An Early Look At 2013: Offense

With the season officially over, Publisher EJ Holland takes an early look at what SMU has coming back next season on the offensive side of the ball!


Returning: Garrett Gilbert (Sr.), Garrett Kristich (So.), Conner Preston (So.), Neal Burcham (RS-FR)

Coming In: Kolney Cassel

Leaving: None

Synopsis: There has been a little chatter on Twitterverse about Neal Burcham competing for the starting job with Garrett Gilbert next season. But that's not going to happen. Gilbert has been cemented as SMU's starter since this summer when June Jones named him the top QB before fall camp opened. Gilbert wasn't extremely impressive this season, but he did enough to get SMU back to the Hawaii Bowl and in the latter half of the season, he became a true threat as a running quarterback. He finished the year with 2,932 yards passing and 15 touchdowns with 15 interceptions. Those numbers won't scare anybody and Gilbert needs to improve his touch this offseason along with his rapport with the wide receivers. He isn't going to light up the scoreboard next year but if he can be more efficient, SMU may be able to pull out some wins despite a brutal schedule. Now back to Burcham. There is no doubt in my mind that he is SMU's quarterback of the future. He looked better and better in practice as the season progressed and seems to be over a torn ACL that he suffered as a senior in high school. At first, he looked a little shaky and I will admit, I was pessimistic. But I'm hopping on the Burcham bandwagon and expect him to become the best quarterback SMU has seen during the June Jones era. Conner Preston is the odd man out. His height and throwing motion has hampered his chances of ever becoming the full-time starter. But I'm still intrigued by his leadership, winners' attitude and ability to run. I hope he gets a chance to prove himself, but I just don't see that happening. Kolney Cassel is going to come in and more than likely redshirt. I don't see him being a factor for at least a few years especially with Burcham being the obvious heir apparent.

Running Backs:

Returning: Dylan Dickman (So.), Myles Lee (So.), Prescott Line (RS-FR), K.C. Nlemchi (So.), Luke Seeker (So.), Jared Williams (So.), Rishaad Wimbley (Jr.), Tanner Rice (RS-FR)

Coming In: Traylon Shead (Jr.-TR)

Leaving: Zach Line, Billy Dugal

Synopsis: With the graduation of one of the greatest SMU running backs of all-time in Zach Line, SMU was forced to go the JUCO route in order to find an immediate replacement and boy, did they get a good one. At 6-foot-2, 225-pounds, Traylon Shead is a bruiser just like Line but is even faster. The former Texas Longhorn rushed for 1,200 yards and 17 touchdowns at Navarro JC and earned All-American honors. Mark my words, Shead will be a stud. Looking at whose coming back, K.C. Nlemchi is the most intriguing back of the bunch. He has all the physical tools to be a dominant runner, but it remains a mystery as to why Pony fans haven't seen him on the field. During fall camp, he caught a lot passes out of the backfield and from the slot, but he never saw any kind of action. Nlemchi has talent, SMU just needs to let him showcase it. In an offense like the Run N' Shoot, I would think a scat back would be used more often but of course, June Jones never fails to make me scratch my head. If he does decide to implement a shifty back in 2013, it will probably be Jared Williams, who missed all of 2012 with a gruesome leg injury. However, it will be interesting to see just how healthy he is. After seeing the impact he made as a true freshman in 2011, I think he has a chance to make an impact. That year, SMU fans also saw a lot of Rishaad Wimbley. But in the opener against Baylor, he looked out of shape and didn't see much action for the rest of the year. With the lack of depth at nose tackle, I wouldn't be surprised to see him make the switch back to defense. The wild cards here are Prescott Line, who is a spitting image of his older brother, and Air Force transfer Tanner Rice. Don't be shocked if they get a few carries next year.

Wide Receivers:

Returning: Jordan Airhart (So.), A.J. Buffini (RS-FR), Kyle Guinyard (Jr.), Arrius Holleman (So.), Keenan Holman (Sr.), Marcus Holyfield (Sr.), Jeremy Johnson (Sr.), Darius Joseph (So.), Stephen Nelson (Jr.), Ben Sellers (So.), Ronnell Sims (So.), Daijuan Stewart (RS-FR), Der'ikk Thompson (Jr.), Bobby Waid (So.), Ryan Walker (So.)

Coming In: Jarvis Baxter, JaBryce Taylor, Everett Dickerson, Jeremiah Gaines, Deion Sanders Jr.

