Jay Peterson is confident this season will be better for Miami University’s defense.
The RedHawks ranked 119th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in rushing defense last season, giving up 241.1 yards per game via the run (Eastern Michigan was last with a 267.0 average). It was arguably the biggest factor in Miami’s second straight 4-8 campaign.
Peterson, MU’s defensive coordinator, called it “a learning experience.”
“We were in so many of those games,” he said Monday afternoon as the RedHawks — who open the year at Marshall on Aug. 31 — began fall camp. “We went through some things last year.
“We had some new people in different places. We played seven true freshmen, and sometimes they were all out there at once. That takes some doing, but it’s all served us well to do better this year.”
Miami returns quite a bit of experience on the defensive side of the ball. The key man up front is redshirt senior tackle Austin Brown, who missed most of last year with a back injury.
Four defensive sophomores who lettered as true freshmen are listed first at their respective positions on the latest depth chart: outside linebacker Josh Dooley, middle linebacker Kent Kern, tackle Mitch Winters and end Bryson Albright.
Redshirt freshman Jay Mastin, a boundary safety from Centerville, is the only projected defensive starter that doesn’t have a letter.
“I think we’re all a bit antsy,” said Dooley, who hails from Mason. “We had a great summer, and the defense is going to be better. We’re a lot faster and smarter. We use last year as motivation, but really we’re trying to look ahead and see the potential we have in the future.”
The 6-foot Dooley said he’s added about 15 pounds in the offseason and lists himself at 215.
“Playing as a freshman was great, especially under (fellow linebacker) Pat Hinkel,” said Dooley, who totaled 29 tackles in 2012. “He was a great leader for me.”
Peterson wants people to use one word when describing his 4-3 defense — relentless.
“We’ve changed a few things, but basically we’ve changed our attitude,” Peterson said. “We’ve changed our chemistry as a unit. We have veteran leadership. We know what we want to get accomplished, and we know how we’re going to get it accomplished.
“We are bigger, faster and stronger this year. We’re not a group to talk about it. We’re a group to get it done on the field.”