Last season free safety Chris Banjo had 92 tackles (6.5 for loss), two interceptions and six pass breakups. Banjo, who has played in every single game (and has started all but a handful) since his freshman year, is now a senior and is set to lead a mostly veteran secondary.
SMU had the No. 3 passing defense in Conference USA in 2010, giving up 207 passing yards a game. But this year, Banjo says the secondary is faster and more mature.
"I believe we've matured and are ready to handle situations better," he said. "We've worked our butts off in the offseason through the summer and in camp and we're ready to get going."Banjo has also seen changes in himself.
"I've noticed that I'm playing faster," he said. "[In practice] I'm driving faster, getting to the ball faster and feeling more confident back there.
"Every year I improve my confidence and I feel like this year I have more confidence than ever, so I'm excited to see how I can put that confidence to use."
Banjo attributes that type of gusto to being a senior and assuming a leadership position and taking a lot of the young guys under his wing.
Like most of the positions on this Mustang squad, the defensive backs are made up mostly of upperclassmen. Banjo and left cornerback Richard Crawford are seniors and strong safety Ryan Smith is a junior. Starting this year across from Crawford is the only yougin' on the defensive first team, sophomore Kenneth Acker, who Banjo has mentored a little bit.
"He's learning fast," Banjo said. "He'll be able to do a lot of things for us."
Acker, who also return punts and kickoffs, beat out senior Chris Castro during fall camp for the starting spot at right corner.