The Hilltop Review 2/23

Come inside a special Junior Day edition of the Hilltop Review with the latest SMU's recruiting news!

Wakeland offensive lineman is feeling SMU

By: Patrick Engel

Frisco (Texas) Wakeland offensive lineman Jacob Todora was smitten with SMU when he received an offer from offensive line coach Dustin Fry, and that showed when he came to junior day wearing an SMU shirt. Unsurprisingly, he enjoyed his time on the Hilltop.

“It was really nice, my favorite part was the pictures we were taking,” Todora said. “We had a green screen where we put on all the SMU stuff, and then we took pictures with all the coaches. Then we did a tour of campus. It was all really run, and I had a great time.”

Todora had made the short drive down the Dallas North Tollway to SMU before, but he got to see the football facilities and the campus like he’d never seen it before.

“We went to the highest part of [Dallas Hall], and inside it is absolutely amazing. Just an incredible building, gold everywhere,” Todora said.

While Fry was the one to extend the offer, Todora keeps in consistent contact with a lot of the coaches and DMs with them on Twitter at least once a week. He also met some of the staff for the first time on junior day, and said the coaching staff is his favorite part about SMU.

“They were exactly how I thought they’d be: they’re all family-like, and I really like that,” Todora said.

Todora has offers from SMU and Illinois, but has taken visits to TCU, Duke and Purdue. He plans to visit Kansas, Arizona State, Tulsa and California, all of whom are showing interest in him. He said he does not have a favorite, but acknowledged SMU will be “very hard to top.”

Despite the praise, Todora said he won’t be ready to make a decision for a while, unless a school really impresses him. He’s intent on looking carefully at each school and doesn’t want to rush a decision.

Wakeland went 8-3 in 2014, and while the Wolverines lost in the first round of the playoffs, Todora thinks he and his team did well and the best is ahead.

“I think I did well, but I know I could have done better,” Todora said. “The tape was pretty good, but I haven’t played my best football yet.”

Todora plays tackle for Wakeland, but thinks he will play interior line in college. He is 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds.

Long snapper commits to SMU as a preferred walk-on

By: Billy Embody

Lake Travis Long snapper Garrett Stotts hasn’t visited SMU before, but SMU’s new head football coach Chad Morris made it easy for him to commit Sunday to a preferred walk-on spot.

“Coach Morris is there now and he used to be at Lake Travis, where I am. Coach Carter helped a lot and he has a good relationship with him so that’s really how this happened.”

Stotts has yet to visit, but expects to come watch a spring practice and check out the campus then.

It was Morris reputation that got Stotts to commit to the new era of SMU football.

“I have been in touch with him my entire life so I think it’s a great place to go and it helps to have coach Morris there,” Stotts said. “I know he’s going to do great things with the program so I felt it’d be a good fit for me.”

SMU signed kicker Josh Williams and with Jackson Koonce returning at punter after a solid freshmen year, it’s clear Morris is focused on having solid special teams.

“Coach Morris really focuses on all positions and I guess pick precedent over one or the other. He thinks they’re equally important positions,” Stotts said. “If they call the long snapper, you’ve got to have a good snap everytime. You can’t roll one back there.”

Stotts talked with coach Morris and agreed it was, “a good fit,” and Stotts would be able to accomplish what he wants at SMU. That doesn’t mean there’s not some things to work on for the 6-1, 240-pound snapper before he sees the field.

“Being able to block on punt protection is a strength of mine. Obviously, I need to gain a little speed. I’m always working on snapping and trying to get better.”

Stotts also looked at TCU, Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State among other schools.

Barton picks up SMU offer on junior day

By: Andrew Hattersley

2016 Houston Christian (Tex.) offensive lineman Harrison Barton struck up a great connection with the coaching staff during SMU’s junior day and it led to an offer shortly thereafter.

“It’s really important for me to get the first one, it’s always been a dream to play college football so now that I’m obviously there it means a lot especially after how impressed I was with junior day and everything the coaches had to say,” Barton said.

Barton loved the relationship he was able to build with the staff during junior day, which was also his first time meeting the staff.

“It was awesome getting to meet them and immediately we started developing a good relationship,” Barton said, “I was really impressed with all the energy they brought, I mean they were awesome and hyped to be there and it made me feel excited too.”

One of the main topics of discussion for the staff was the renovation of the facilities in the coming years; despite the fact many recruits actually loved the facilities to begin with. .

“I was impressed with them they were great facilities but as a staff they are not happy with them,” Barton said, “They talked about a lot about the new renovation coming up and they’re actually building a whole new football building that is going to have like a barber shop, a new weight room, a new indoor football practice field, the facilities are just getting better and better each year.”

