The Hilltop Review

Every Saturday morning, the Pony Stampede will provide exclusive stories and information on SMU basketball, football, and recruiting that you can't find anywhere else!

Johnson Nearing Decision

By EJ Holland

SMU could pick up its fifth offensive line commit for the Class of 2013 when Bellaire (TX) tackle Dwayne Johnson makes his decision on Monday. The two-star prospect has a top four of Colorado, Purdue, SMU and Tulsa.

"I want to make my decision on Monday because it's my dad's birthday. I really want to surprise him," Johnson said. "The school I pick will need to offer a good education. Education plays a big role. The football program itself needs to be strong. SMU and Purdue both offer great educations."

Out of his favorites, SMU is the only school Johnson has seen. He attended the Mustangs' spring game and was impressed with the way new offensive line coach Bob Palcic treated his big men.

"I visited SMU back in May. Everything was really nice. The facilities were really nice. The coaching staff was really nice," Johnson said. "On my visit I was able to meet Coach Palcic and get to know him for a bit. I got to see him in action, and that played a big part."

The Houston-area native has been told by his advisors that he should stay close to home and geographically, SMU would win the battle.

"My dad and my uncle have both been helping me a lot," Johnson said. "They want me to go with whatever they think I'm comfortable with. They do want me to stay close. That's one thing they have been telling me, but it doesn't really matter to me."

But the only thing that may have Johnson second guessing a verbal to SMU is his lack of communication with his recruiter, Jason Phillips. Johnson explained that he hasn't heard from Phillips all summer.

"Coach Phillips has been recruiting me. I think he's a really good dude. He's close friends with one of my uncle's best friends," he said. "I just haven't talked to him in a while."

The 6-foot-6, 275-pounder holds a total of nine offers and is an absolute beast in the trenches according to his high school coach Trey Sissom, who believes Johnson can make an immediate impact as a true freshman next season.

"He's versatile. He has really long arms and good feet. He's played every position on the offensive line," Sissom said. "He started at center but got stronger and is now moving out to tackle. Colleges love his versatility and hard work. I know he talked a lot to Purdue this week."

Johnson added that his commitment will be ‘pretty solid', but he will still be taking official visits to all four of his top schools this fall.

New Running Back Targeted

By EJ Holland

At 6-foot-2, 210-pounds Shawnee (KS) running back Kendall Short strikes fear in the eyes of opposing linebackers. The former Northern Illinois commit recently reopened his recruitment and his bruising running style has caught the attention of quite a few schools including SMU.

"I got a personal email from Coach (Wes) Suan. He said that he really liked my talent and size," Short said. "He said that they like to use big backs in their offense. He also said that he liked my athleticism because I also play basketball."

Short is definitely interested in learning more about SMU. He kept up with the Mustangs last season and hopes to build a strong relationship with Suan, who would serve as his position coach on the Hilltop.

"SMU has been really successful recently," Short said. "Last year, they went 7-5 and beat Pitt in a bowl game, which was really impressive. I'm interested in them. I would just like to keep hearing from them and hopefully talk to Coach Suan soon."

Northern Illinois remains the only school to offer the two-star prospect but Kansas and New Mexico have entered the mix along with SMU. A Kansas native, Short says the Jayhawks top his list.

"I like Kansas a lot because they're close to home," Short said. "They've really been recruiting me hard but haven't offered. They are all catching my attention, but I still want to see them recruit me harder."

Short plans to take official visits to Kansas, Northern Illinois and SMU this fall.

Big Men Situation Still Murky

By EJ Holland

As I reported last week, Ricmonds Vilde could be back on the SMU basketball team this season. But there is definitely more to the story. According to multiple sources, Vilde had a tryout with the coaching staff this summer as Jordan Dickerson continues to have eligibility issues with the NCAA.

It's looking more and more like Dickerson will not be on the Hilltop this year. The 7-footer still has a fighting chance but lacks core credits. His case is currently under review by the NCAA and as stated, Dickerson's future does not look bright. A final ruling is expected soon.

Markus Kennedy is also having his own share of issues with the NCAA, but it's looking like he will be a Mustang this season. The NCAA questioned whether the hiring of Jay Duncan played any role in Kennedy's decision to transfer to SMU, but I fully expect Kennedy to be cleared.

Gilbert Talks About His New Weapons

By Beionny Mickles

Coming from Texas, quarterback Garret Gilbert has gotten the opportunity to play with top tier recruits and wide receivers from in and out of the state of Texas. However, he has really begun to take a liking to SMU's receiving corps and thinks that each receiver has the potential to make big-time plays on the field.

