The Hilltop Review

Come inside this week's FREE Hilltop Review for updates on the latest SMU offers and prospects!

Lamar offensive lineman reacts to SMU offer

By: Billy Embody

2015 Arlington Lamar (Tex.) OL Keaton Bates picked up an SMU offer this weekend after he touched base with SMU offensive line coach Dustin Fry.

“He just kind of told me that they had been looking at me for a few weeks now and they really liked my tape,” Bates said. “He told me that he wanted to offer me in person, but he just couldn’t wait any longer.”

The whole offensive staff was in the room when they gave Bates the good news. Offensive coordinator Joe Craddock chimed in about Bates.

“He’s really excited and shocked I don’t have other offers from big schools,” Bates said. “He said if I come to SMU, I’d be a good steal.”

Fry and Bates have been communicating the last few weeks and their relationship is getting stronger.

“It’s good. I have never met him in person, but from what I’ve talked to him on the phone, I like him a lot,” said the 6-4, 265-pound lineman. “He’s a real honest, genuine guy.”

The staff invited Bates for a visit this weekend and Bates is excited to check out the campus.

“Go there and really get the lay of the land and see what everything’s like. See what the coaching staff is like and see what the feel of the team is and how everybody is,” Bates said. “They’re restarting kind of now and hopefully go in there and build up a great program again.”

Bates went to a couple SMU games as a kid and says the proximity is a plus.

“I know it’s a great program with great history and I’m excited about it because it is close to home and I don’t have to leave for so that’s a real bright side for me.”

There’s a chance that Bates could commit on his visit too.

“Depends on how my visit goes,” Bates said. “SMU is definitely at the top now because of the fact it’s close to home, it’s a good program, I like coach Fry and it’s up there. When it feels right, I’ll do it.”

Utah State is No. 2 because that’s the only other school Bates has visited, but it’s far away.

Bates moves well in the open field and pulled a lot in high school, something that would help him in Chad Morris’ up-tempo system.

“He (Fry) definitely sees me fitting into the system well with me being a leaner, faster type of offensive lineman and how they like to go fast-paced stuff.”

There is some area for improvement including getting bigger in the weight room.

“I love pass blocking and outside zone,” Bates said. “I need to get a little stronger with my downhill run blocking. I love to pull and block out in open space.”

As far as rebuilding, that’s a plus because of the job Morris is doing so far.

“I’d like to be a part of something great and I feel like that program is definitely in the right direction,” Bates said.

Bates’ senior season was also successful as he was a captain and Lamar made the playoffs, but seeing his class evolve really stuck out. “It was great. I got to lead my offensive line and made it to the first round of the playoffs,” Bates said. “It was nice to see the progression of the kids that we played pee wee together and now we’re all seniors and getting offers and scholarships.”

Bates expects to arrive at SMU on Friday and stay until Sunday.

After the season, Bates was named First-Team All-District 4-6A after blocking for quarterback Shane Buechele, the district’s offensive player of the year.

2015 defensive end reevaluating SMU visit

By: Patrick Engel

A lack of a pass rush was a major problem area for SMU this season, so the new coaching staff wasted no time offering players who love to party in the backfield. One of them, 2015 San Angelo (Texas) Central HS defensive end Eli Howard, consistently talks with SMU, but has a couple new suitors.

Howard originally planned to take an official visit to SMU the weekend of Jan. 16, but pushed his visit back to Jan. 30 because of former Mustangs defensive line coach Bill Young’s sudden departure.

“Because Bill Young left, they (SMU) wanted to wait for the new position coach to get in there,” Howard said. “Plus, Tulsa recently contacted me me, and I really like coach Young (who’s now at Tulsa), so that’s a perk of moving my visit.”

Howard will officially visit Tulsa this weekend, and the Golden Hurricane staff previously told Howard’s high school coach, Brent Davis, that an offer is likely coming.

Despite the other schools jumping in on Howard, he remains high on SMU.

“I really like the coaching staff and I like what they’re bringing in, and obviously the facilities and location near downtown Dallas. You can’t beat that,” Howard said.

Chad Morris is another big reason for Howard’s interest in the Mustangs.

