The SMU quarterback position was filled with its fair share of ups and downs as the team navigated through a frustrating season. A season that saw now former SMU quarterback Kyle Padron be pulled during the season opener against Texas A&M and replaced by fifth-year senior J.J. McDermott, who proceeded to start the rest of the season for the Mustangs.
McDermott then helped the Mustangs real off five straight wins including the overtime win against No. 20 TCU, but the team sputtered and finished 8-5.
The two bright spots on the season were the wins over the rival Horned Frogs and the BBVA Compass Bowl win over Pittsburgh, where McDermott was instrumental in guiding the offensive attack for the Mustangs. McDermott showed the calmness that one would expect out of a senior but also showed some inconsistency during some of the biggest games of the season.
After SMU beat UCF at home, where he was extremely impressive, McDermott threw nine interceptions in the next four games against competition with a record of above .500- all SMU losses. The four losses put SMU out of the running for the Conference USA Championship and ended its regular season on a negative note.
McDermott righted the ship in the bowl game against Pittsburgh, throwing for over 200 yards and completing close to 65 percent of his passes. After finishing the season with 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, it was clear to Mustang fans that the quarterback play was one of the most inconsistent performing positions on the team. Had the play of SMU quarterbacks been steady and positive for the Mustangs, a 10-win season was not out of the questions, but instead, SMU was left with wondering what if?
Entering the summer, SMU had seen two quarterbacks transfer and one transfer in. Padron and Stephen Kaiser transferred away from SMU. Many thought Kaiser and redshirt freshman Conner Preston would battle for the starting quarterback job, but Kaiser transferred after SMU added former UT quarterback Garrett Gilbert to the roster to compete immediately for the starting job.
Gilbert's addition may have caused Kaiser to transfer and probably because Gilbert was promised the starting role once he got on campus. Head coach June Jones confirmed that Gilbert would be the starter going into camp even though Gilbert has not been seen by SMU coaches throwing this summer per NCAA rules and is coming off shoulder surgery.
Gilbert is the current solution to the Mustangs quarterback position and his ability to pick up the Run N' Shoot will make or break the Mustangs season. Coach Jones has said that Gilbert has been picking up the offense quickly in meetings and that is why Jones was ready to name him the starter going into camp.
Gilbert has all the tools to succeed in this offense. Gilbert has played on the biggest stage in college football and has shown the ability to be a leader even when his supporting cast around him might not be as stellar. Preston will be watching and waiting the next two years if Gilbert puts together the seasons he is capable of in this offense.
Redshirt freshman walk-on Garrett Krstich has shown some improvement during the spring and looked better than Kaiser during his opportunities at the helm of the offense. Krstich is far from being ready to run the offense as a starter, but his continued development will be important for the Mustangs.
Incoming freshman Neal Burcham is expected to redshirt as he recovers from an ACL tear he suffered in his final high school game. Burcham is a highly touted recruit out Greenbrier (Ark.) and was co-MVP of the Elite-11 Camp last summer.
Gilbert's five-star pedigree gives SMU more talent at the quarterback position than it has had in many years. If he can harness his talent and provide consistent play to complement the running attack then SMU will be highly productive on offense. That all depends on Gilbert's timing with receivers and how much he picks up of Coach Jones' playbook during camp. SMU is poised for a championship season but only if the team receives championship play from its quarterbacks.
Position Coach: Dan Morrison coached Kyle Padron in 2010 to the best season of any SMU quarterbacks statistically by Padron setting numerous single season records. Morrison has been with June Jones since the Hawaii days where he spent nine seasons tutoring some of the greatest college quarterbacks to lace them up in Colt Brennan and Timmy Chang. Chang joins Jones and the SMU staff this season as a graduate assistant for the offense. While Morrison has years and years of experience working with the Run N' Shoot offense, it will be very beneficial for the SMU quarterbacks to be tutored by one of Jones' former quarterbacks and one of the greatest of all-time in Chang.
Pony Stampede Two-Deep:
QB- 1. Garrett Gilbert 2. Conner Preston
Others to watch: R-Fr. Garrett Krstich, Fr. Neal Burcham
Position Preview: Quarterbacks
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