Pony Stampede Spring Preview: Defensive Backs

Spring ball is just a week away! To get you ready, Pony Stampede will preview each position group before the Mustangs take the practice field. Today we take a look at the defensive backs.

The Roster

Led by Kenneth Acker, who will also be playing wide receiver, the Mustang secondary will be much improved this season. Chris Parks returns to play opposite Acker, and up and coming star Shakiel Randolph will look to build upon his impressive play as a true freshman. The storyline of the secondary will be JR Richardson, who looked like a future star last year in training camp before tearing his ACL. If he can rebound from his injury, the SMU secondary could be the strength of the defense in 2013.

Kenneth Acker, 6-0, 195, Senior

Ajee Montes, 5-11, 180, RS-Freshman

Chris Parks, 6-1, 185, Senior

Adam Waheed, 6-2, 190, Junior

Troy Castle, 6-0, 195, Sophomore

Aaron Stafford, 5-9, 185, Sophomore

Blake Poston, 5-9, 180, Sophomore

Colin LaGasse, 5-11, 190, RS-Freshman

A.J. Justice, 6-2, 195, RS-Freshman

Shakiel Randolph, 6-5, 190, Sophomore

Rodney Hubert, 5-11, 165, Sophomore

Horace Richardson, 6-0, 175, RS-Freshman

Jay Scott, 6-1, 210, Senior

Jeremy Gray, 5-11, 195, Senior

Hayden Greenbauer, 6-0, 210, Junior

Andrew Griffin, 5-10, 175, Sophomore

Nate Halverson, 5-11, 185, Freshman

JR Richardson, 5-9, 180, Sophomore

Daniel Roundtree, 6-2, 195, Senior

Grade: B

Strength: Experience

Weakness: Depth at safety

Synopsis

Coming off a year when the front seven of the SMU defense was far and away the strength of the team, the secondary will be looked upon this year to lead this team to success. With the steady and reliable Kenneth Acker returning, his side of the field will not experience any bonehead plays. Opposite of him is Chris Parks, who was torched in non-conference play. But hee did battle a hamstring injury early last year, and was thrust into a starting role after Richardson's injury, against tough competition. Once Parks hamstring healed, and he played against easier Conference USA opponents, he improved dramatically.

But all eyes will be looking at JR Richardson this spring to see if he has indeed healed from his torn ACL, and if he can return to top form. Last spring and fall in camp, he looked like one of the best players in the secondary, and if he can return to that form, and regain the confidence he had, he could be the star of the secondary. His healthy return would allow Parks to return to a role he is more comfortable with, and provide more depth in the secondary.

Jay Scott returns at safety, as does sophomore Shakiel Randolph. Standing at 6-foot-5, Randolph is a very unique defensive back, but his big frame allows him to help cover taller receivers.

What to Watch For: The Younglings

After the projected starters, the Mustang secondary is comprised of freshman and sophomores with very little to no playing time. Freshman Nate Halverson enrolled early, and it will be interesting to see if either can make enough of an impact to get on the field early.

The Mustangs also have four freshman that were redshirted last year, Ajee Montes, Horace Richardson, Colin LaGasse and A J Justice. The odds of any of these players seeing significant playing time is low, unless there is an injury, but they will compete for special team jobs and have plenty of potential.

Break Out Star: JR Richardson

Assuming he is in fact healthy, Richardson could have an incredible 2013 season. He has great technique, is lightning fast, and a ball hawk. Last year's blowouts to Baylor and Texas A&M were largely because of poor cornerback play, but with Richardson in the fold, opposing quarterbacks will have a tougher time against this secondary.

Keep an Eye On: Chris Parks

Parks was just terrible early on last year, but when he was healthy later on he did improve his play quite a bit. Unlike last spring, he heads into this one knowing he will see significant playing time and with an offseason to prepare, a new mentality and a seasons worth of experience, he could develop into a reliable corner this spring.

Predictions:

- Richardson returns healthy and gives the Mustangs three reliable cornerbacks

- Between all redshirt freshmen, at least one will break out this spring and force Tom Mason's hand with some early playing time

- Randolph shows flashes of why he could be an early round NFL pick

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