The Hilltop Review

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

West Rusk OL recaps SMU visit

By: Patrick Engel

East Texas has been a focal point for the SMU football staff, so a number of East Texans have flocked to SMU’s junior days. Among the last group of visitors was 2016 New London (Texas) West Rusk offensive lineman Corey Brister, who was floored by Chad Morris and his staff’s famed tempo.

“It’s just crazy how much energy they had,” Brister said. “I stayed with the offensive linemen and watched their individual drills. It was nonstop, and it was pretty cool. It was drill after drill after drill.”

Despite the big crowds at junior day and the coaches busy coaching, Brister found time to talk to defensive backs coach Jess Loepp, who is the recruiting coordinator for his area.

“He’s just a nice guy, great guy,” Brister said. “The staff, everyone is willing to help no matter what. There was no trouble with anything. Any questions I had, I could ask any of them. If they didn’t have the answer, they would direct me to someone who did.”

The coaches hooked Brister on SMU, but the big takeaway for him was the emphasis the coaches put on academics, which are a strong factor in his evaluation of schools.

“Coach Morris hardly even talked about football the whole introduction. It was all about academics and more about us going there, that’s our key to get a degree. That just blew me away. He was all about academics, all about what’s going to help you in the future.”

Brister said he will be at SMU’s spring game on April 18. He also will visit at Baylor sometime in May. Brister gets lots emails inviting him to camps, but he doesn’t have a lot of interest besides SMU. The experience he had and relationships he built while visiting the Hilltop helped him put SMU in a favorable spot.

“To be honest, SMU’s my top,” Brister said. “It’s my number one right now.”

Brister has no offers at the moment. He was West Rusk’s primary right guard in 2014 and measures 6-foot-2 and 282 pounds.

Local lineman takes in SMU junior day

By: Scott Sanford

One of many positives about SMU’s new coaching staff is that they welcome all high school players to campus, giving the athletes a chance to experience a college campus no matter how many offers they actually have.

For a player like 2016 Naaman Forest offensive lineman Miller Nguyen, it’s the exact opportunity he needs.

The 6-foot-1, 260-pound Nguyen had the chance to take in an SMU spring practice, as well as junior day, and came away impressed by his experience on the Hilltop.

“In general, I thought the campus was really nice and beautiful,” