The Hilltop Review 2/13

Come inside this week's Hilltop Review for all the latest in SMU's recruiting news!

2016 4-star DT talks SMU offer

By: Scott Sanford

There’s no question the Mustangs lack depth on the defensive line now, so it makes sense that the staff would make that a priority as they start to recruit the 2016 class.

With hopes to turn around a 1-11 program, the staff continues to go after some of the most recruited athletes in the area, and that includes 2016 Euless Trinity (Tex.) defensive end Chris Daniels.

The 6-foot-4, 290-pound Daniels is already receiving interest from the likes of Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma, but just received his 11th offer from Coach Mark Smith.

Daniels received no contact from the old coaching staff, but Coach Smith told him they’re starting fresh and looking to make an impact fast.

“They’re building a family in the Dallas-Metroplex area,” Daniels said. “They aren’t going to go all over to New York and California. They want to build a family from here.”

Daniels was invited to attend Junior Day on February 21, but will not be able to attend because of a scheduling conflict with TCU’s Junior Day.

The pass rusher said he and is brother will however visit SMU on Friday because they are both eager to meet the new staff and learn what SMU has to offer.

“I am excited just to meet all of the coaches and players and see how they work and their drive,” Daniels said. “I know they are very good academically and this year, the coaches are trying to turn everything around to make a great football team,” Daniels said.

There’s no question Daniels is looking for a school that values academics, but he also said being close to home is important.

“It’s pretty important to stay home to have my family be able to see me play,” Daniels said. “It’s just something to consider.”

Daniels also holds offers from USC, Oklahoma State, Kansas Ole Miss, Western Michigan and Utah State.


By: Scott Sanford

The Mustangs continued their trend of offering 2016 defensive linemen when they pulled the trigger on Allen (Tex.) defensive end Levi Onwuzurike.

SMU defensive backs coach Jess Loepp has been in contact with Onwuzurike for about a week now, and Loepp offered the 6-foot-3, 243-pound run-stopper on Wednesday.

Selling a recruit on a program can be tough after a 1-11 campaign, but this staff continuously preaches that they’re building a family, and that’s exactly that Coach Loepp told Onwuzurike.

“They (SMU) are on their way to building a program. That’s what they have been talking about,” Onwuzurike said. “They (the coaches) are really out going and comfortable people to talk to.”

Thanks to his high school, Onwuzurike has had the opportunity to play at SMU before, but he was not on campus for long, so he hopes to take his time looking around this time around.

Onwuzurike doesn’t know much about SMU as a school just yet, but the junior plans to do his homework when he’s on campus for Junior Day on February 21.

“I want to see how their defense works and how they work with their defensive lineman,” Onwuzurike said. “I want to learn about the education there and how the players are; how the relationships with the players and coaches are.”

With time before he needs to make a decision, Onwuzurike plans to focus in on improving his game before his senior year.

“Oh yes, pass rush. I want to get that down for sure,” Onwuzurike said. “I want to add a move because here at Allen we’re confined to getting around the corner, so hopefully I can add a more or two and really utilize that.”

Besides SMU, Onwuzurike has been receiving heavy interest from Texas Tech, TCU and Baylor.


2016 Skyline OL talks SMU offer

By: Billy Embody

It was National Signing Day and SMU defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt jumped on the phone to offer Skyline offensive lineman Clarence Henderson.

“He was waiting to get on the phone with me and waiting to talk with me. It feels good to finally hear my voice,” Henderson said. “Just talking with the O-line coach, D-line coach and they said they want me to come down for the junior day so they can see me.”

Offensive line coach Dustin Fry talked with Henderson about how he fits SMU’s new offense.

“He said you got the athleticism that fits our package,” Henderson said. “You’re quick on your feet. We can put the weight on you because you have the body type. You just fit.”

Every other day the staff keeps up with Henderson over Twitter and was happy to pick up another offer.

“Any school I can go and get my free education is great, but being closer to home is more of a better feel for me. I feel as if I’m home since it’s a home away from home.”

Henderson holds offers from UCLA, Arizona State, Washington and Rice, but SMU being closer is definitely a plus.

Being close to home is better for him because Henderson admits he could get homesick if he was too far away.

