We have two strong runners on the 2014 team. Gresham was recruited to play immediately and Pope runs with some intensity. Do we have an offensive line that can support a strong running game? Or do you see the running backs used mostly as a blocker? –AlamoCityStang
Billy’s Response: The linemen SMU has in the stable are actually more dedicated to run blocking first, especially along the interior. Daniel McCarty. Seaver Myers and Taylor Lasecki are very capable at getting up into the second level and creating holes. The line may not have shown this last year, but it also wasn’t put in great positions to have success in the running games. You’ll still see the backs used to support in pass protection, but I also think there will be more flare routes from them to stretch the defense out a little bit. The tackles do concern me a little bit in helping the run, but along the interior, SMU has the chance to have a dramatically improved running game if the right plays are called.
Omar’s Response: Unfortunately, I don't think SMU has the offensive line to support Gresham and Pope on the ground. I see the Mustangs having a really hard time replacing both starting guards. It will be nice to have Taylor Lasecki back for another year and Kris Weeks should be much improved at right tackle. However, the line had problems protecting Garrett Gilbert last season and he was a pretty mobile quarterback. I'd love to watch Kevin Pope, Daniel Gresham, Prescott Line, and even K.C. Nlemchi have breakout seasons on the ground but, with June Jone's pass-first system and a weak offensive line, I'm not getting my hopes up.
Patrick’s Response: The offensive line's performance, especially run blocking, was arguably the team's biggest weakness last season. While I don't think any of SMU's running backs looked great anyway, they were hurt by poor run blocking and little push from the offensive line. Despite the improvements made at running back, I do not feel that SMU's offensive line is at the level it needs to be to support a strong running game. SMU lost several lineman who saw significant snaps last season, and even if some of the freshman linemen have a good camp and earn starting spots, I don't see much progress being made this season. But with a lot of young linemen on the roster, the line's outlook for future seasons is solid, if the young guys learn and improve and fulfill their potential.
Scott’s Response: If SMU wants to avoid a 4-8 finish, they’ll have to run the ball consistently in 2014. The offensive line is only losing Ben Gottschalk so they will be better this year. The key to improving on last season will be finding a starting five and sticking with them. In order to be successful, offensive lines need to play consistently together, which did not happen last season. If you insert Daniel McCarty in at right guard, the offensive line should improve. There’s no doubt June will use his running backs as extra blocks at certain points, but with guys like Pope, Line and Gresham, you have to give them opportunities to run the ball.