"They've been great. Obviously only time will tell how good we'll be, when we get into game situations that's when things matter. But so far I've found that our timing has been great. We've been in sync nearly every day, and I've found that working with them can be a lot of fun."

Here are his thoughts on each of his starting wide outs:

Darius Johnson:

Darius has been awesome. He's a guy that works really hard. He loves the game. He's been teaching me the offense. He's really smart, and he has a knack for getting open and obviously, he knows how to make some plays when he gets the ball so I'm really excited about having him as a weapon. It makes my job easy.

Keenan Holman:

Keenan is a guy that worked really hard over the summer. Keenan and I were out every day working. His routes have really improved. He's a sneaky fast guy who's going to make some plays for you. Again, another smart guy who knows the offense really well and knows how to get open, and he's going to make some plays for us this season.

Jeremy Johnson:

Jeremy is one of our playmakers whether Darius is out or not, I expect Jeremy to make some plays. He's a very good player who has already proven that on the field, and he's going to continue to do so. Obviously with Darius out we're working on our depth a little bit, but that gives Jeremy a little bit more of a focus in the offense and he's doing a great job.

Der'rikk Thompson:

Obviously the first thing that comes to mind is speed but Der'rikk is not just a speed receiver, he runs great routes. He's another smart receiver who understands our offense and understands what we're trying to do offensively and has great hands, and I'm excited about throwing the ball to Der'rikk this season.

Cincinnati Commit Interested in SMU

By Billy Embody

SMU quarterback commit Kolney Cassel has been hitting the recruiting trail for SMU in addition to the coaching staff's efforts to bring in players. One player Cassel referred to head coach June Jones is Carrollwood Day School (FL) running back and current Cincinnati commit Robert Davis.

"I never heard anything from them, but I have definitely heard of them before because you (Billy) went there," Davis said. "My dad said it could be a good school for me to go to, but now I am still open right now. I am talking with various coaches right now and seeking more interest."

Davis recently clocked a blistering 4.38 40-yard dash and is built like former SMU back Shawnbrey McNeal. SMU does not currently have a running back committed for 2013, and Davis would still be open to listening to SMU.

"I am still looking. You can never be too sure. I will be going up there to Cincinnati Thursday through Friday," Davis said.

Davis, 5-foot-9, 180-pounds, is considered undersized, but his explosiveness allows him to burn defenders to the outside. Being built the way he is, Davis can hide behind blockers and explode into the open field with shifty moves.

After amassing close to 2,000 yards and 30 total touchdowns, Davis is 1,966 yards away from breaking the Hillsborough County rushing record. Playing in an ultra competitive 2A-5 district, which included the 2A state title runner-up Admiral Farragut, Davis will be looking to lead his teammates to a state playoff berth in his final season.

Washington Athlete Hoping For SMU Offer

By EJ Holland

There is no question Kolney Cassel is making an impact on SMU recruiting. The 2013 quarterback commit has sent in numerous tapes of top athletes from the Northwest including Bothell's Reshon Watson.

The 5-foot-10, 180 pounder is still getting used to playing cornerback after spending his entire career on the offensive side of the ball at running back. But Watson is very physical and caught Cassel's attention at a 7-on-7 tournament.

"Kolney has told me a little bit about SMU. I met him when they took the top players in Washington down to Las Vegas for a 7-on-7 tournament," Watson said. "He was the quarterback for my team. He is really cool. Me, him, and Tere Calloway all rode down on the same plane so we hung out the whole day."

Watson currently has no offers but has been drawing major interest from schools such as Washington State, Nevada and UNLV. If SMU were to extend a scholarship, Watson explained that he would definitely consider playing on the Hilltop.

"If SMU were to offer me, they would be right at the top of my list," he said. "I really don't know that much, but I like that it's in Dallas. I've been researching it though and really looking into it. I just need to get in contact with their coaches."

Watson added that he would like to take an official visit to SMU and will be attempting to contact defensive coordinator Tom Mason in the next couple of days.

Bruno Still Interested In SMU, Planing Official Visit

By EJ Holland

Luca Bruno was tired of the constant anxiety he faced during his recruitment. With football season approaching, the three-star defensive lineman decided enough was enough and committed to Arizona.

"Arizona was running low on scholarships. I was thinking about my senior year, and I was getting a little stressed with the whole decision making process," Bruno said. "Sooner or later I knew I was going to have to choose so I just took it before the year started."

But that doesn't mean SMU is completely out of the race. The two schools were neck and neck before Bruno made his decision and they still are. Bruno will be on the Hilltop for an official visit this fall and explained that circumstances could definitely change.

"SMU was tied for Arizona at the top," Bruno said. "I definitely want to go down there and check it out. I'm pretty solid to Arizona but if SMU has a good game day experience, it could change my mind."