“My coaches were actually telling me that he was going to get the job and were telling me a lot about him before he even got it,” Howard said. “Once they got him, I was impressed with what SMU did and how they scooped him up. He’s a great coach.”

Howard was originally committed to North Texas, and he says the Mean Green are still a factor in his decision. He will take an official to Denton on Jan. 23.

“They were with me the whole way through, they were my first offer and were good about keeping up with me. I’m still really interested,” Howard said.

Howard recently picked up an offer from New Mexico, and he says he might have to bump a school if he decides to take an official there.

“They may or may not take the place of SMU the weekend of the 30th,” Howard said. “I’m going to wait until the third week if I haven’t made a decision yet. I’m waiting to see what moves are made after this first week or two.”

Howard said he wants to make a decision soon, but will not rush it.

“It’ll be a feel thing,” Howard said. “If I get enough to where I think its okay and I want to call that place home, then we’ll see. But I don’t know for sure. I’m looking forward to it.”

2016 offensive lineman talks SMU offer

By: Patrick Engel

The SMU coaches spent first day after the dead period visiting DFW-area schools and working to finish the Class of 2015, but some offers were extended to 2016 kids too. One of three 2016 offensive line offers on the day was Frisco (Texas) Wakeland’s Jacob Todora. SMU is his first offer.

“I’ve never been so happy in my life,” Todora said. “I’ve worked so hard and waited a long time for an offer, so I’m just so glad that it’s from a school that I’m interested in and a local one. I’m very blessed to have an offer from them.”

SMU Offensive line coach Dustin Fry called him on Thursday and delivered offer news, but he and Todora had kept in touch over Twitter during the dead period. He said SMU stopped by his school in December to talk with his coach, Marty Secord, and showed a lot of interest in him.

Todora said SMU appeals to him because he thinks he can help build something great on the Hilltop.

“I want to be a part of rebuilding the program,” Todora said. “I know they kind of struggled last year. It would be nice to rebuild a program and be remembered as a person who did it.”

Chad Morris’ presence at SMU has furthered the 6-foot-3, 270-pound lineman’s interest in the Mustangs.

“I thought it was a great hire,” Todora said. “Coming from Clemson, it’s a big move for him. I think he’ll do a good job with the program because he did a great job at Clemson.”

While SMU is Todora’s only offer, he is taking a lot of visits this spring. He will visit Duke on Feb. 7, Boise State on April 4, Northwestern in March (date TBD) and Oklahoma State (date TBD). He said he will visit SMU for a junior day and some spring practices.

Football is important to Todora, but academics are a huge part of his college decision as well.

“Going to college to play football is nothing unless you get your college degree,” he said.

Distance from home gives SMU an edge, too.

“It’s not a sure thing that I’d want to be close to home, but its definitely a big thing and would put a school over another if I have the same interest (in each).”

Wakeland was ousted in the first round of the playoffs this season, but Todora thinks he improved a lot.

“I was pretty happy with my season,” he said. “I improved with pass blocking and running though the whistle. I just think my straight run blocking needs to improve a little.”

Todora said he does not plan on committing anywhere soon. He is getting interest from most of the schools he will visit this spring, and said that Duke is likely the closest to offering him.

Arlington Lamar offensive lineman grabs SMU offer

By: Billy Embody

The second Arlington (Tex.) Lamar offensive lineman of the week, 2016 OL Chris Owens, picked an offer from SMU after the staff offered 2015 OL Keaton Bates this weekend.

SMU offensive line coach Dustin Fry extended the offer and it was a big deal for Owens, who now has offers from Boston College and Northwestern.

“My first school in Texas and Keaton got his offer last weekend,” Owens said. “I finally fulfilled being closer to home and having one of my friends thinking about going there, it’s just real nice.”

Fry visited Lamar yesterday after the dead period ended and liked what he saw from the athletic lineman.

“He came by today at our school and watched me workout,” said the 6-2, 280-pound lineman. “He liked how big I was and how I moved well out in open space and that’s really what he likes to see out of lineman. He was very impressed with me only playing the position for a year.”

There’s not much of a relationship yet for Owens and Fry, who just followed the junior yesterday on Twitter, but Fry did extend a junior day invite.

