The Hilltop Review

Come inside another jam packed Hilltop Review for all the latest SMU recruiting news!

2017 wide receiver grabs SMU offer

By: Scott Sanford

Despite being just a sophomore, 2017 Cedar Hill (Tex.) wide receiver Jaylon Jackson (pictured above) has already turned heads with his play.

Jackson picked up his first offer from Texas Tech back in December, and has since been offered by Kansas, Oklahoma State and SMU.

The four-star receiver’s explosive play is being compared to his former teammate and Mississippi signee DaMarkus Lodge, so it’s no surprise the SMU coaching staff stepped in and offered the Cedar Hill product.

SMU running backs coach Claude Mathis and Head Coach Chad Morris spoke with Jackson on Tuesday and extended him an offer as well as an invitation.

“Coach Morris just wanted to see how I liked the SMU offer, and see if I was going to go down there for the spring game or a practice,” Jackson said.

This was the first time the 5-foot-10, 160-pound wideout had spoken with the staff, but he is already familiar with what SMU has to offer.

“I know when you go to SMU, you get a great education,” Jackson said. “Football wise, I really like their coaches.”

Jackson has a long way to go before finally putting pen to paper and signing with a school, but he said his Oklahoma State and SMU offers stand out the most to him right now.

The speedy receiver was hoping to attend both Oklahoma State and SMU’s spring games, but because they’re on the same day he will just be headed to Stillwater.

Jackson is just a sophomore, but there are high expectations so he is focused on improving a few specific things during Cedar Hill’s upcoming spring ball.

“(I want to work on) coming out of my breaks faster and making sure that I’m open out of my breaks,” Jackson said. “Also making sure I have no dropped balls. 100 percent caught balls.”

2017 small forward talks SMU

By: Andrew Hattersley

2017 St. Frances Academy (MD) small forward Andre Rafus just wrapped up his high school and is gearing up for a very important AAU slate.

“It’s going pretty good, you know just finished off playoffs, we had games and practices every week and it went good,” Rafus said, “My upcoming AAU season is going to be a really good season, I’m going to have a lot of coaches out watching.”

While not being able to talk to the SMU coaches as much, Rafus said he has been keeping an eye on the Mustangs and has been impressed with their improvement.

“Well I like what I’ve seen as far as they’ve been improving, I know that they’re still on my list, you know they’re still on my list, it’s just I haven’t trimmed my list down at all,” Rafus said, “We’re just going to wait and see how this AAU circuit goes, see how these sessions go and then I’m going to probably look into trimming my list at the end of the AAU season.”

SMU has not been in a lot of contact with Rafus but he expects to see SMU at one his first sessions for this upcoming AAU season.

“I haven’t talked to them in a while because they’ve been busy with their season but I’m pretty sure I’ll see them at the first session of AAU ball,” Rafus said.

Rafus says that AAU season will end around the beginning of August and after that he will start cutting down his list. Also coming up for the 6-9 small forward is visiting all the schools that have offered him so far.

“I will be visiting all schools that have offered me a scholarship right around the end of my AAU season,” Rafus said.

Rafus currently has offers from UConn, UNLV, USC, Dayton, Wichita State, Georgetown, UMASS, Tennessee, Memphis, George Mason, Kansas State, and UCLA.

Despite being a couple years away from a decision, the Maryland forward already has in mind what type of school he is looking for in the future.

“I just am going to be looking for a school that makes me feel at home, and for it to be a good fit as well, that’s the most important one, the one rule I do have is I need to have a major role on the team but other than that everything else will take care of itself,” Rafus said.

In the meantime, the sophomore forward knows his game can still improve and that is something he is working very hard on.

“I’m trying to improve myself to be more of a lockdown defender, I think once I get there I’ll be good.”

Keaton Bates believes the 2015 class will be the change

By: Matt Sanders

After attending spring practice, Arlington Lamar offensive guard Keaton Bates is nothing short of ecstatic for the 2015 SMU football season, and he has already seen the difference head coach Chad Morris has made.

“It’s very exciting to see them out there, and it is clear that change is occurring,” he said.

It takes a special kind of person to turn a program around, but Morris is off to a good start, which Bates admires.

“What he’s doing is definitely inspiring, and it played a big part in recruiting,” he said. “I believe in what he is doing.”

Just like the rest of the 2015 class, Bates wants to be as physically prepared as possible for when he steps onto the field as a Mustang. Along with practicing drills the coaches gave him, he also sees a personal trainer.

