Matt Visinsky

Know Your Foe: Five Questions On SMU

The Houston Cougars are set to square off with conference, and in-state opponent SMU in Dallas Saturday. Get to know the Mustangs today with Pony Stampede publisher Billy Embody.

The Houston Cougars have had a rough couple of weeks on the field, suffering their first loss of the season to Navy before narrowly escaping an upset minded Tulsa team last Saturday in TDECU Stadium.

The Cougars must continue to fix the health and inconsistencies that have plagued the team early on this season ,and they get their next opportunity Saturday when they face off with SMU in Dallas.

This week in our Know Your Foe piece we connect with the publisher of the SMU site here on the Scout network, PonyStampede, Billy Embody who answers ur five question for this week's match-up.

Cougar Digest: What is one position group on each side of the ball that you feel must generate results for SMU to have the success they want on Saturday.

Billy Embody: On offense, it starts with the offensive line. We've seen what Ben Hicks can do when he's not picking himself up off the turf each play. It's more on the offensive line to step up and defend against the Cougars' defense, which includes arguably the best defensive tackle the team will face in Ed Oliver. If the team can run the ball against the Cougars' defense, it'll open things up a little bit in the passing game for Hicks. The offensive line has to have their best game of the season against Houston.

Defensively, the linebackers have to step up. SMU has some nice depth now at defensive line actually and the team needs the linebackers to step up and fill gaps against Houston. That's been a problem on most of the big plays given up by SMU. If the linebackers can be responsible for their gaps, it'll go a long way.

CD: Houston has played inconsistently over the last two weeks and injuries have been a concern. How does SMU looked and faired on this fronts the last couple of weeks heading into Saturday?

Embody: SMU is without Xavier Jones for the rest of the year now at running back and Braeden West has also been nicked up. With the bye week, West has had a chance to get healthy. Getting him healthy will be key for SMU offensively. The offensive line has also been nicked up as well, losing a couple starters. Offensive linemen Nick Natour and Brayden Hyder, and quarterback Darrel Colbert, Jr. are now back healthy.

CD: The Cougars and Mustangs made coaching changes at the same time following the 2014 season. We’ve covered how the Cougar staff has evolved in it’s first two seasons, what can you share about the general direction of the program under Chad Morris’s staff?

Embody: It's been a little more difficult for Chad Morris and Co. SMU's roster was beyond depleted of talent when Morris took over. Meanwhile, Herman took over a 9-win team. SMU lost out this season with Matt Davis being out for the year as I feel he would have covered up a lot of the offensive line injuries that are now magnified with Ben Hicks' youth and inexperience plus, lack of mobility. SMU is waiting on some of the team's younger players to step in and be ready to go, which is why the rebuild has probably taken about a year longer than even Morris wants. 2017 is the circled year for this group to grow up and turn the corner. People still believe in Morris and the program is generally trending in the right direction. A win over Houston somehow, would be a massive deal for the program, especially since Herman basically said the Cougars don't worry about SMU this summer.

CD: The Cougars have shown some vulnerability in the middle of the field in pass defense as of late. Who are a couple of receivers SMU and Ben Hicks may try to use to find that same weakness?

Embody: Courtland Sutton is SMU's go-to receiver and is a huge problem for just about any defense. He's just so big and physical. SMU likes to take shots down the field to him and Sutton usually catches it or it's pass interference. James Proche has stepped up as a true No. 2 receiver for SMU as well. He's quick, shifty and the Mustangs like to get him in space. Xavier Castille and Alex Honey are two others to watch, although both need to be more consistent to see more time.

CD: Are there any notable recruiting names that SMU is expecting for the game this weekend that might have some crossover effect with the Cougars and their similar recruiting footprint?

Embody: SMU's 2017 class is pretty much done so as of now, any major names would likely be commits coming in for SMU. Looking ahead to the 2018/19 classes, this will be a huge opportunity for SMU to get some kids on campus and show them a good time. Like I said, a win could go a long way. With Baylor off, TCU, Texas A&M and Texas all out of state, this is the biggest game in the state of Texas. Should be plenty of recruits trying to make it over.

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