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College football: Talented, experienced defense should be even better for Miami in 2018

Miami University’s football team ranked among the Mid-American Conference leaders in defense last season, and eight of those starters are back in 2018.

So, yes, those defensive guys are feeling pretty confident as camp opens Friday.

“We’re going to fly around,” senior linebacker Junior McMullen said. “We’re not going to worry about anything. We’re not going to worry giving up plays, getting good plays. We’re just going to play fast, physical and hard. We’re just going to play for one another.”

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The RedHawks have a new defensive coordinator this year in Spence Nowinsky, who came to Oxford from Illinois State. Nowinsky and John Hauser are sharing coordinator duties.

Miami head coach Chuck Martin called Nowinsky “a passionate, passionate human being and passionate coach” and said he’ll add a lot of fuel to the defense.

“We’re always looking for crazy intensity, crazy energy, crazy enthusiasm, crazy love for the kids,” Martin said.

MU finished third in the MAC last year in scoring defense (24.1 points) and total defense (368 yards), also ranking fourth in rushing defense (167.2) and passing defense (200.8).

Where the RedHawks didn’t fare very well was in the sack department. They totaled 18, good for second-to-last in the conference.

Miami University senior linebacker Junior McMullen talks about the 2018 season during Mid-American Conference Media Day last week at Ford Field in Detroit.

Martin loves being strong up the middle with his linebackers, McMullen and senior Brad Koenig. The latter paced the team with 103 total tackles last season.

“This defense, we liked to call ourselves ‘The Mob.’ That was something we started since my freshman year,” McMullen said last week during MAC Media Day at the Detroit Lions’ Ford Field. “We’re going over to ‘The Mutts.’ That’s something that’s in the Army. We just established it, so I can’t talk too much about it right now, but you guys will see it during the season. It’s coming.”

Senior Nate Trawick and junior Doug Costin are returning starters at tackle, and senior Pasquale Calcagno is back at end. Also returning are senior safeties De’Andre Montgomery and Josh Allen, and senior cornerback Deondre Daniels. Allen led Miami with three picks last year.

Eight starters are back on offense as well, so the RedHawks aren’t expecting to repeat last season’s 5-7 record and five losses by 8 points or less.

“We lost tons of games where it was like, ‘Wow, we’re so close,’ ” McMullen said. “We have to use that as fuel. We have to use that during camp. We’ve just got to work on closing out games better.”

Miami held six opponents under 20 points last season and went 5-1 in those games. That lone defeat came against Kent State (17-14).

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