An Early Look At 2013: Defense

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

Defensive Line:

Returning: Beau Barnes (Jr.), Andrew McCleneghen (So.), Zach Wood (So.), Spencer Conley (So.), Jarrett Spencer (So.), Jarvis Pruitt (RS-FR), Nick Reed (RS-FR), Cameron Smith (Jr.), Elie Nabushosi (RS-FR), Darrian Wright (Jr.), Gareth Riley-Ayers (So.), Brian Cramer (RS-FR)

Coming In: Spencer Hollie, Justin Lawler, Zelt Minor

Leaving: Kevin Grenier, Margus Hunt, Torlan Pittman, Aaron Davis

Synopsis: Before I start this preview let me say, I talked to former (it pains me to say that) SMU linebacker Taylor Reed to get his opinion on some of the guys, which is why'll you'll be seeing Reed said in all three summaries. Anyway, this defensive line will have three new starters. But who will they be? Well, I'm not 100 percent sure, but at nose tackle, Darrian Wright appears to be the clear-cut choice. Wright played sparingly this year and finished with 12 tackles, two fumble recoveries and an interception return for a touchdown against Houston. Wright looks athletic and Reed said he would be a very solid replacement for Torlan Pittman. But behind him there is no depth. Redshirt freshman Nick Reed would be his bachup, but he's very injury prone and was out all of this year. After him, it's walk-on Gareth Riley-Ayers, who is often a human punching bag at practice so don't be surprised if one of the ends makes the transition inside or like I said in the offensive preview, if Rishaad Wimbley converts back to defense after making the move to running back as a freshman especially considering that there are no nose tackle commits in 2013. Losing experienced ends Margus Hunt and Kevin Grenier will hurt since there is a lot of unproven youth. Walk-on Beau Barnes is the favorite to start at one of the end positions after impressing in limited action with 16 tackles and a sack. The other defensive end spot is up for grabs. Fellow walk-on Andrew McCleneghen saw some action this year and has nice size at 6-foot-6 while Zach Wood had impressive stats coming out of high school, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's one of the guys that slides inside. Cameron Smith is still a big question mark as is Jarrett Spencer as both have battled injuries during their time on the Hilltop. The guy that both Reed and I like is Elie Nabushosi. He redshirted this year and should be ready to battle for a starting job in 2013. He's extremely athletic, quick off the line and his long arms allow him to get separation and put a nice swim move on opposing offensive tackle. Defensive line coach Bert Hill also seems to really like him so keep an eye on Nabushosi and another redshirt freshman in Jarvis Pruitt. Coming in, Justin Lawler and Spencer Hollie need time to develop but Zelt Minor looks ready to compete today. I was very impressed with his performance at the state championship last weekend, and I really believe he will be an animal in the near future.

Linebackers:

Returning: John Bordano (Jr.), Jonathan Yenga (So.), Robert Seals (So.), Lincoln Richard (RS-FR), Kevin Pope (Sr.), Stephon Sanders (Jr.), Brandon Henderson (Sr.), Derek Longoria (So.), Damien Neroes (RS-FR), Randall Joyner (Sr.), Jordan Miller (Jr.)

Coming In: Carlos Carroll, Nick Horton, Roderick Moore

Leaving: Ja'Gared Davis, Cody Worthen, Taylor Reed, Cameron Rogers

Synopsis: Losing Reed and Ja'Gared Davis will be tough at first, but SMU has depth at the position and will simply reload. Stephon Sanders is returning as a starting outside linebacker and replacing Davis will be Robert Seals. June Jones loves raving about this kid, and he deserves it. He's bulked up a little bit since arriving on campus but hasn't lost speed and Seals is fast. He can cover a lot of ground in very little time so expect to see him making a lot of tackles in the backfield. Will he live up to the hype that June has bestowed? I have to say yes. Sanders is obviously a great player and finished his sophomore campaign with 48 tackles including 5.5 for loss, a sack and an interception. It was somewhat of a quiet year, but he has the potential to double those numbers in 2013. Inside, Randall Joyner replaced Cameron Rogers and was simply a playmaker. Joyner is also a great leader and plays with a lot of heart. His 93 tackles were good for second on the team but what makes him special is his nose for the football. Joyner intercepted three passes, recovered two fumbles and also forced a fumble. Starting next to him will be senior Kevin Pope, who has filled in nicely for Reed when he's needed to come off the field. Pope began his career as a running back but the transition to linebacker has been smooth. Pope notched 20 tackles and recovered three fumbles this year, and he can certainly lay the wood. As mentioned, there is depth at linebacker. I really like Jonathan Yenga while Reed is a big fan of Lincoln Richard. I saw Yenga play at Euless Trinity a few times and he was a beast. Sure he's not the thickest guy in the world, but this guy can be better than his brother Yori in my opinion. I think he gets in the rotation in 2013 but won't be a full-time starter until 2014. Richard will be a dominant outside linebacker one day, but he will probably have to wait until Sanders graduates. Still, Richard will make an impact when he gets an opportunity.

