2013 Recap: Last year there was never any doubt whom the SMU starting quarterback would be. Garrett Gilbert came into camp with the job and did not give the coaching staff any reason to second-guess his role leading the offense. Gilbert started the first ten games of the season and even though he missed the last two because of a knee injury the senior put together one of the finest seasons in SMU and NCAA history. He threw for 3,528-yards and 21 touchdowns and ran for an additional 267-yards and six scores. This included his 635 all-purpose-yards performance against Temple, the seventh-largest total in NCAA history.
When Gilbert went down with his knee injury, the SMU offense sputtered with freshman Neal Burcham in control for the last couple games. He threw for 556-yards, two touchdowns, and four interceptions.
2014 Preview: The SMU coaching staff had been adamant that Burcham will be the starting quarterback this season, essentially eliminating competition for the position before camp even starts. This seemed risky considering the redshirt-sophomore’s lack of experience but June Jones seems confident that Burcham is the man for the job. This was all before the Mustangs picked up Texas A&M transfer Matt Davis (more on him later), however, so Burcham’s starting spot might not be so concrete anymore.
Should Burcham hold onto the starting job, he will need to be more careful with the ball. He had a one-to-two touchdown-to-interception ratio as a sophomore and on a team that relies as heavily on the passing game as SMU does. Burcham needs to learn to take what the defense gives him and if a safe pass is not available he will need to take off and run.
Unknown to Watch: The Davis transfer is an intriguing addition for the Mustangs. After spending some time at the JUCO level, Davis was a heralded commit for the Aggies and at the time was considered the third-best dual-threat quarterback in the country.
This ability to pass and to run makes the transfer (who has three years of eligibility left) a nice fit for Jones’s Run-n-Shoot attack. If Davis can learn the Mustang playbook quickly he could win the starting job over Burcham this year.
Star of the Group: This distinction has to go to Davis. Burcham could be solid as he matures but Davis, who was ranked as the fifteenth-best prospect in the state of Texas, has much greater upside potential for SMU.
Pony Stampede Two-Deep:
1. Neal Burcham
2. Matt Davis