“He said he was going to send me some information on junior day and the invite and get me out there.”

Owens likes the fact that SMU utilizes athleticism with their offensive linemen, something that would suit his skillset well.

“I do like to pull and outside zone, but I like those screen plays and pulling plays because I can use my athleticism and blocking,” Owens said.

Outside of football, Owens is looking for a great academic experience and that comes from his mother.

“I’m looking at the academics of course. My mom has been preaching them forever,” Owens said. “I’d like to see if it’s a well-balanced school.”

On top of SMU being his first in-state offer, the chance that Bates could be at SMU will always have Owens thinking about the Mustangs. “That will always be something to think about with it being close and having Keaton there so it will always be in the back of my mind,” Owens said.

Owens’ relationship with the staff and not necessarily location will be another big deciding factor in his recruitment.

Owens has been hearing a lot from BYU, Illinois and Syracuse as well.

Sells reacts to SMU offer

By: Billy Embody

2016 Lovejoy (Tex.) quarterback Bowman Sells is very familiar with Chad Morris since Clemson offered him while Morris was offensive coordinator for the Tigers, but Sells got good news today from his coach about SMU jumping in with an offer.

“He actually just came up to me in school today and said he had been talking to coach Craddock and asked him,” Sells said. “I guess it wasn’t very clear and he said yea I’m offered so he came and told me today.”

Sells was excited that Morris is back in Texas and his relationship with Morris is already something to build off of with SMU.

“I’m pretty excited about it because I really like the coaching staff there. I like coach Craddock,” Sells said. “Obviously I have a good relationship with coach Morris. It’s going to be a good chance to build a relationship with them and keep in touch.”

SMU offensive coordinator Joe Craddock has talked with Sells about being a difference-maker for SMU.

“They think I can be the guy there so just recruiting me pretty hard,” said the 6-2, 200-pound signal caller. “Coach Morris ran a similar offense at Clemson to what we run at my high school so it wouldn’t be too much of a learning curve. They like my accuracy and footwork.”

Morris’ and Sells’ relationship started a while ago when Morris visited Lovejoy a while back.

“He (Morris) made a trip up to Lovejoy from Clemson because he’s friends with my old head coach, Matt Green, they had prior communication,” Sells said. “He came here, talked to me and watched me practice and then saw my film so he offered me. We just kind of went from there and have been talking ever since. We’ve got a pretty solid relationship.”

On top of their relationship, Morris being in Texas can only help SMU land Sells.

“I don’t think distance has ever been a big factor for me. I’ll go play wherever I feel is the best place for me and wherever I mesh the best with the coaching staff,” Sells said. “Him coming here definitely, makes it easier for him to recruit me and for me to go there. I can go talk to him whenever I want. It just makes the whole process easier with us two.”

While Sells hasn’t been by SMU for the whole tour, he did take in a recent playoff game at SMU and Morris showed him the facilities.

“I went about a month ago for a high school playoff game and he kind of toured me around there, but that’s the only time I’ve really seen it,” Sells said. “The campus is nice and pretty. They’re improving all the facilities so it’ll look a lot different than what I saw, but it seems to be that they’re making it a great place.”

Sells knows Morris has a plan and that he’s already seeing positives for the Mustangs’ new head coach.

“I expect him to do really well because he’s a great coach,” Sells said. “He’s already doing really well recruiting the area. They’ve already had a lot of commits from what I’ve seen and I think he’ll be able to turn it around.”

Distance isn’t a factor for Sells, but building solid relationships with the staff will be the key.

“It’s really just the relationship with the coaches and where I feel comfortable at with the campus life and who I think is going to give me the best opportunity to prosper and improve the most.”

Ohio State, Clemson, Iowa and Colorado State have all offered Sells. Sells did share that it was pretty cool to see the Buckeyes crowned kings of the college football world.

“I thought that was pretty cool. I had a pretty good relationship with coach Herman as well. Since he left and he’s going to Houston, so that’s a change up as well,” Sells said. “I like Urban Meyer and that whole staff. I visited there this past summer and it’s a pretty cool place as well.”