“I like working with coach Fry. He is able to work with my athletic ability, and we have a good player-coach relationship.”

Coach Morris stresses that the team is a family, and the members of the 2015 class are doing just that. Since a lot of the signees reside in the Metroplex, it is easy for them to get together, specifically at practice.

“When we see practice together, we like to hang out and also talk amongst ourselves,” Bates said.

Bates knows that the competition for playing time will be tough, but he will put the team first.

“I just want to come in and do the best I can, whether it’s me playing or being redshirted,” he said. “I will do whatever is best for the team.”

Bates believes the team will turn things around, and the 2015 class has a lot to do with that.

“As a team, I expect to be a lot better, partly because of the recruits,” he said. “There are a lot of guys coming from successful programs.”

Barton recaps SMU visit

By: Billy Embody

2016 Houston Christian offensive lineman Harrison Barton made it out to SMU practice yesterday to watch and visit the campus and came away impressed after he also got plenty of 1-on-1 time with the staff.

“It went really well. It was good to get a feel for how the offense worked and all the coaching styles with the staff,” Barton said. “I got to see how quick the tempo really was and all the coaches in their positions and what they did during practice.”

Barton and his dad had been up to visit before, but this time they brought mom, who got familiar with SMU as well.

“Me and my dad got a pretty good feel for the facilities, the buildings and where you eat and everything like that, but my mom actually came up with us on this trip up so she got to meet the recruiting director’s people, who gave her a good tour of the campus,” Barton said. “I got to see some of the new football coaches offices, which have been redone since the last time I was up there.”

SMU offensive line coach Dustin Fry impressed Barton during their brief conversations and with how much of a technician he is on the field.

“I definitely liked coach Fry’s coaching style. I liked how he gets into the drills with the guys and he’s an up-close coach and he demonstrated what his guys need to do and what they were doing wrong. He really got involved you know? I like that a lot.”

The new SMU staff has injected life into the program and practice reflects that.

“They had music going and it seemed like everyone was real excited about practice, which obviously it’s impressive because guys can be lackadaisical at practice, but none of the guys were like that today. Coach Morris did a good job of getting everyone pumped up for it.”

The new facilities that SMU is planning also have a big impact on his mind.

“I love that. It shows that they have big expectations and with the plans for the new facilities and everything like that it shows that they’re really committed to turning the program around, which stands out to me.”

SMU head coach Chad Morris talked with Barton a little bit, but mainly impressed mom.

“Just throughout practice we got to talk for a little. It was my mom’s first time meeting him and me and my dad are already big fans of him since we met him at junior day.”

After a rave review from his visit and a visit planned for the spring game on April 18, Barton still isn’t sure when he’ll decide yet.

“As far as decision making, I’m not really sure on a timetable,” Barton said. “I’m still looking and I’m still open to other schools, but right now no one else is really competing with SMU.”

Army Navy, SMU, Harvard and Cornell have all offered and Arkansas, Duke, UNC, Rutgers, Stanford, Kansas and Tulane are showing big interest.

Barton will visit Arkansas in the future and Duke and Stanford for a camp.

As for the SMU visit, there were a few major things for Barton that stood out.

“They showed me a lot of love and were focused on impressing me. I liked getting to see the offense and the complexity of the offense. It moves so quickly and like I’ve told all the reporters it’s awesome for me as a guy that’s quick.”

2017 receiver picks up SMU offer recently

By: Patrick Engel

SMU has been active in West Texas under Chad Morris, and 2017 San Angelo (Texas) Central HS wide receiver Aaron Wooten is the latest target in the region. Wooten picked up an SMU offer last week. It was the first offer for the sophomore, so he was expectedly excited.

“It felt great. It was my first offer, and I’m starting off with a big one,” Wooten said. “I’ve been working for it. So many people told me I couldn’t do it, so it felt good to know that this is the first and hopefully not the last.”

Wooten was even more excited that SMU was his first offer, and he gushed about the coaching staff.

SMU is great, I love all the coaches at SMU,” Wooten said. “I already have a pretty good relationship with coach (Joe) Craddock, coach (Justin) Stepp and coach Morris. They’re really great coaches…They just try to build a really good relationship on a personal level. I believe they really know what they’re doing. They’re going to coach you hard and love you up.”

Wooten’s brother, 2016 quarterback Brennan Wooten, is a TCU commit, but was one of the first 2016 prospects Morris and his staff offered. For Aaron, that means he’s known the SMU staff longer than just about every other 2017 prospect.

