Head coach: Chad Morris
2014 Record: 1-11; 1-7 AAC
2014 Bowl: N/A
2015 Returning Starters: 5 offense, 6 defense
Odds to win 2016 CFB Championship: +990000
Odds to win 2015 AAC Title: +10000
Regular Season Wins: Over 2 (-195), Under 2 (+168)
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Coach Chad Morris has been high on his once high-school recruit Matt Davis, but SMU is a long way away from being a competitive team even if he continues to improve.
Last season, Davis got SMU going a little offensively. It was still just a record of 1-5 that he posted as starter, but the 27-20 W over UConn was a productive step since it was the club’s only win of the 2014 season. Davis also finished the season as the team’s top rusher, so the dual-threat QB really carried SMU last year.
The new offensive scheme will feature two RBs and a TE, which should benefit his passing game. The quick tempo of a no-huddle formation will cause team problems if it is operated properly and efficiently.
Redshirt freshman Daniel Gresham, sophomore Darius Durall, senior K.C. Niemchi and junior Prescott Lane are all factors in the backfield and each brings different things to the table, complementing a good attack for the Mustangs, at least rushing. Freshman back Inoke Ngalo is no longer on the team, but he was only a three-star recruit so the Mustangs aren’t overly lamenting the loss.
The team didn’t use a TE in the June Jones era, but Jeremiah Gaines will be a force there. He’s 6’2” 240 and has good hands. The WR position must improve its play, and Deion Sanders Jr. will play a role in that. Nate Halverson, Cedric Lancaster and Ryheem Malone round out the rotation, though freshman Kevin Thomas and Xavier Castille will also see some time this season too.
The Mustangs have a new defensive coordinator this season in Van Malone, a former DB coach at Oklahoma St. The Mustangs will use a 4-2-5 scheme and that should allow the team to use its speed on the edge and secondary, which will mitigate some of the mismatches it will encounter up front.
Malone will have an aggressive defense, and that’s a good thing since the Mustangs ranked 120th nationally with a negative-14 margin last season. Shakiel Randolph is an NFL caliber CB potentially and will be a good fit in the hybrid scheme at 6’4” 216 and the athleticism to make a lot of big plays. He played safety previously but has bulked up a lot and switched position last year because of injuries.
Jonathan Yenga was fourth in tackles last season and had 15.5 tackles for loss in the last two seasons. Zach Wood had four sacks last year (team high) and he’ll be the fixture on the line that keeps this team going. Mason Gentry brings a lot of size at 6’6” 292 and that can’t be taught. Elie Nabushosi, Cameron Smith and Nick Reed could all be poised to assume much larger roles within the defense this year.
Sanders Jr is the all-conference return specialist that SMU flaunts quite well. He set school records for single game return yards (203) and returns (10).
SMU’s kicker Josh Williams once hit a 71 yard field goal in high school, so that’s interesting. Range doesn’t get more explicit than that. However, the team did just add Wake Forest kicker Chad Hedlund. There will be some sort of battle for the duties. Meanwhile, Cedric Lancaster will return punts.
Morris can rebuild this program but clearly it won’t happen in one season. He’s going to have to recruit some talent to get this Mustang team in the right direction, but for now he can make the most of Davis if anyone could. The no-huddle offense has the chance to be very effective, but it also could be an utter disaster.
Given that the OL is relatively weak, it’s going to require the RB corp to be fairly brilliant (though that could happen really). Morris has a lot of recruiting relationships around the state as a former high school coaching veteran (16 years) and he’ll be able to tap Texas for the best of its talent, which is by all means substantial of course. Expect SMU to gradually progress, and we’re actually confident in the ‘over’ here. Having such good special teams and a kicker with limitless range will cover some sins and potentially be largely responsible for at least one win.
Prediction: 3 wins