Sells has visited Ohio State, Ole Miss, Clemson when coach Morris was there and Oklahoma for games this year, but is far from a decision and is focused on improving until the start of his senior year.

Lovejoy went 6-4 in the regular season and lost in first round of the playoffs, but Sells finished with 2,980 yards, 35 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

“We didn’t start too well, but I played pretty well once we got into the district,” Sells said. “I started reading defenses a lot better and I didn’t turn the ball over nearly as much. I used my feet a lot better when I needed to. I just feel like I got a lot better as the season went on.”

2016 linebacker picks up SMU offer

By: Patrick Engel

It’s open season now that the dead period is over, and Prestonwood Christian Academy (Tex.) OLB Deonte Williams was one of five 2016 players to receive an SMU offer on the first day back from the dead.

“It was a blessing and I was honored to get an honor from SMU,” Williams said. “I like it because it’s just right up the road from me.”

SMU defensive backs coach Jess Loepp contacted Williams over Twitter and sent him a direct message informing him of the offer. It was the first time SMU has shown interest in Williams. The three-star linebacker said he intends to SMU in late February.

“They have a good program going, and the coach they brought in will build a program. It’s going to be good,” Williams said.

Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech, Washington and South Florida have also offered the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Williams, and Clemson, Texas A&M and Florida State have shown interest.

Williams said he will not make a decision until his senior year, but said SMU is right in the mix.

“It’s pretty high up there,” Williams said. “It’s one of my schools that’s actually here in Texas. But I don’t have a top school yet.” Prestonwood Christian lost to Bishop Dunne in the state title game, but Williams was pleased with the team’s 10-4 record and his performance.

“Overall, I think we did good,” Williams said. “Everybody showed up and played every day. I honestly can say this was my best year by far. I turned it up a notch and I played better than I did my freshman and sophomore year. I developed better technique and got around the ball more.”

SMU showing interest in 2015 wing

By: Scott Sanford

With the early signings of Shake Milton, Sedrick Barefield and Jarrey Foster, SMU’s 2015 signing class has begun to take shape.

But with the departures of seniors Ryan Manuel, Yanick Moreira and Cannen Cunningham after this season, the Mustangs have continued to look for more possible additions.

While a serviceable big man is the number one priority for Coach Brown, the staff has also reached out to others, including three-star Life Center Academy (NJ) combo guard Malik Ellison.

Ellison, who holds an SMU offer, was at Liacouras Center Wednesday evening to take in SMU’s road game against the Temple Owls.

The 6-foot-6, 175-pound senior, like most SMU fans, was impressed by the Ponies come-from-behind victory.

”It was a great game,” Ellison said. “SMU ended up pulling it out so that was really impressive.”

While Ellison made the quick trip to check out the Mustangs this time, previously it had been the SMU coaching staff making the trip to check out Ellison.

On multiple occasions Coach Brown, Ulric Maligi and K.T. Turner made the trip to see Ellison practice and play, and the senior is appreciative of the staff showing their interest.

“It wouldn’t get any better than playing for a coach like Coach Brown who has been through everything,” Ellison said. “Because I don’t really know much about the school, Coach Brown is the main thing that sticks out to me.”

Coach Brown has been trying to sell Ellison on the Mustangs’ program and the school, but the two also have conversations about basketball and life in general.

“A lot of times we talk about development and just how if I went there how he would coach me to get me to the next level,” Ellison said.

Ellison has not talked with the coaching staff about setting up a visit just yet, but the New Jersey native has one more visit to take once his season is over, so that could change.

Besides SMU, Minnesota, Temple, Creighton, Kansas State and Maryland have offered Ellison, and the Golden Gophers have been on the combo guard the most.

Ellison said he will wait until after the season to make his commitment, but he will have his decision made before signing day.

4-star DT Staying in Touch With an Old Coach

By: Andrew Hattersley

2016 All Saints Episcopal (Tex) defensive tackle Mike Williams has received interest lately from SMU due to coach Loepp joining the coaching staff.

“Well it’s a new coaching staff, the only one I really talk to is coach Loepp, I knew him back when he was at Tulsa, he’s actually the one that offered me when I was at Tulsa so I’ve got a pretty close relationship with him,” said Williams.