“From recruiting my brother, I’d known them a little longer, then they started to recruit me after my sophomore season. I love them. They’re awesome.”

Wooten has not visited SMU yet, mainly because his track schedule keeps him busy on some weekends in the spring. But he said he’s hoping to visit for one of the open practices or the spring game.

SMU is Wooten’s only offer, but he is beginning to gain some interest from TCU, Houston, Tulsa and North Texas. He thinks some could offer if he has a strong spring practice showing.

“I feel like if they come and watch me in spring, and I get to talk to them and get to see me in person, [that’ll help],” Wooten said. “Because on my highlight film, I played three and a half games because I got injured.”

The 6-foot-1, 187-poundWooten fractured his scapula in his third game of the season, but returned in time for the last game of the season and caught two touchdowns. He caught five touchdowns in his three and a half games, his first on the varsity team.

Both Wooten brothers attended and played for Marble Falls (Texas) HS last season, but transferred to Central. The younger Wooten said he played outside receiver at Marble Falls but will play slot for his new team.

FW All Saints QB talks SMU interest

By: Scott Sanford

Fort Worth (Tex.) All Saints Episcopal quarterback Luke Anthony is trying to get recognized.

Anthony does not hold an offer yet, but he has heard from San Diego State, North Texas, Tulsa, University of San Diego, Princeton and SMU, and he says his recruitment is finally starting to pick up.

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Anthony spent his junior season backing up TCU signee Foster Sawyer, but is now ready to take over the reigns and prove his worth to college coaches.

“I’m going to be the QB. I’m the guy, so I want to show what I’ve got, and I think once they see me throw the ball, watch my footwork, and see how I lead our guys, I think that’ll definitely spark some initial interest,” Anthony said.

The junior is yet another prospect that can tell the difference between the new and old coaching staffs at SMU, which is part of the reason why he has visited SMU under the new coaching staff three times.

“The old staff seemed happy with where they were,” Anthony said. “The new staff has much higher goals. They know that’s a process, but they’re shooting for the sky, which is a lot better. The (new) coaches interact with the players a lot more.”

Anthony’s recruiter is defensive assistant Keith Gunn, but he has made a point of speaking to quarterbacks coach Joe Craddock as well.

“He’s interested to see me at the camp this summer, so I’m looking to show him a lot there and he definitely seems like a fun guy to work with,” Anthony said. “I like the way he coaches those QB’s out there. He’s super interactive with them. He’s not one of those coaches that gets in your grill when you mess up, and he’s got a ton of energy.”

Anthony will continue to visit schools throughout Texas and across the US this summer, with trips planned to the Ivy League schools, as well as California.

Anthony also said he will “most likely” attend SMU’s spring game on April 18.

Permian defensive backs visits SMU

By: Andrew Hattersley

2016 Permian HS (Tex.) defensive back Desmon Smith did not get to see much of SMU when he visited this past weekend but did get a chance to meet the coaching staff following practice.

“It was a good visit, I didn’t get a full visit because it was right after the opening and I live so far away, but it was real good to go through there real quick, I wasn’t there very long, met a couple of the coaches and that’s really about it,” Smith said.

Despite only getting to meet the coaches for a brief period, the 6-3, 190-pound defensive back said this coaching staff is unlike any he’s met yet.

“They were really cool, I really like them, I like them a lot, coach Morris seems really fired up, we kind of clicked and that was a pretty cool experience to come across,” Smith said, “It was really different from when other coaches talk to me, like he really asked me questions about myself not so much about college or football or anything like that, like he really asked about things that mean more to me.”

As has been the case with many players this year, he noted the entire coaching staff stressed to him the family atmosphere that is a focus at SMU. SMU and Smith had not been talking for too long before the visit but plan to keep talking in the future.

“I had been talking to coach Loepp for a few weeks coming up to that visit and before going up there,” Smith said.

As Smith noted he was not able to get to any of practice because he was participating in The Opening at Arlington Lamar High School, something he says proved to be valuable for him.

“It was good, it was good competition, I’m really just trying to improve my speed and technique,” Smith said.

The Permian product currently has offers from Air Force, Houston, Kansas, Nevada, Ohio, Texas State and just recently picked up an offer from Colorado State. Smith does not yet have an offer from SMU.

Smith also said due to how far away he lives and some financial reasons he is not sure when he will be able to visit SMU again to take in a practice and tour the campus but that he is working on getting back up to SMU for another visit.

Local receiver recaps SMU visit

By: Billy Embody

Dallas Lincoln athlete Robert Craddock took in SMU junior day and practice and for him it was special as his first college visit.

