SMU brings back 15 starts from a team that went 1-11 last season, but new head coach Chad Morris brings a completely new identity to the squad. He served as offensive coordinator at Clemson under Dabo Swinney before joining the Mustangs.
Although younger, Morris comes from the same school of thought as Art Briles. The 46-year-old Edgewood native coached Texas high school football at Bay City, Lake Travis and Briles’ stomping grounds of Stephenville. He joined the FBS ranks in 2010, and moved to Clemson in 2011.
Morris is considered to be somewhat of an offensive guru at this level. At Clemson, his offenses broke 127 program records, posted the top three scoring seasons in school history and four of the top five passing seasons. His crowning moment was being named AFCA National Assistant Coach of the Year in 2013.
Now, Morris will face his greatest project yet. SMU is perhaps at the lowest point is has ever been. The Mustangs finished No. 124 in total offense last season – there are 125 teams in FBS football.
This year’s offense will rest on the back of quarterback Matt Davis. The former Texas A&M transfer finished the season better than anyone else, including 336 all-purpose yards in the lone win on the road against Connecticut. He finished the year as SMU’s leading passer and rusher.
He will have little to work with around him. The next leading rusher posted only 256 yards. After losing wide receiver Der’ikk Thompson to graduation, no other receiver posted more than 379 receiving yards. Somehow, 208 of those yards, put up by Darius Joseph, happened in two games. To say he’s streaky would be an understatement.
While Morris arrived to the show late, he was able to recruit some solid players. Wide receivers James Proche II and Kevin Thomas had Power Five offers from such schools as TCU, Clemson and Wisconsin. They could both contribute right away.
Defensively, SMU was and still is a trainwreck. The Mustangs gave up nearly 500 yards per game, including 574 against Baylor, 663 against Texas A&M and 614 against TCU. There is very little reason for optimism.
Baylor absolutely decimated the Mustangs last season, and there is little reason to think anything will be different. Bryce Petty had a mediocre day after hurting his back in the second quarter, but the Bears still rolled to a 45-0 victory.
SMU played three quarterbacks against the Bears last season: Neal Burcham, Kolney Cassel and Matt Davis. Baylor held them to a COMBINED 21-for-40 for 91 yards. Baylor’s defensive line feasted, posting nine sacks. Six players contributed at least one sack.
Davis, the expected starter, finished with only 12 passing yards and minus-22 rushing yards. He also threw the lone interception SMU had on the day.
Games like this are a difficult sell for Baylor. The Bears have nothing to prove, but need to play well to save face. When you come into the season as No. 4 in the Coaches Poll, everyone will be trying to find a spot of weakness.
That said, Baylor will have zero trouble with this team. Don’t be surprised to see the Mustangs pull out all the stops early to stay in the game: trick plays, misdirection, shots downfield. Regardless of whether SMU hits or not, Baylor is simply too talented for SMU to have any real chance.