Barton is receiving interest from Rice, Houston, Kanasas, some of the Ivy league schools, Army, Navy, San Diego State, and will likely be heading to Rice’s junior day March 14, as well as try to head to a couple other spring practices at Tulane and Navy but he left no doubt who his number one school is.

“Right now there is no school that comes close, they’re really good in academics and academics are something that is important to me and the way coach Morris talked about how much they value academics really meant a lot to me and I was pumped about that part and everything that comes with the offer, to me they’re second to none right now so I was really excited about it,” Barton said.

Barton said he is going to try come up for a couple days of SMU’s spring practices, as well as, sit in on a couple of the meetings to get a good idea of the offense.

“I am going to try to plan a good day with him so I’m going to sit in a couple of meetings and try to get a real good feel for the offense and everything that is going on with the whole up tempo theme right now and see the offense and how it works,” Barton said.

Barton said he feels due to only being 6-3 and 280 pounds, the up tempo offense Morris runs might be perfect for him to use his mobility.

“It’s awesome for me because honestly a lot of schools looked at me and I’m only 6’3 but they were obviously willing to give me a chance just like that, I run a five-flat forty so I play with great footwork,” Barton said, “I’m in great shape which is key to run an offense like that so I’m really excited about it, it’s a part of SMU that really sells me on SMU to be able to every day run that type of offense.”

Local cornerback talks SMU junior day

By: Patrick Engel

Arlington Lamar corner Madre Harper has enjoyed getting to know the SMU coaches since picking up an offer in January, but junior day was his first extended time on SMU’s campus, and it blew him away from the start.

“We all met in this common area, people were really nice in greeting us,” Harper said. Then they split us into four groups, to get that intimate, down-home feeling. My group went first into the locker room, they had pictures, a live DJ and they (the coaches) were excited to take pictures with us. They showed really great energy and they showed genuine love and care for us.”

Harper said the group saw the weight room and other training facilities, and the coaches described the renovations that are planned for them.

“I got to see a little of what they’re doing, what technologies they’re about to implement in order to make people faster so SMU can get back up to the days they won the three national championships with the Pony Express.”

The coaches also took all the visitors on a campus tour. Harper said he had been to SMU to train and run on the track before, but never went through and saw the whole campus. He was impressed with the development and construction that the school has done in the last 10 years.

“We got to see all the beautiful stuff that was on the campus,” Harper said. “It’s built really nice, everything is easy on the eyes and a lot of history. Everything is built centrally too. Nothing is more than a five to ten minute walk. You should never really be late for class.”

Harper describes himself as a high-energy guy, so it’s no surprise he was drawn to SMU and its high-energy coaches. He had previously met Chad Morris, who extended the offer to him, as well as offensive line coach Dustin Fry. He met the defensive staff for the first time at junior day and gave them rave reviews as well.

“I like to get hyped and stuff, and I really like that they’ll get hyped right along with you, and I really appreciate that,” Harper said. “They’re really great guys and they’re really glad to have me. I felt that from them, and they were just really happy and energetic.”

Even though Harper wasn’t shy about his affection for SMU, he has a lot of other suitors and he’s been impressed with them too. Oklahoma State, Pittsburgh, Iowa, Duke, Boston College, Utah State, Louisiana Tech and North Texas have offered him. He plans to visit a lot of spring games and get to most of the schools that have offered him. He’s already visited Oklahoma, Baylor and Oklahoma State, and the Cowboys left an impression.

“OSU actually offered me at their junior day, which kind of surprised me,” Harper said. “I was talking to them a little bit, but I never expected an offer at junior day, and they’ve been showing me the most love. All my schools are showing me love, but OSU is constantly sending me mail and keeping in contact with me. Not that the other schools aren’t doing that.”

Harper said doesn’t have any favorite schools despite the early love from SMU and Oklahoma State. He said the chance to get on the field right away will play a big factor, and while it’s not essential he stays close to home, he appreciates that SMU was his first in-state offer and said “it would be nice” to stay close.

“It’s about me trying to get on the field and play,” Harper said. “I really try and keep my eyes open and not be biased. I want to look at every school and make sure I make the best choice because it’s a life-changing decision, and I don’t want to pick a school that I don’t feel confident that I could stay there for four years. I want a school where I can go there and feel like a second home.”

Harper is 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds. He had two interceptions last season and ran one back for a touchdown.

Kansas commits visits SMU with his brother

By: Scott Sanford

Despite being firmly committed to Kansas, 2016 Wylie East (Tex.) running back Aubrey White took in SMU junior day on Saturday and came away impressed to say the least.