“I really liked it, but it felt all kinds of new to me because I never experienced a college visit or anything like that so it was very shocking to go to something like that.”

The best part for Craddock was finally being able to experience a college program from the inside.

“I just liked the experience of college practice. Standing on the sides and seeing what goes on not just on gameday,” Craddock said.

Craddock did get to speak with SMU defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt, who recruits his area.

“I had talked to the recruiting coach, coach Wyatt, and I just had a small conversation and a meet-and-greet. It wasn’t too big of a conversation.”

SMU’s campus impressed Craddock since it had been a few years since he had been there. The changes were well received.

“I liked the training room, I liked everything about it because it was different and something I’ve never seen before,” Craddock said. “Maybe other college campuses are like that, but it was something different. It was more advanced and more equipped because at my school we don’t really have much.”

Craddock doesn’t have any visits planned right now, but has heard from Northern Arizona and North Dakota State recently.

The 6-1, 168-pound receiver said his ability to go up and get the ball is what makes him a solid receiver, even though he can play both ways.

“I would say my routes and catching ability. I can catch through traffic with people on me,” Craddock said. “I know how to create separation from me and the defensive backs. I can do it all.”

Craddock has a 3.0 GPA and is currently ranked No. 29 in his class.

2017 running back talks SMU interest

By: Andrew Hattersley

2017 North Forney (Tex.) running back Khari Dickinson has a long relationship with coach Claude Mathis on the SMU coaching staff and was back on campus Saturday to visit him and the Hilltop.

“Just being along the side of coach Mathis as I’ve wanted to do when he was at Desoto High was a great feeling,” Dickinson said.

Not only did Dickinson enjoy getting to see an old high school coach he admired but also loved other members of the coaching staff that he had a chance to meet.

“I loved everything that coach Trumain Carroll and the other staff for strength and conditioning and nutrition brings to the table,” Dickinson said, “From the educational staff to coaching they care about your future and not just from a sports vision,” Dickinson said.

While Dickinson said he has received interest from other schools, namely Oklahoma and TCU, SMU is at the top of his list because of the comfort level he has with the school.

“I look forward to the experience there in my next chapter. I have other schools interested, but I felt much more at home with the visit,” Dickinson said.

The 5’7, 153-pound running back has not yet received an offer from SMU but is hopeful to get one in the future.

“I don’t have an offer yet from SMU but I’m seeking it, I spoke with coach Craddock at my school briefly and at SMU Saturday and my coach has spoken highly to him about me from our conversations so our hopes are high,” Dickinson said.

One of the biggest motivators for Dickinson is the Cox business school and what he hopes to do in the future with his Sport Management degree, as well as business.

“The university has the major that I’m planning to major in for the next four years but it was real good, my major will be sport management,” Dickinson said, “I want to be a sports analyst and do sports research, and they have some of the top business professors in the country, SMU will be the best fit for me and where I want to continue my education.”

Argyle linebacker talks SMU visit

By: Billy Embody

2016 Argyle Liberty Christian linebacker Kyleb Howell made the trip to SMU for practice and junior day recently and it’s no surprise that SMU head coach Chad Morris stood out to him.

“I think the main thing I was impressed with was coach Morris and I know he hasn’t been there long and what I noticed was he was telling the truth,” Howell said. “He said SMU may not be for you, but this is why I love it. I really respected him for not trying to sugar coat it.”

The 6-1, 220-pound linebacker was equally impressed by the plans for renovations.

“I liked all the renovations and the pictures. I think in a few years it’s going to be a really awesome place and I think they could definitely winning some conference championships.”

The new, younger SMU coaching staff stood out for how their energy.

“When I was watching practice, I noticed how passionate and how fired up the coaches were for whenever they’d see someone hit each other,”

Howell visited Louisiana Monroe last weekend and Oklahoma a few weeks ago. Eastern Michigan, Georgia Tech and Cornell are all showing interest.

With a 3.8 GPA, an Academic All-State accolade and 118 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and an interception on his season, Howell hopes one coach takes a chance.. “I’m looking for a coach to give me an opportunity to play there. I’m not picky on where it is,” Howell said. “I just love playing football and I just want a chance. Anywhere a coach is willing to take a chance on me, I’m willing to go there.”

Howell expects to camp at SMU this summer.

Skyline defensive talks talks SMU visit

By: Billy Embody

2016 Skyline defensive tackle Melvin Terry took the trip to SMU for junior day and practice and came away impressed.

“It was nice. I really liked the campus and how they treated us and all the coaches treated us like they had a lot of interest in us.”

Defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt updated Terry on where he’s at with SMU as well.

“I talked to coach Wyatt. We talked about how they sent me a letter and how they’re recruiting me,” Terry said. “He was talking about my future at SMU. He didn’t say I have an offer, but he said they were recruiting me.”

The energy at practice impressed Terry since it was unique to SMU.

“I like the tempo and intensity of the practice. It was different from some of the other colleges I’ve been to,” the 5-9, 288-pound tackle said. “It was faster and the DJ made it better. It was like a better high school practice.”

Terry said the word around Dallas among kids is that you can get set up for a great career at SMU.

“That it’s a top notch school. You can go to the Cox School of Business and come out making like six-figures and have big companies knocking at your door trying to get you,” Terry said.

The new coaching staff is also making SMU quickly become a place to be.

“I like them. I like coach Chad Morris. He seems like a real cool dude. He wants the coaches to treat us like we were their kids,” Terry said. “That (Morris’ high school ties) makes me feel more comfortable like he knows we’re coming from certain things and our backgrounds.”

What stood out the most to Terry though was how nice the facilities are.

“I really liked the facilities. They were very nice and they were saying how they’re going to remodel things and if they’re already nice and they’re going to remodel them then it can only get way better.”

Getting recruited by your hometown school isn’t bad either.

“They show you love and everybody knows about it,” Terry said. “They’d notice you and they know you’re getting recruited by SMU.”

Terry has also visited Harvard and Yale and describes himself as a “get-it-done” player.

“I’m more of a bulldog type player. I get it done no matter how I gotta get it done. If coach gives me an assignment, I’m going to get it done no matter what.”

Chisholm Trail wide receiver watches SMU practice

By: Billy Embody

2016 Chisholm Trail wide receiver Tyson McDaniel took a visit to SMU to check out practice and junior day last weekend.

“I thought it was pretty good. They’re facilities were nice,” McDaniel said. “They way they practiced look nice and the way they were coached was good.”

While McDaniel didn’t talk to any coaches, he heard from coach Morris.

“It was pretty good. He got right to the point and what he thought of the program and how things were going to turn around there.”

Practice impressed McDaniel as well.

“It was pretty good. It looks like they’re offense will be where it needs to be and their defense is pretty good,” McDaniel said. “What it seems to look like is they’ll be winning more games.”

When the team came together for the scrimmage, that’s what McDaniel liked the most.

“When the starters vs. starters went head-to-head. It was pretty good. It was energetic,” McDaniel said. “They seemed like they wanted to be out there and their coaches were on them pretty good. It made practice seem like a game situation.”

Morris’ speech before practice still stood out to him as well as the rest of the staff.

“The coach talk. I liked the talk at the very beginning by Chad Morris and then how energetic they were doing 1-on-1s with the receivers and DBs and how intense it was. They were excited to be out there.”

McDaniel was supposed to visit UNT, but was cancelled due to weather. He’ll likely trip to Texas State and Texas Tech soon.

Fort Worth quarterback recaps SMU visit

By: Billy Embody

Fort Worth Trinity Valley quarterback Cameron Matthews visited SMU for practice and junior day and came away thoroughly impressed.

“It was great. I just went over to campus, met with the coaches and heard what coach Morris had to say and what he’s planning for the future,” Matthews said. “I watched practice and saw what they’re looking like.”

Matthews even got a few minutes with SMU’s new head coach Chad Morris.

“Just told me he’s very excited to have me here and I can come back anytime I want,” the 2016 quarterback said.

Offensively for SMU, Matthews gave his own evaluation of the quarterback competition.

“They got some great athletes. Matt Davis, for his size, he slings the ball pretty well,” the 6-4, 195-pound quarterback said. “They’ve got that new freshman, Ben Hicks, and he slings the ball pretty well. I think they’re the two best and they’ll be battling for the starting position.”

All the things offensive coordinator Joe Craddock was teaching was what Matthews has been doing.

“That’s what I’ve been doing since what I’ve been in high school and that’s the best way to throw a football. I know that he’s teaching perfectly,” Matthews said.

Matthews’ brother Tyler played at TCU so he’s very familiar with Dallas and he’d still “love” to go to SMU.

Illinois, Michigan State, San Diego State, Southern Miss, Harvard and Yale have also shown interest in Matthews. He’s still waiting on his first offer.

Matthews totaled 1,918 yards and 12 total touchdowns last season.

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