The Bears and Mustangs open the season this weekend in Waco on Sunday evening. To get ready for this reunion of former conference rivals, we sat down with PonyStampede.com publisher and asked him 5 questions about the Mustangs and what the Bears can expect on Sunday.
1. With just a few weeks with the team officially, how has Garrett Gilbert looked and what do you expect of him against Baylor?
Not too brag but Garrett Gilbert has looked amazing. He hasn't even taken a snap but the SMU community is already dubbing him as the best quarterback the Mustangs have had in a long while. Yes, Gilbert had his troubles at Texas but a change of scenery and June Jones' hands on approach has benefitted him tremendously. He has picked up the Run N' Shoot quickly and is running the no huddle with ease at practice. Gilbert did have shoulder surgery but has not suffered any setbacks and by far has the strongest arm on this team. He is always accurate and shows great poise in the pocket. Gilbert is very confident heading into this weekend's game, and I expect him though have a great performance especially since he's been on this stage before.
2. With 5-new starters on the offensive line, how has that group come together and how big of a concern is it for Mustang fans?
The offensive line is still a big concern but is finally starting to take shape. Big things were expected of Tyler C.C. tackle Stavion Lowe, who played at LSU, but not being able to get into shape has cost him his starting job. Taking his spot at right tackle is senior Bryan Collins. Collins is easily SMU's most versatile lineman. He's played both guard and tackle throughout the years and has starting experience. Blake McJunkin is back for another year after receiving a medical redshirt. The fifth-year senior started at center for two years and will be shifting to guard this year. Fellow guard Jordan Free is another senior with playing experience. If this group can protect Gilbert, expect fireworks. If not, it's going to be a long day for SMU.
3. How is Zach Line looking coming off of some injury issues late last season? Are we going to see the guy that ran for 128 yards against Texas A&M to open last season?
Zach Line is showing no lingering affects from foot surgery, which he has had plenty of time to recover from. He has looked just as quick and powerful during practice so definitely expect Line to be back at full strength. When healthy, he is the top Non-AQ running back in the nation. Despite missing the last three games, he still led Conference USA and ranked seventh overall in the nation with 122.4 yards per game. Line is an absolute freight train, and I believe he can give Baylor, which finished ranked 102nd against the run last year, fits all night.
4. Who is one player on offense and defense that Baylor fans might not know about know, but will after that game?
Offensively, Baylor fans should keep an eye on slot receiver Jeremy Johnson. This is Johnson's first year as a starter, but the junior is a dynamic athlete that has the potential to be better that Cole Beasley was last year. When replacing an injured Beasley against TCU, Johnson shone bright as he hauled in the game-winning touchdown in overtime and finished the contest with six catches for 69 yards. Throughout fall camp, Gilbert has been developing a great chemistry with Johnson, and the two appear to be in perfect sync.
Defensively, all eyes should be on sophomore outside linebacker Stephon Sanders. He made a tremendous impact as he started the last five games of the season in 2011 and will be a special player in the near future. But he needs to grow up fast and create havoc in the Baylor backfield. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder has a great motor and is expected to pressure Nick Florence early and often.
5. How do you think the SMU secondary will match up against the Bears wide receivers?
This is the biggest mismatch going in because SMU lost starting cornerback Jason Richardson for the season with a torn ACL. Obviously, corner is one of the most important positions on the field and SMU will need junior Chris Parks to step up in a big way. He hasn't had very much game time experience but June Jones says he felt Parks could have been a starter regardless. He's pretty tall for a corner but needs to really work on his technique this week in order to prevent big plays from Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese. Other that Parks, SMU is solid in the defensive backfield. Kenneth Acker plays opposite of Parks and is entering his second year as a starter while three-year starter Ryan Smith is a true defensive leader and will not allow receivers to get behind him.
5-Questions with SMU
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