nickel packages. If they can play up to expectations this season, SEC passing offenses better beware.
Miami might have a bit of a mystery on its hands as well when it comes to preparing for the Kentucky offense. Despite ranking sixth in the SEC in scoring offense a season ago, UK struggled to move the ball. Now, with a more experienced, more confident quarterback in Mike Hartline back and a receiving corps that has gotten significantly better, UK could make giant strides on offense this season.
The Miami defense lost its four top tacklers from last season. How Rich Brooks decides to attack that could make the difference in the game. Will Brooks use the vaunted Wildcat Formation with Randall Cobb to expose any defensive weaknesses or will he use his deep and talented backfield of Alfonso Smith, Derrick Locke and Moncell Allen to attack the Miami "D"? Expect a lot of first-quarter testing on the Cats' part to figure out the new Miami defensive schemes.
Keep an eye on...
Daneil Raudabaugh/QB/Senior/No. 12
The aforementioned Raudabaugh is just 318 yards short of the 5,000-yard milestone. The senior appeared in 11 of the RedHawks' 12 games last season, throwing for 1,960 yards and eight touchdowns, but this season will determine Raudabaugh's legacy. He has a cannon for an arm, but how he gets the ball to a talented wide receiver corps will be the difference.
Dustin Woods/WR/Senior/No. 1
Junior Chris Givens has the most big-play potential, but Woods is the clear-cut leader of the best position group Miami has. Woods has 100 career receptions and the Miami coaching staff thinks he's poised for a big senior season.
Jordan Gafford/SS/Junior/No. 22
The Miami defense was hit hard by the loss of All-MAC linebackers Clayton Mullin and Joe Hudson, making the return of Gafford's invaluable experience all the more important. Gafford should be the heart and soul of the RedHawk offense, but how he recovers from a season-ending broken leg last season will be something the coaching staff will have to monitor. He finished fourth in tackles in 2007, his last full season.
Randall Cobb/WR/Sophomore/No. 18
Cat fans' eyes twinkled every time Cobb touched the ball in 2008. He's dynamic, he's electrifying and the kid can just flat-out play. But this year he'll make a strategic switch to primarily wide receiver, giving the Cats a big-play threat on the outside. Cobb will also be the primary threat in the Wildcat Package. How much we'll see of that Saturday remains a mystery.
Chris Matthews/WR/Junior/No. 8
The highly-touted junior-college receiver has not disappointed in fall camp after a wildly successful JuCo career. Matthews caught 80 balls as a sophomore, good for 1,235 yards and 11 touchdowns in just nine games, and UK's coaching staff has confirmed that he has been as good as advertised so far.
DeQuin Evans/DE/Junior/No. 55
When UK is on defense, all eyes will be on the defensive end position as the Cats try to replace NFLer Jeremy Jarmon. Evans is being counted on to fill the void, and much like Matthews, he's drawn the praise of the UK coaching staff all camp long. Evans recorded 19.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks in his two years at Los Angeles Harbor College.
What's on the line for UK
For Kentucky, it's simple - just win. If the Cats are going to climb the ladder in the SEC, as Brooks alluded to earlier in the week, every game is extremely important. With a difficult five-game stretch awaiting the Cats, it's crucial that UK gains gets the season off to a good start heading into the only bye week of the year. A loss could make a two-week layoff seem like a year.