As for SMU’s new head coach, Chad Morris, Henderson simply said he believes SMU will be back.

“Hopefully it’ll all play out,” the three-star lineman said. “He can get them back up on the top.”

SMU isn’t just a good fit for Henderson on the field though.

“They’re one I’m considering and very considerable because they’re a good school academic-wise. Then athletically, it’s good also.”

With Chad Morris at the helm, SMU is charting a new course and Henderson believe SMU is close to turning it around.

“A new coach is always going to bring a new era in, but maybe coach Morris is the push SMU needs to go further.”

SMU has a solid film school in the Meadows School of the Arts and Henderson would like to continue to pursue production media in college.

“Other than football, I just want to keep pursuing my trade continuing from my school at the next level of production media,” Henderson said. “Just being able to feel comfortable on campus, a great campus life.”

Fry loved Henderson’s athleticism and at 6-2, 245, Henderson needs to put on some weight, but feels his athleticism is what makes his game the best.

“I’m a great pass blocker, I can run and got a real low 40-time (4.73) and I’m quick on my feet,” Henderson said.

Oklahoma, Texas and Stanford have also shown interest. Henderson will trip to Baylor, TCU, and Oklahoma for junior days and he’d like to go to Arizona State, but wasn’t sure if he could make it to their junior day.


Clemson commits talks SMU offer

By: Billy Embody

2016 Argyle (Tex.) tight end J.C. Chalk has been committed to Clemson since before Chad Morris left the Tigers for SMU. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Morris and his staff offered Chalk last week.

“I came around the field house last week or so and that’s when my coach told me they had offered me,” Chalk said. “I’m not sure who it was, but I’ve talked to most of the guys on that staff.”

Chalk is in the middle of basketball season so the three-star tight end hasn’t kept up with new offers, but says his relationship with Morris is very strong.

“We have a pretty good relationship. I actually talked to him on the phone on signing day. He was just making sure that I’m coming for junior day and stuff like that.”

Chalk will attend SMU junior day and Morris is one of the reasons Chalk committed to Clemson last summer, but his relationship with Morris has been built over the last couple years.

“He understands me pretty good just because he’s from Texas and all that kind of stuff,” the 6-4, 230-pound tight end said. “He just continued to build a good relationship when I first started talking to him and went down to their camp and so we’ve built a relationship since then and it’s kind of gone on.”

Even with the SMU offer, Chalk if “full into Clemson,” but didn’t count SMU out. “It is nice to have an in-state offer just because if something crazy were to happen with Clemson, then it’s nice,” Chalk said. “If they brought in a new head coach or something like then it’d be a big school to think about, but as of right now not really.”

Chalk is very familiar with SMU and has been to numerous games.

“I’ve been there quite a bit just because my girlfriend lives in Highland Park so I’ve took her to a couple football games here and there,” Chalk said. “Then also my uncle, Keith Gunn, is on staff there so I went to a couple games because of that too. I know quite a bit about SMU.”

Even with all the connections, Chalk is just working a few relationships just in case.

“I’m pretty much done. I’m still trying to keep a relationship with the coaches because like I said, in case anything crazy happens,” Chalk said. “You don’t want senior year to roll around and have no where to go.”

SMU is one of the few schools that Chalk is talking to and in-part it’s because of the new up-tempo offense.

“He just liked out how I could split out and play receiver and play tight end. I can block too so they just liked how I could play receiver and tight end and how they could use me in their offense,” Chalk said. “They were saying how I was a big mismatch with linebackers and they can split me out and over power them.”

Clemson got Chalk to commit early for a few reasons that he detailed.

“Just really the coaching staff and the system they run,” Chalk said. “It’s a family environment and feeling and then also I like coach Swinney a ton and he’s teaching me to be a better man and be a better football player.”

Chalk believes SMU hiring Morris will pay off for the Mustangs.

“I think it was a good hire for them. He’s going to be able to recruit pretty well just because he knows all the Texas coaches and that type of stuff. It was definitely a good hire for SMU.”

SMU, Ole Miss, Oklahoma State and Alabama have all offered Chalk and are the only schools Chalk is still keeping up with.


Tennessee safety talks SMU interest

By: Andrew Hattersley

2016 McGavok HS (Tenn.) safety Sidney Willis will be in town for SMU’s junior day and is looking to continue old relationships at a new school.