Bruno explained that the one advantage Arizona has over SMU is the intensity shown by the program. When Bruno visited SMU this summer, the laid back atmosphere was not very appealing.

"I had three things I was looking for. I wanted to go to a good school, play for a good program and play somewhere where I could fit in. I found that in both Arizona and SMU. The advantage Arizona had over SMU was their training and conditioning. Arizona is more intense, and I got to know their strength coaches."

Bruno added that he will also be taking an official visit to San Diego State. But no other schools are in his current visit plans.

2014 Linebacker Recaps Visit

By Beionny Mickles

Lake Centennial (TX) linebacker Jamie Elder says that after taking a couple of visits to the Hilltop, SMU is the place that he wants to be.

"I've been to SMU more than once. I really do like it. I told my mom that's kind of where I do want to go," he said.

Elder recently visited the Hilltop along with wide receiver commit Jarvis Baxter and says he likes what he's seen so far.

"I really like it, I like the campus and I like Coach (Tom) Mason especially," said the 6-foot-1 215-pound athlete. "I interacted with him a bunch, and I went to the practice and it was pretty nice. Everybody was pretty hyped. There was no loafing around. I liked the atmosphere around there."

Elder says he got the chance to talk to Mason at practice the SMU defensive coordinator told him to send in film after his first three games this upcoming season.

Elder, who has yet to receive an offer from anyone, says that this spring he has also talked to Colorado.

Elder, who has been teammates with Baxter, had nothing but good things to say about the receiver and says that he was one of the most essential members of their team.

"Oh yeah he was an exciting player," Elder said. "Whatever we needed, even when we didn't need it; when that balls in the air we know he's coming down with it by any means."

Elder, who is listed as an athlete, says he has also had experience playing deep snapper and tight end.

Denmark Hopes To Join Baxter At SMU

By EJ Holland

Joining Jarvis Baxter on an unofficial visit to SMU last weekend was teammate Marquis Denmark, who is still hoping for his first offer.

"I can really see myself playing there," Denmark said. "The campus is huge. I really liked the swimming pools by the practice field. The facilities were really nice. I think I could be a good fit at SMU.

"Being at practice was really cool. That's the first college practice I've been to. It seemed like a lot of fun. I liked it a lot. The Nike gear they were wearing was really cool. I got to talk to Chris Parks so it was cool meeting him."

Denmark has been in contact with SMU since spring and has developed a good relationship from defensive coordinator Tom Mason, who is recruiting Denmark as a cornerback.

"I got to talk to Coach Mason after practice," Denmark said. "He told me he was going to be looking at me during the first three games of the season and might offer if I do a good job. I like him a lot. I also got to meet Coach (Jason) Phillips. He told me he liked my size."

Last season, Denmark played cornerback for the first time in his life and believes this is why he currently has no offers. He has been picking up interest from Arkansas State and Kansas but prefers to stay close to home and play with Baxter.

"Playing with Jarvis would be amazing. We're best friends and always hang out with each other so it would be a great opportunity," Denmark said. "We always try to make each other better. He's told me a lot about SMU, and I really want to join him there."

Reich Recovering Fast

By EJ Holland

After undergoing surgery for a fractured fibula this spring, SMU offensive lineman Taylor Reich was not supposed to be back on the football field till early October.

But the redshirt freshman has been vigorously rehabbing and could be back as soon as Monday. Reich will add some much needed depth and hopes to compete for a starting job.

"I'm hoping I'm going to have a fighting chance at tackle. I think it's still wide open over there," Reich said. "I'm excited to get back and fight for it. I just want to put the pads on. Seeing these guys out here makes me want to scream."

Reich originally believed the injury was a broken leg that would just keep him out for most of the summer. Unfortunately, Reich learned the injury was more serious than originally thought and was forced to miss the beginning of fall camp.

"I've taken it as a positive thing. It gave me time to work on my upper body strength. Now, I'm just trying to get back in the swing of things with my lower body," Reich said. "I do some sprints, mirror drill, pass blocking and then ice down so the training staff has been helpful. I've been pushing myself really hard."

Besides working hard to get healthy, the 6-foot-7, 315-pounder has been observing his position group and picking up pointers from veterans and new offensive line coach Bob Palcic. Reich has been impressed with the line's progress so far.

"I've just been getting a lot of mental reps. I've been watching the offensive line, and they look pretty good especially the young guys," Reich said. "They've really surprised me. There is some rust on the wheels, but we'll get it. I think the coaches are just moving people around to find the best fit."

