Many people have written off the SMU
running back situation (including myself) as going to the incoming freshmen due to their explosive play capabilities. When I saw K.C. Nlemchi (pictured above) a few weeks ago, he had put on 15 pounds of lean weight in the first month of Tru Carroll's conditioning program and that was enough for me to select him as my dark horse spring MVP. There has certainly been questions about Nlemchi's blocking, ability to take contact and staying out of trouble. Nlemchi is one of many players to buy into the new staff and his reenergized work ethic has his poised to take a major step this spring. With Nlemchi's ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, SMU can find a spot for him to get playing time this year. It seems like Nlemchi has turned the corner as a football player and if he keeps it up this spring, he'll find himself starting in the backfield vs. Baylor
Jeremiah Gaines is finally a tight end. Now that Gaines has been moved to a more fitting position, I expect the soon-to-be junior to finally show why he was so sought after in high school. We all saw SMU football's video where Gaines out-muscled defensive end Justin Lawler
in a tug-o-war, which put Gaines' bigger, stronger body on display. There's no question Gaines must have some built-up frustration after being buried on the depth charter by June Jones and the former staff, and the 6-foot-2, 244-pound Gaines has all the talent in the world to see a significant jump in playing time this fall. Spring practices will be Gaines' first opportunity to show the new staff what he can do on the field, and I fully expect him to turn some heads.
I'm going with Darrion Richardson. He was the MVP of training camp last season, and I don't think it's a stretch to call him the most talented player in the secondary. He mixes in good range and athleticism with solid run defense. I think he'll get the most reps with the 1s at free safety in spring ball. He can play strong safety as well, especially if someone else impresses. But I think the only player who would push him over to the strong side is Rodney Clemons
, who won't arrive until summer. While Van Malone has more of a background in coaching cornerbacks, I think Richardson benefits from his presence and his defensive scheme.
After what many would consider a down season last year for Darius Joseph, look for him to have a major bounce back year. After leading the nations in receptions during his sophomore season, Joseph struggled to get going his junior season when a lot of the attention was on him as the number one receiver. One of the areas where Joseph excelled was in the short passing game, which will be a focus in the new Morris offense and should help get the ball in his hands early. The senior wide receiver is the leader of this group and will have to bring along an inexperienced but talented group of receivers. This leadership, as well as, Joseph being the go to guy like he was again towards the end of the season should help this offense early on.
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Roundtable: Key Position Battles