“I’m really close with coach Malone, the defensive coordinator, I was close with him when he was at Oklahoma State, and I met coach Morris when I was on a visit to Clemson last year,” Willis said, “I haven’t really talked to all the coaches, but from what I have heard from coach Malone I have a good feeling for the rest of the coaching staff and what they’re going to do.”

SMU has been on Willis’ radar for quite a while due to his desire to live close to his aunt, who lives in Dallas.

“I think its good and it’s one of the nicer places in Dallas, my aunt lives in Dallas and it’s always been a dream to live as close as I can when I go to college, I feel they have a very bright next couple of years with the new coaching staff coming there,” Willis said.

Although location will play a big role in deciding where Willis commits, academics will be the deciding factor.

“Academics is going to be the biggest for me because civil engineering is what I want to do with my life after football and whatever school has the best school for me in that field is what I’ll base my decision off of,” Willis said.

With Willis’ aunt living in Dallas, the safety has watched the ups and downs of SMU and believes the next couple of years are going to be very positive on the Hilltop.

“It was really the tradition a long time ago that caught my eye growing up and just watching what SMU has gone through,” Willis said, “I felt they got a bad rep, I still had a good strong feel about playing there one day and just this coaching staff coming in I feel like I have a better feel for them.”

After announcing his first class at SMU, Willis came away impressed with the job coach Morris and his staff were able to do in just a few short months.

“I thought they had a big turn in the recruiting class, how they got those new recruits in I think they’re going to have a great year next year, a lot of new players can play early and I think the recruiting staff did a great job with that,” Willis said.

Willis has been talking with a few of these commits on Twitter and has definitely got positive responses from them following their decisions to attend SMU.

“I’ve met a couple guys off of Twitter and talked to them about SMU and they seemed to really feel that SMU was the best choice for them and I think it would be good for me too,” Willis said.

Willis is receiving interest from Arizona State, Duke, Georgia Southern, Louisville, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Utah and Vanderbilt.

He does not have offers from any schools yet, as they are waiting for his transcripts and ACT scores, but if he does receive an offer from SMU, he says they would definitely be in the running.

“It’s going to be in the top 5 of schools I will be choosing from, I feel like that would be a good school to give me a chance if the offer ever came about.”


Local 2016 QB talks SMU junior day visit

By: Patrick Engel

SMU started offering 2016 quarterbacks soon after Chad Morris was hired, but another quarterback who later popped onto SMU’s radar is Lancaster (TX) High School’s Ryan Ross. While Ross doesn’t have an offer, he has heard from multiple SMU coaches and has reciprocated the interest.

“It’s about medium interest level,” Ross said. “I’d like to see if they would show a little more interest. But I think they’re going to be a really good program coming up with the new coaching staff and players that are going to come in this year.”

Morris and running backs coach Claude Mathis stopped by Lancaster to see Ross and told him to come visit. Ross is also considering coming for a junior day, although he said it isn’t a certainty.

“Coach Mathis and coach Morris came to my school a couple weeks ago. Coach Mathis said if I wanted to come up to their spring practices and talk to them, I can,” Ross said.

Ross says the hiring of Morris increased his interest in SMU because of the offense he will install, but he sees the other benefits of SMU beyond football.

“They’re going to have more of an up-tempo offense, the education is great, the campus is great. I just like the overall school,” Ross said. “I think [Morris] was a great pickup. He’s going to (attract) a lot more players from everywhere.”

Ross does not have any offers, but is hearing from Oklahoma State and New Mexico. He attended a junior day at Oklahoma State in January and has visited New Mexico before for a camp. He said he plans to visit Houston soon as well.

The 6-foot, 160-pound Ross played his junior season at Dallas Kimball High School, but transferred at the end of fall semester. He cited a number of reasons.

“The school was taking forever to put my grades in, attendance wasn’t being recorded when I was going out of town to colleges,” Ross said. “Overall, Lancaster will have better recruiting and will push me better than Kimball did.”

While Ross said he is excited to start practicing with his new teammates, this past season was an enjoyable and successful one for him.

