Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: SMU Mustangs
Chad Morris was hired at SMU a couple of years ago to great fanfare, but now he finds himself in the precarious situation of having to prove that the Mustangs program is on the right track, and by the right track, this is the year that they should turn the corner and get to a bowl, which would be the third season under Morris. The Mustangs fell just shy of that goal in season two, so going in reverse now would be detrimental.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
If SMU is going to turn a corner in 2017, it will all come down on offense, and down to the QB job, which belongs to sophomore Ben Hicks. Hicks tossed 19 TD passes last fall, but still managed to toss 15 picks as well. He can improve his TD to INT ratio, and with it, SMU will improve around him. In all he passed for 2930 yards, and passed for 244.2 yards per game.
Braedon West returns at RB after rushing for 1036 yards and five scores, and he averaged 86.33 yards per game. Ke'Mon Freeman rushed for 651 yards as the backup, and he returns as well. The top four backs from the season finale last fall all return in order.
All three starting receivers also return from last fall, led by Courtland Sutton, who posted a line of 76-1246-10. James Proche will also return after posting 57-709-6. Xavier Castille, Kevin Thomas, Shelby Walker, and Alex Honey, among others, all return in one of the deepest receiving corps in the nation.
Four starters return on the offensive line as well. LT Nick Natour, LG Daniel McCarty, C Evan Brown, and RG Jerry Saena all return up front, with sophomore Bryce Wilds leeding the way to start at RT after being the top backup there last fall.
Josh Williams hit 17/22 FGs last fall, and returns as a junior.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The Mustangs will still be rather young in certain areas, and are still learning as a unit, but there is incredibly little to be concerned about on this side of the football. The unit scored 27.7 points per game last fall, and can likely do better in 2017 with more experience.
The biggest deciding factor to see how far this unit can go is Hicks. He needs to reduce his INT totals from 15, and increase his TDs to over 20, and this unit should fly high behind him. It really does come down to him.
What To Be Excited About Defense
The LB group will really have to step up this fall to backup what should be a very young defensive line. two of three starters return in MIKE backer Anthony Rhone and STAR backer Kyran Mitchell. Mitchell led the team with 67 tackles last fall, while Rhone finished with 47.
Justin Lawler will be the lone returnee on the line at DE, but he did lead the team with 15 TFLs. Lawlor finished with 65 tackles overall.
Two starters will be back in the secondary, one each at CB (Jordan Wyatt) and Safety (Rodney Clemons).
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The unit was abysmal last season, allowing 36.6 points per game. The issues that plagued this football team may get even worse this season.
Three starters departed on the line, and that is a huge gap for a team that will need to find out how to stop the run. Delontae Scott and Michael Radejo will battle out at DE. Chris Biggurs will have the lead at one tackle, while Mason Gentyr and JT Williams will battle at the NT position.
Matt McNew will likely be the new starter at the WILL backer position, but he will have to step up big to help create some support for a line in flux.
Sophomore Eric Sutton will be in the lead for the open CB job, and Mikial Onu leads for the open Safety job.
Jamie Sackville is back at Punter, but he only averaged 39.62 yards per punt last fall, and will need to improve to help support his leaky defense.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Stephen F. Austin, 9/9 North Texas, 9/16 at TCU, 9/23 Arkansas State, 9/30 U Conn, 10/7 at Houston, 10/21 at Cincinnati, 10/27 Tulsa, 11/4 UCF, 11/11 at Navy, 11/18 at Memphis, 11/25 Tulane
SMU is at a crossroads point in AAC play this fall, and they need to push around the corner and get themselves into a bowl game in order to show the progress that they have made up until this point in the Chad Morris era. A bowl game, with this offense, is a possibility this season, but not if the Mustangs continue to give up points in massive chunks. SMU needs to push forward, because at this point, moving backwards is not an option.