With Reich back in the mix, there will be more pressure on the shoulders of Stavion Lowe to get back into shape in order to maintain his starting job. If Reich is in fact at full strength, he could be a nice wild card as Palcic continues to shuffle his starting group.

Local Wide Out Has Interest In SMU

By Russell Palmer

The decision to move into the Big East was a historic decision for the Mustangs, one that will help the university improve in many areas including recruiting

The ability to play in a BCS conference is a major factor for the top high school talent across the country, and one of the main reasons Mesquite (TX) wide receiver Dameon Gamblin is interested in SMU.

"I like that they are going to the Big East because that's a BCS bowl conference," he said.

Despite attending camps at SMU, TCU, Texas A&M and Tulsa this summer, Gamblin is still without an offer but has made contact with the SMU coaching staff and still holds optimism that an offer can come his way.

"I've talked to June Jones, but I really don't know if they are going to offer me or not" he said. "I am hoping for one though."

Although Gamblin has yet to visit the SMU campus, he still has plans to take a visit to the Hilltop sometime in the near future, either during or after his upcoming season.

The 5-foot-10, 160-pound speedster has been clocked at a 4.5 4 but still has been working around the clock this summer to get ready for the upcoming season and has big aspirations for his team's chances this year.

"Oh I think we are going to be really good." he said. "We have 18 returning starters or something like that, so I think we can win it all."

In terms of making his final decision, Gamblin is in no rush and wants to use this upcoming season as a way to attract his first offers.

"I might make it on signing day." he said. "But me and my family will make a decision after going through the process."

2014 Quarterback Loves SMU

By Billy Embody

Even though Carthage TX) quarterback Blake Bogenschutz has seen playing time since his freshmen year, he feels like he is just growing into the role of the leader of his offense. The 6-foot, 180 pound quarterback has played with some great players around him, but this year it is time for him to lead.

"Last year I was learning a lot, but this year I think I've stepped up as a leader and try to lead the offense," said the 2014 prospect. "I know the offense and it's not my first go around so I think I've stepped up as a leader as a whole."

Bogenschutz, had an extremely impressive sophomore year leading Carthage to a 9-4 record and threw for almost 2,700 yards and 29 touchdowns, while only throwing 10 interceptions. After reeling off five straight victories, Carthage lost in the state playoffs to state runner-up Argyle.

This summer, Bogenschutz has toured plenty of campuses including his favorites in rivals SMU and TCU. Bogenschutz camped at SMU's East Texas mini-camp in Kilgore, TX and enjoyed every second of it.

"I love the coaches. The quarterback coach (Dan Morrison) was really nice to me," Bogenschutz said. "He really helped me with my throwing motion and all the coaches really encouraged me. I love the campus as well."

Bogenschutz came away from the camp impressed with both campuses and the coaching philosophies the coaches have.

"They really throw the ball a lot. I watched (Kyle) Padron throw the ball a lot, and I am excited to see (Garrett) Gilbert this summer throw the ball. I love throwing the ball here in Carthage, we do that a lot and I like the offensive schemes," Bogenschutz said.

While Bogenschutz still has two more years of high school football, he is committed to getting better and elevating his play to help his teammates. Bogenschutz talked about getting a ring before he leaves Carthage and if he continues to work like he has so far, that might just become a reality for him and his teammates.

Getting To Know Your Mustangs<.b>

By EJ Holland & Beionny Mickles

What are you most likely to be listening to on game day?

Darius Johnson: Webbie or Lil Wayne

Ronnell Sims: Ne-Yo or Trey Songz

Torlan Pittman: 2 Chainz

Elie Nabushosi: I don't listen to music, I watch youtube videos to get pumped up

What's the best class you've taken at SMU?

Johnson: Marriage and Family

Sims: Pre-Calculus

Pittman: Art of Acting

Nabushosi: Psychology of Learning

What's your favorite pregame meal?

Johnson: Pot Roast with Rice, macaroni and cheese, and mashed potatoes

Sims: Chicken Fried Steak

Pittman: Chicken Fried Steak with mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese

Nabushosi: Chicken Alfredo

Who's your favorite pro athlete?

Johnson: Andre Johnson or Steve Smith

Sims: Michael Vick

Pittman: Dirk Nowitzki

Nabushosi: Tim Tebow

What's been your most embarrassing moment at SMU?

Johnson: My freshman year I didn't know the offense so I ran the wrong route and got blown up because of it

Sims: When I first got here coming from the hospital for 3 weeks and only participated in 6 out of 36 periods and almost passed out. Later on in the season also, Coach Jones sent me in after I was kind of dragging in practice

Pittman: During the Texas A&M game, I was running and nobody was around me, and I just fell in the middle of the game

Nabushosi: None Yet

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