“It was probably one of the best teams I’ve ever played with,” he said. “I loved how my receivers could go up get the ball and my offensive line could protect me. The defense was good at getting me the ball back quick so we could go and score. I’m going to miss [my Kimball teammates], but I had to do what’s best for me.”

Ross threw for 2,945 yards and 35 touchdowns in 2014.


Poteet linebacker talks upcoming SMU visit

By: Andrew Hattersley

Signing Day is in the rearview mirror and the coaching staff is setting their sights on the 2016 class. With that, a new group of targets is visiting the Hilltop Feb. 21 including Ralph H Poteet HS (Tex) middle linebacker Tuck Tucker.

“I’m excited to visit and get to know the coaches, and have a better look at their facilities,” Tucker said.

Tucker is very familiar with the SMU campus but has also seen a transformation take place over the last couple of months from SMU being a school to stay away from to one that is now a place kids want to come play.

“It was crazy man, that quick, he’s only been there a month or two and he’s got that many commitments, before he got there, I know people that wanted to go there and it was kind of like ‘stay away from there’,” Tucker said, “Then he came and everything changed and it seems almost like the culture there changed.”

The Poteet linebacker is very familiar with the SMU campus and actually attended a few of SMU’s games last season. Over the course of the past year, he definitely senses there’s been a change on the Hilltop.

“I’ve been there a few times, last year during the season, that was before coach Chad Morris came to coach at SMU and it was nice then, and I know he’s really changing it around now,” Tucker said, “It’s going to be a great school to go to, the campus is beautiful and I think he’s really changing things around there to make it a great program.”

Tucker doesn’t currently have any offers but has heard from UTSA, Michigan State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, TCU, as well as, SMU.

“It’s not a whole lot, I get mail a little bit, but not a whole lot, coaches will come see me and talk to me a little and then they ask my coaches about me a lot but no offers or anything yet, nothing too serious,” Tucker said.

During his high school career, Tucker has played a variety of positions for his team; something he says makes it difficult to know what he needs to work on.

However, he is focusing on quickness and improving his knowledge to help make him a well-rounded player.

“Well I think it’s great for a player to not only focus on his strengths, depending on what I play because I’ve played multiple positions, at linebacker I want to become more explosive and better my first step, and probably understanding the game on defense because I haven’t played it very long,” Tucker said.

Despite not playing the game very long, Tucker believes his biggest strength is his football intellect but acknowledges he’s not where he wants to be.

“My strength’s probably the knowledge of the game but I would think there is always room for improvement because I can always get better at something.”


Manvel athlete talks SMU interest

By: Demetrio Teniente

Hunter Hagdorn is 6’, weighs 175 pounds and runs a 4.5 40. He has good size, decent speed and great hands. What he doesn’t have (yet) is an offer from a college program.

That’s not to say he doesn’t have teams looking at him. Currently he is getting looks from SMU, Maryland, Colorado St. and a couple other programs.

Hagdorn has been talking to SMU’s Joe Craddock a lot lately and says the relationship there is making him seriously think about possibly playing on the Hilltop.

“We have been in touch for a while now,” Hagdorn said. “We probably talk about once a week or two to three times a month. I could see Craddock as a big brother or uncle- just really a mentor. He is a player’s coach- he knows our interests and its really cool to talk to him. He knows what we are thinking going through this process.”

Hagdorn was invited to SMU’s junior day and given that he has already met the majority of the coaching staff is looking forward to checking out everything else about SMU.

“I’ve seen the facilities in pictures,” he said. “I just want to see them in person. Want to meet coach Stepp and build that relationship. And see the school as a whole, because it isn’t just about football. So, I also want to get a feel for the city and the environment. I want to learn more about the business program- I know they are a top ranked business program and that’s what I will be studying.”

Even though he doesn’t hold any offers, Hagdorn has given thought to where he would like to play and put together a wish;ist of sorts for offers that include: SMU, Maryland, Arizona State, UCLA, and TCU.

“I would love an offer from SMU,” Hagdorn said. “I just want the SMU coaches to know that I am very interested and even though the process is going slow right now, I understand that I just have to take it day by day and if it takes a little more patience I’m fine with that. I believe in my heart that there is a path for me. I believe in God and that he has his hand over me so I’ll work every day and let it speak for itself.”


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