White, who holds offers from the likes of Alabama, Arkansas, TCU, Nebraska and SMU among others, took in SMU’s junior day with his brother and was blown away by the difference this new coaching staff is making.

“It was better than I thought it would be,” White said. “To me, my impression is that the whole team and coaching staff is committed to the new program. Coach Morris is really doing a great job of getting everyone on board with his new system.”

The two-part unofficial tour of SMU consisted of a trip to the dorms, dining hall and classrooms before heading back to the locker room where the players got the chance to try on SMU jerseys and helmets.

SMU’s amenities were impressive to White, but it was something else that stood out to the junior running back.

“The environment was fun and very enthusiastic,” White said. “The coaches all bonded with us and were hands on, answering questions and being respectful and that said a lot because some coaches at Junior Days will have all these good recruits but only talk to the main ones. But no, they did it differently. They talked to every single one of us. They went on the tour with us. They talked to the parents and so that stood out to me.”

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound White also spoke with both Coach Chad Morris and Coach Claude Mathis, and came away excited hearing how the staff planned to use him if he ever decided to decommit from Kansas.

“We just talked about the whole system and how I need to be a part of SMU,” White said. “It really just comes down to my play style and how they’re going to be running their offense that fits me well.”

While White said he is still “solid” on his commitment to Kansas, he will continue to listen to other schools and see what they bring to the table for him.

Carr enjoys SMU’s junior day

By: Patrick Engel

SMU’s first junior day under Chad Morris featured more than 60 visitors, and among the large group of defensive backs was Arlington (Texas) Bowie corner Ardran Carr, who was wowed by the energy the new coaching staff created.

“It was fun, there was a lot of energy around campus,” Carr said. “It was great to finally meet [the staff]. Most of the staff is new, and they seem like they’re good coaches.”

Carr had only received letters from SMU before, so Saturday was his first time meeting the staff and getting to see the campus and football facilities.

“Everything was really great and it was nice, it was just really exciting,” Carr said. “[My favorite part] has to be when we tried on the jerseys and took pictures.”

Carr does not hold any offers, but is hearing from Purdue, Houston and Fresno State. He has already visited Oklahoma and said he wants to get to Kansas State for a junior day. The 6-foot, 176-pound corner thinks a couple could be close to offering.

“Probably SMU, they’re showing a lot of interest, and maybe Purdue,” Carr said.

No school sticks out as a favorite for Carr, but he said he interested in SMU as much as any other school that he’s looking at.

Carr had 37 tackles, four pass breakups and one interception last season, in which Bowie went 7-4 but was knocked out of the 6A playoffs by San Angelo Central in the first round.

Local defensive back meets SMU coaches, enjoys junior day

By: Andrew Hattersley

2016 Wylie East (Tex.) defensive back Cameron White has been on the SMU campus multiple times before and was back again for SMU’s junior day.

“It went really well, I talked to coach Malone and coach Loepp,” White said, “They just told me basically it was like a family there and he really made me feel comfortable like I was at home and I really liked that.”

The coaching staff has talked to White a fair amount through Twitter but White was excited to finally get around the coaches and see how they interact with each other.

The 5-10, 170-pound safety also got a chance to take a tour around the campus, which he has done a couple times before, but this time he got to see the uniforms and equipment, which was a refreshing new addition for him.

“The campus was really nice, I’ve been there a couple times before so I’d really like to come there next year,” White said, “I really like the locker room and everything, I liked the gear and uniforms and it was just really exciting.”

White has no other visits scheduled, nor does he have any offers yet. White has been talking to Vanderbilt, Houston and UCLA.

The next visit White takes may be back to SMU with his brother Aubrey in a couple of weeks for SMU’s spring practices.

“Me and my brother Aubrey White, who was offered by them are going to come during spring ball and check them out.”

Manvel receiver visits SMU

By: Patrick Engel

Chad Morris has said repeatedly that SMU is going to compete with the best teams in the nation on the recruiting trail, so it’s no surprise that SMU has reached into Houston-area factory Manvel (Tex.) High School.

About 10 Manvel players trekked up to SMU, among them receiver Hunter Hagdorn, who left with a memorable experience.

“We got to go into a couple of the buildings and see what the campus life is all about,” Hagdorn said. “We also got to go into the football and athletics facilities and check out the locker room, weight room and training room and get a feel for SMU football and SMU life as an academic standpoint as well…The feeling I got from that was just like home, and I grew up in a small town so that’s perfect for me since I don’t want anything too big.”

Morris and Hagdorn have known each other for a while. Hagdorn went to a camp at Clemson last summer and he met Morris there, and has also kept in contact with a couple of the offensive assistants in the last couple months.