Defensive Backs:

Returning: Kenneth Acker (Sr.), Chris Parks (Sr.), Blake Poston (So.), Troy Castle (So.), Adam Waheed (Sr.), Colin LaGasse (RS-FR), Shakiel Randolph (So.), A.J. Justice (RS-FR), Aaron Stafford (So.), Rodney Hubert (So.), Horace Richardson (So.), James Richardson (So.), Jay Scott (Sr.), Jeremy Gray (Sr.), Hayden Greenbauer (Jr.), Andrew Griffin (Jr.), Ajee Montes (RS-FR), Daniel Roundtree (Sr.)

Coming In: Myles Crosby, Nate Halverson, Cedric Lancaster, Darrion Richardson, J'Marcus Rhodes, Trey Washington

Leaving: Brett Haness, Ryan Smith, Keith Robinson,

Synopsis: Let's face it, the SMU secondary was depleted for most of this year and wasn't very good. But things are looking up in 2013 especially if J.R. Richardson returns to full health. Before tearing his ACL, Richardson looked like one of the best defensive players in fall camp and was ready to invite receivers to Richardson Island. His injury really hurt SMU, which was forced to turn to Chris Parks. Parks struggled early in the year and battled a hamstring injury but improved towards the end of the season. Parks should be back in the nickel back role with Richardson starting at corner, and he should do well there. I believe the experience he gained this season will help him be a solid fifth defensive back for this team. Starting opposite of Richardson will be senior Kenneth Acker, who is the closest thing SMU has to a lockdown corner. Despite so many holes, Acker was never a problem. He did a tremendous job covering receivers 1-on-1 and did not give up very many big plays. The thing that impressed me the most about Acker was how much more physical he was this year. I think both he and Richardson will bring a certain ‘swag' to this secondary, which was absent this year. Acker finished 2012 with 50 tackles, 15 pass deflections and three interceptions. At safety Jay Scott returns after a solid junior season. With everyone around him at 100 percent, Scott should improve on a season where he recorded 76 tackles, 11 pass deflections and an interception. Next to him will be sophomore Shakiel Randolph, who saw some action as a true freshman. Now, Randolph didn't do very well but freshman pains are expected, and Reed told me Randolph will have a chance to play in the NFL one day. At 6-foot-5 and a bit of experience under his belt, I also think Randolph will have a breakout year in 2013. What I really like about next year's secondary is the depth. That's right this secondary has depth even though a lot of it is young. Along with Parks, Jeremy Gray is an experienced senior who can play both safety and corner while junior Hayden Greenbauer returned an interception for a touchdown in the Hawaii Bowl. I think Ajee Montes and Horace Richardson, who is recovering from a torn ACL, are two young aggressive corners that would do serviceable jobs if their numbers are called and both impressed during fall camp. A.J. Justice sat out the whole year with an injury but he could also see some time at safety as could Daniel Roundtree. The JUCO transfer was somewhat a forgotten man this season and did not see any time despite all the injuries. Reed told me he lost his confidence during the summer after he was burnt by some D2 team in a 7-on-7 scrimmage. I still feel there is a piece missing in the puzzle but if Roundtree can somehow regain his confidence, maybe he can see the field in his last year as a Pony. The incoming class is also promising. Myles Crosby and J'Marcus Rhodes are both tall and athletic safeties while Cedric Lancaster impressed at corner in the state championship game.

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