Five questions with SMU's beat writer

TigerAuthority.com's John Martin breaks down the SMU-Memphis game with PonyStampede.com's Laken Litman. Litman discusses everything from the Mustangs' quarterback switch to SMU coach June Jones calling the Tigers' defensive front "more like NFL defensive linemen."

John Martin: Whoever's starting for SMU on Saturday is facing a weak Memphis secondary this weekend. What do you look for Padron/McDermott to do against the Tigers Saturday?
Laken Litman: J.J. McDermott is the clear starter until something drastic happens. I think this could be his breakout week. His stats are pretty good right now: He's completed 58 percent of his passes and has thrown for 776 yards in three games.
The only thing he hasn't been able to do is score touchdowns (has only had one). To be fair, he's been getting his feet wet as he was thrown into the Texas A&M game and has only started two games in his SMU career. Look for McDermott to throw some shorter balls at first, but once he gets comfortable and sees how Memphis' secondary plays zone, he'll go deep for big plays.

JM: SMU is 2-1 after a season-opening blowout loss to Texas A&M. The Mustangs struggled against UTEP but blew out Northwestern State, 40-7. Is this about where you expected things to be?
LL: With the way the quarterback situation has played out, yes. Kyle Padron was supposed to be the guy this year, since he has been the starter for a year-and-a-half. But it turns out that's not the case.
As I stated above, McDermott has only started in two games in his SMU career--UTEP was his first and then Northwestern State. He got thrown into the tornado that was the Texas A&M game and proved to be a tough guy, getting sacked eight times. He's a senior and is just now getting comfortable in a starting role. I noticed this week in practice he's looked more certain of himself than he has all season. So offensively, the year is going by a little slower than anticipated.

JM: In your 9/20 practice notes, you wrote that WR Keenan Holman, who is nursing an ankle injury, might not go against the Tigers Saturday. Big deal or no?
LL: Not really that big of a deal. Der'rikk Thompson is capable of filling the void. No question Keenan is an asset to the team. He started as a true freshman last year. But Thompson has speed and is a fast learner and has been taking first-team reps all week.

JM: June Jones, as also described in your practice report, said the Tigers' defensive front resembles NFL defensive linemen. What do you expect the Mustangs to exploit this Saturday? Will they go at the secondary or Will Jones try to establish the run?
LL: SMU likes the run-and-shoot offense. They gave Zach Line the ball to run with while McDermott was adjusting to the playbook. But I think SMU will do what it did last week against Northwestern State, which is to throw the ball downfield and then give it to Line to punch in touchdowns. Line is 6-1, 230 lbs. and is averaging 109 rushing yards in three games. He's a load that can handle any defensive line, no matter the size.

JM: What's your prediction for Saturday's game?
LL: SMU should win this game. Memphis is big and athletic, but SMU is stronger and more talented.

JM's score: SMU 41, Memphis 17
LL's score: SMU 34, Memphis 13


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