Leaving: Gehrig Dieter, Austin Fuller, Darius Johnson, Cole Loftin

Synopsis: Honestly, this isn't a very impressive crop of receivers. I could go on a rant about recruiting the position but instead, let's just look at the returning starters. On the outside, Der'rikk Thompson showed flashes of potential and appears to be SMU's only true deep threat. Thompson doesn't have the greatest hands in the world and Gilbert and him were not on the same page this year. There were games where he simply disappeared and finished the year with 41 receptions for 535 yards and four touchdowns. But like I said, the potential is there and so is the speed. Jeremy Johnson was our pick to really break out this season. Johnson did lead the team in receptions with 67 and also logged 679 yards and three touchdowns, but I expected more. So for most of this offseason, expect to hear Johnson's name a lot because I still believe he can be the most explosive player in this offense. Since apparently, Gehrig Dieter was homesick (insert sarcastic mhmmm), I would have to say Keenan Holman is once again the favorite to start opposite of Thompson. I'm tired of hearing all this potential nonsense with Holman. It's a total farce. The fact is that Holman is not a very good receiver, and SMU needs to go younger. Heck, I would be totally fine with throwing in perhaps your most prized recruit in the fire. I'm talking to you Jeremiah Gaines. Even JaBryce Taylor could be an option. Let the freshmen go! But if you want to be more conventional, Arrius Holleman could be a huge playmaker in this offense. He's a big and physical wide out that Gilbert could take a liking to if 1. He fixes his attitude 2. He takes conditioning seriously 3. He buys some Nike Vapor gloves so he can actually catch. Those are all big ifs and until he shows a change of heart, Ace will remain on the sideline sulking in his self-pity. After all, 1 is the loneliest number. Daijuan Stewart could also get an opportunity after redshirting, but he's just too small in my opinion. I think he would be a better inside receiver. Walk-on Stephen Nelson always finds a way to get a mention in practice reports. But he also lives in the training room with various injuries. Bobby Waid, anyone? Probably not. I'm sticking with Holman against my will. Inside, you have the tough task of replacing Darius Johnson, who just looked like an ordinary dude out there this season. The early favorite to replace him is another DJ- Darius Joseph. He looked serviceable against Tulane after spending time in June's doghouse, but he just doesn't have that ‘wow' factor that I think his former high school teammate Ronnell Sims does. Sims was one of the top athletes in the state of Texas just a few years ago and was such an explosive player. The problem is he is up to my belt buckle. Sims stands at about 5-foot-6 and has tiny hands. The transition from HS quarterback to wide receiver hasn't been to kind to him, and I just don't know what he can do at this level, but I sure would like to find out. Ryan Walker has gotten some time in the slot before, but he just doesn't have the speed for the position. Like on the outside, I think Everett Dickerson, Deion Sanders Jr., and Jarvis Baxter could get some early looks as freshmen on the inside.

Offensive Line:

Returning: Christian Miller (Jr.), Chauncey Briggs (RS-FR), Kris Weeks (So.), Stavion Lowe (Jr.), Chase Walling (RS-FR), Christian Chamagua (RS-FR), Ashton Duhe (Jr.), Jordan Favreau (Sr.), Seaver Myers (So.), Taylor Lasecki (So.), Ben Gottschalk (Sr.), Ben Hughes (Jr.), Sam Rice (So.), Taylor Reich (So.)

Coming In: William Barns, Travis Fister, Freddie Johnson, Daniel McCarty, Brian Taylor

Leaving: Blake McJunkin, Bryan Collins, Jordan Free

Synopsis: All three players leaving were starters so there will be some new faces on the offensive line especially on the interior. A pair of guards need to step up and replace Blake McJunkin and Jordan Free. But there isn't a lot of depth there. I believe Sam Rice will take one of those positions. As a true freshman, he challenged for playing and appears to have the biggest upside. Senior Jordan Favreau has been used on both the offensive and defensive lines at practice and could get the nod based on experience for the other guard spot. But I feel guys like Kris Weeks and Ben Hughes would be better options. Ashton Duhe got some playing time but he's not a long-term solution. At the tackle spots, Gottschalk will be the senior leader on the left side. But what about the right side? I'm really enamored with Seaver Myers. I think he can be a top tier lineman in the conference so why wait, give the young lineman an opportunity. Like Rice, he also challenged for playing time as a true freshman. Stavion Lowe could be another option. The former LSU Tiger created a buzz when he arrived on the Hilltop but simply looked like a shadow of his former self. Lowe was fluffy and out of shape. He incrementally progressed as camp went on but was ruled academically ineligible just before the season opener. If he can whip his body and grades into shape then he could be a starter in 2013. If not, he'll be a total bust. A guy that I'm high on is Taylor Reich. He spent a lot of this year rehabbing but has the size to be a force along the line. He's still young as well and has a lot of room to grow. The top returning lineman is center Taylor Lasecki, who was very solid as a redshirt freshman and will be expected to anchor this line along with Gotttschalk. There is an abundance of youth here so it's time to really see if Bob Palcic can coach up anybody.

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