SMU finished up one of their most successful seasons in 25 years last weekend with a dominating 28-6 bowl win over Pitt.
Seniors like J.J. McDermott, Cole Beasley and Taylor Thompson were major factors in that game and will obviously be missed next year. Luckily for SMU, the team has the cream of their talent coming back for 2012.
Four of the Mustangs' top five tacklers – linebackers Taylor Reed, Ja'Gared Davis and Cameron Rogers and defensive back Ryan Smith – will be in the new senior class. The defense also returns linemen Margus Hunt, who recorded a team-high three sacks against the Panthers last weekend, and Torlan Pittman. The unit loses Thompson and Marquis Frazier on the line and Richard Crawford and Chris Banjo in the secondary.
Offensively, SMU retains wide receivers Darius Johnson (led the team with 1,118 receiving yards and received Compass Bowl MVP for his seven-reception 120-yard and one-touchdown performance), Der'rikk Thompson and Jeremy Johnson. Not to mention Zach Line, who was still able to lead Conference USA after missing the last three games due to season-ending toe surgery, with 1,224 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns, averaging 122.4 yards per game.
SMU loses its starting five offensive linemen, but Bryan Collins will lead a young and talented group next season.
The quarterback situation will be most intriguing this offseason. Texas transfer Garrett Gilbert is expected to be eligible to play immediately (under the graduate transfer rule) after graduating early from UT this May. He will enroll at SMU this summer in graduate school.
Gilbert is hoping to get two years of eligibility at SMU because he'll get a medical redshirt for 2011 due to shoulder surgery he had early last season.
Kyle Padron, SMU's starter for a year-and-a-half, who was benched after throwing back-to-back interceptions in Week 1 against Texas A&M, should return after recovering from a herniated disc injury and foot surgery. The junior could receive two more years of eligibility after taking 2011 as a redshirt season.
Because of their age and big-game experience, Gilbert and Padron appear to be frontrunners for the quarterback job, but Conner Preston, Stephen Kaiser and incoming freshman Neal Burcham will be competing for the keys to the Run and shoot as well.
Signing Day is upon us
Today marks exactly three weeks until National Signing Day. SMU currently has 18 recruits committed to its' 2012 class. The Mustangs had 22 commits last month, but have since lost names like Gabriel Marks, Chris Harper, Carl Hulick and Kache Palacio with the departure of their recruiter, Adrian Klemm.
SMU could still lose out on a player like wide receiver Robert Lewis, but even so, this is still one of the best classes the program has compiled in quite some time. Last week SMU snagged wideout Gehrig Dieter, who is the national record holder for receiving yards in a single game (437) and receiving yards per catch (26.9).
The Mustangs also have exciting players coming like running back Prescott Line, Zach's younger brother, safety A.J. Justice, safety/wide receiver Collin LaGasse and offensive lineman Seaver Myers, who's 6-foot-6, 280-pound frame is bigger than any of SMU's current linemen except for Taylor Reich (6-7, 300 lbs.).
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