The Mustangs' defensive line play has been inconsistent throughout the season. At times, primarily in the first half of games, they create disruption for opposing quarterbacks and at other times, it seems as though they are non-existent. Defensive end Margus Hunt was expected to be a dominant force after his great end to last season but has only showed up to one game. As a unit, SMU's defensive line has registered a total of three sacks if you include linebacker Ja'Gared Davis who usually rushes off the edge. To put that into perspective, one of the three sacks came from walk-on Gareth Riley-Ayers.
In defensive coordinator Tom Mason's 3-4 defensive scheme, the down lineman are supposed to make tackles available for the linebackers but should also plug up holes and running lanes. The 5.2 yards per rush average that the defense has given up so far isn't good, but they have improved in getting tackles behind the line of scrimmage, getting seven against SFA and two-and-a-half against TAMU.
SMU's group of linebackers was expected to be one of the best in the conference going into the season. Thus far they have played well at times but have also seen their share of bumps and bruises. In the SFA game, the linebackers shined and caused many of the turnovers that won the Mustangs the game in blowout fashion. Both Ja'Gared Davis and Cameron Rogers have scored touchdowns this season, and they've both missed plays that have contributed to big yardage. Sloppy tackling has also been an issue for the linebackers as well especially against Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who habitually made SMU's line-backing crew look like high schoolers.
The SMU defense has given up 520 rushing yards and five touchdowns in three games. The linebackers have to do a better job stopping the run and making tackles for at most minimal gains. Safety Jay Scott currently leads the team in tackles meaning that running backs, wide receivers, and in A&M's case quarterbacks, are getting into the secondary. The experience is there with Davis, Rogers and Reed. Youthful talent is there with Sanders, Joyner, and Pope but as Joyner said earlier this week, "we all just have to put it together."
The defensive backs have been one of the sorest spots on the team thus far. They have consistently given up big pass plays and are one of the main reasons that SMU has had trouble defensively. Their cornerback play has been very subpar but has also been plagued by injury. It seems that the injury to J.R. Richardson in fall camp has had a major impact on the Mustangs secondary because Chris Parks looked like the worst player on the defense in the first two weeks of the season but had a better outing at Texas A&M before injuring his hamstring. Kenneth Acker has also looked bad at times but earned praises for a stellar performance against SFA. Safety Jay Scott has been a decent replacement for Chris Banjo leading the team in tackles and causing turnovers.
The defensive backs have a big test coming up against TCU and desperately need to have a good showing.. The secondary can't be blamed in entirety because they haven't gotten consistent help up front as far as pressuring the quarterback except for the first quarter of the Texas A&M game where the secondary played well aside from some big plays by former basketball player Mike Evans. However, they must improve in order for the Mustangs to have a shot at stopping TCU quarterback Casey Pachall and wide receivers Josh Boyce and Brandon Carter.
Bye Week Grade Book: Defense
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