Coach Loepp is pushing for Williams to take a visit to SMU soon and meet the rest of the staff.

“He just told me he wanted me to come get a visit down there, come see him, talk to him, meet the new coaching staff, the d-line coach,” said Williams.

Williams is looking at visiting SMU sometime next month but also said he would most likely come for SMU’s junior day if he receives an invite.

The big 6-3, 270-pound run stopper has offers from Miami, Texas, TCU, Ohio State, SMU, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, UCLA, Penn St, Nebraska, Tulsa, Texas, Baylor, Ole Miss, and Michigan.

While Williams does not have any sort of a top 5 yet, he said there are a few front-runners.

“I don’t have a top 5 right now but the leaders right now would probably be TCU, Ohio State and Texas,” said Williams.

As for SMU, Williams certainly has plenty of respect for coach Morris and it is clear he’s keeping SMU as a possibility.

“I think with coach Morris, he’s going to be able to change that program around, they’re going to start getting better recruits if they recruit in the DFW area more but I think the program is going to come up and it’ll be good for me and my family,” said Williams.

That family environment and where Williams feels he has the best chance to develop will play a big role in where he ultimately decides to play.

“I think the family aspect and basically who I feel comfortable with and who I think is going to be a good leader for me,” said Williams on what will be his biggest factors on which school he chooses.

Williams has a long way to go before making a decision, but if he were to attend SMU, he’s confident he would be able to help in turning around a run defense that struggled so mightily during SMU’s 1-11 campaign.

“I think I bring versatility, relentlessness, and just the will to work and get better,” said Williams, “I think I do better on run defense than pass defense so I feel like I can help with that.”

Although the highly touted defensive tackle knows he can help a struggling run defense, he also has a few things he would like to work on in the coming months.

“I’m trying to work on my conditioning and going 100% on every rep.”

Interest picking up in 2016 DeSoto defensive back

By: Andrew Hattersley

2016 DeSoto (Tex) defensive back A.J. Green attended SMU’s camp last year but things have been quiet for the junior since the departure of former head coach June Jones.

“I went to their camp last year, not sure if it was the spring or fall and I did good and they said they’d stay in contact with me, that’s when June Jones left but they did follow up with me, they sent me a couple of letters,” said Green.

Despite the new coaching staff not having much contact with Green, SMU remains a possible destination.

“I think it’s good, I know they are working hard to bring recruits in, and if you get a couple of recruits that are good, that can make a difference, I wouldn’t mind playing there, it’s a school I like,” said Green.

SMU also holds a special place for Green, as his uncle Reginald Muhammad played basketball for the Mustangs during the late 1980s.

“I like the school, I don’t know if I’m going on a visit yet but I like the school, my uncle went there,” said Green.

Another appealing aspect of SMU for Green is the newfound excitement that surrounds the football program.

“I love the big lights and all of that, just give me a time to shine and show what I can do,” said Green.

Louisville is currently the only offer that Green holds but he is receiving interest from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Houston, Boston College, and SMU.

Green was big for DeSoto last season where he finished with four interceptions on the season.

Green believes he would excel in coverage for the Mustangs but admits he does need to work on his tackling.

“I think I play man well, or press, but I need to work on tackling,” said Green, “I’m not a poor tackler but I think that’s just something I need to work on but my strength in a game is man.”

2016 offensive lineman planning visit to SMU

By: Scott Sanford

With the recruiting dead period officially coming to an end Thursday, the SMU coaching staff hit the road once again, visiting high schools in hopes to solidify the 2015 class.

The staff has also been hard at work preparing a welcoming environment for all the high school visitors that will be on the Hilltop in the coming weeks.

While the staff is focused on the 2015 class, some 2016 visitors will also be on campus, including Murrieta Mesa (Calif.) offensive lineman Nathan Smith.

The 6-foot-7, 271-pound junior has finalized his trip and will be on campus the weekend of January 23.

Smith had no contact with the previous staff, and never thought of SMU as a realistic destination, but after talking with offensive line coach Dustin Fry, Smith is excited to see what SMU has to offer.

“I would like to meet the coaches face to face, I really want to see the campus and the area around it,” Smith said. “I just want to see if it’s a place I could see myself.”