“Coach Morris treated me very well there, so I’ve had a relationship with him since then,” Hagdorn said. “Coach Craddock has come to school before, and we’ve stayed in contact throughout the recruiting period. [Saturday] was my first time meeting coach Stepp, and I think that was key to my visit because hope me and him can grow closer.”

Coaching relationships are a big part of any recruiting process, but Hagdorn places a big emphasis on academics too. So it shouldn’t surprise to hear that he’s interested in the Cox School of Business.

“The Cox School of Business is huge in my recruitment, since I will be majoring in business management. There’s no better place for it than the Cox School of Business,” Hagdorn said.

Hagdorn was so impressed by SMU that he might not wait too long for a return trip. He said he wants to get back later in the spring, but also plans on visiting TCU again after a good junior day experience there. Hagdorn also wants to visit Arizona State, Maryland, California, UCLA and Ohio State. He does not hold any offers, and he said SMU has been showing the most interest out of any school, which gives it a big boost on his list.

“After my visit, I would say that TCU and SMU are tied for the top. I couldn’t place one further than the other, but maybe SMU since they’ve shown a little more interest,” Hagdorn said.

Manvel had 12 Division I signees in the class of 2015 and went four rounds in the 6A D1 playoffs, and the Mavericks look like a top five team in 6A this coming season.

“Just to be able to play on such a stacked team and be a starter is huge,” the 6-foot, 175 pound Hagdorn said. “I was taught to never count my touches, but make my touches count. With such a deep lineup at the receiver position, you try and depend on making your touches count.”

Hagdorn had 22 catches for 375 yards and three touchdowns, mostly operating out of the slot.

Rock still looking for first offer

By: Andrew Hattersley

2016 Cypress Ranch (Tex.) athlete Collin Rock was at SMU junior day and loved getting the chance to meet the SMU coaching staff and see the campus for the first time.

“It was good, I loved coach Morris, the whole coaching staff, I loved how it’s all like a whole family type atmosphere,” Rock said, “You can tell they’re all pretty close together and I felt good about their whole coaching staff.”

It wasn’t, as much what the coaches said to Rock that impressed him so much rather just how they interacted with each other and the players.

“Just [the staff] being able to joke around with each other a lot, that kind of just gave me the sense of the camaraderie of all the coaches,” Rock said.

One of the first activities for the recruits was getting a tour around campus, for some it was their first chance getting to see the campus.

“I liked the campus, I thought it was really really pretty, I liked it a lot,” Rock said, “We got to walk around the cafeteria, the dorms looked great, weight room was good and then I loved the locker room as well, the locker room is really nice.”

Along with the cafeteria, and locker rooms, Rock was impressed with the campus overall.

“I thought the campus was great, I loved it, campus wise, the athletic program, especially the coaches, I liked the whole part, you really don’t feel like you’re in the city so I liked it a lot.”

The 6-0, 185-pound dual threat quarterback has not been in touch with the coaches a lot other than through social media, but he hopes to talk to SMU more in the coming weeks, as well as, pick up an offer.

“I’ve talked to coach Craddock on Twitter a little bit but other than that not much, so pretty much just through twitter is what it’s been though,” Rock said.

Rock does not have any offers right now and has no visits planned to any other schools, as he gets ready to begin his baseball season.

“I have nothing planned, I have baseball, the season is about to start next week,” Rock said, “I’m going to be booked pretty much every weekend so I have a prior commitment with that.”

Woodrow Wilson athlete takes in SMU junior day

By: Scott Sanford

Despite it being junior day, SMU hosted a number of sophomores over the weekend.

2017 Woodrow Wilson (Tex.) athlete Darrion Green has just started to receive interest from the SMU coaching staff, and was excited to get the junior day invitation.

Overall, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Green, who plays running back and cornerback, enjoyed his visit to the Hilltop.

“Junior Day at SMU was awesome and fun,” Green said. “I learned more about the academics and coaching staff while doing the tour since I’m only a sophomore.”

Green does not hold an offer yet, but came away feeling good about his chances of picking one up in the future.

“I got to talk to Coach Morris and he wants me to come back for the spring football practice and will reevaluate me to possibly offer me. They like my film and my character,” Green said.

Green also got to talk to one of his potential position coaches in former DeSoto head coach Claude Mathis.

While they are just getting to know one another, Green has been happy with the relationship they’ve built so far.

“We have a strong bond. Coach Mathis and I have a good relationship and he hopes for me to come back again because we are close despite he can't contact me due to NCAA rules. He wants me to stay in touch with him though,” Green said.

Green has received interest from Montana State, UNT and UTSA, but has not yet received an offer.

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