Smith does not hold an offer from SMU just yet, but because the California native is just getting started with his recruiting process, the Mustangs have plenty of time to pull the trigger if they see fit.

Offensive line coach Dustin Fry has kept in contact with Smith since SMU first reached out, and the two have spoken about Smith’s film, the city of Dallas, and just football in general.

While Smith said he has always loved to play football, he has never really followed college football until this year, which is why his recruitment is so open at this point.

“This is going to sound ignorant, but I haven’t really followed college football until this year,” Smith explained. “I’ve always played football but I never really watched college football until this year, and I watched Oregon and Ohio State in the championship game.”

Smith has been offered by Baylor, Missouri and Montana State, but is also receiving interest from Arizona, ASU, Clemson and South Carolina, among others.

With Smith’s recruitment just heating up, the offensive lineman said he is nowhere close to making a decision and is just focused on improving his game before his senior season starts.

“My strength is actually something I really need to improve on,” Smith said. “I want to perfect my footwork, and I just want to improve my speed and ability to move to the second level (when run blocking).”

2015 athlete working towards SMU offer

By: Demetrio Teniente

If you are in search of the ultimate team player, look no further than 2015 Aldine Davis (Tex.) quarterback Anthony Malone.

“I played quarterback, cornerback, wide receiver- pretty much every skill position there is,” Malone said. “Anything I can do to help the team. I’m willing to play any position that will get me on the field. Running back, nickel back, special teams or a DB- it doesn’t matter to me as long as I can help the team.”

Not only is Malone willing to play any position, but chances are he’d be pretty good at just about any position. Though only 5’10” and 165 pounds, Malone is a multi-position athlete. He earned first-team all-district honors for his feats on special teams and at the wide receiver position.

Football has always come easy for Malone and it makes sense, because he has been playing since he was just four-years-old.

“I have two brothers,” Malone said. “And they just pushed me to play football and ever since then that’s what I’ve been doing.”

All the work he has been putting in his whole life is starting to come to fruition in the form of college scholarships, most notably the offer he holds from New Mexico State.

Not only does the offer signify an opportunity for Malone to continue playing the sport he loves, but it represents an opportunity to continue bettering his future. Malone is the youngest of five and would be the first member of his immediate family to attend college.

“My oldest brother he had a scholarship to play JUCO in Nebraska,” Malone said. “But we didn’t have the money to fly him out there so he never played college ball. My momma is all about getting a free education wherever that may be. She wants me to explore all my options, because to her it doesn’t matter where I go and I don’t care either…as long as I’m getting an education.”

A little over a week ago, Malone reached out to SMU coach Van Malone, to express his interest in becoming a Mustang.

“I DM’ed him and told him I was interested in coming to SMU,” Malone said. “And he told me to send him my Hudl and we were going to go from there. SMU is a school I’m very interested in going to.”

Malone likes the atmosphere and identity new head coach Chad Morris and his staff are bringing to the program and would like nothing more than to be a part of the rebuilding process.

“They got a new coaching staff that’s trying to get the team back on track and I’m all for it,” Malone said. “[Morris] runs a tight ship. I’m all for winning- just getting on board and doing whatever it takes to help this team win. I’ve been looking at film and I looked at their roster and they have a hand full of guys leaving and I think that with my talent, I could come in and help this team get some wins.”

Despite his love for football Malone recognizes that he may receive better offers from Track and Field programs than he will from football programs and is keeping his options open.

“I’m not going to decide on signing day,” Malone said. “My track coach tells me I might get some offers from track programs. So I’m going to hold off on making a decision…unless I get the looks I want. Maybe I’ll be a walk on or something if I go to school for track.”

Malone will be making an official visit to New Mexico State next Friday and says he would like to venture over to the Hilltop, if he picks up an offer.

“I feel that if anybody gives me shot it wouldn’t be a bad move,” Malone said. “I’m a hard worker, a quick learner, and when I step on the field I’m going to be one of the best- if not the best- to do it. I’m going to do everything I can to put me team in position to win games, go to bowl games. If anyone takes a chance on me, they won’t regret it.”

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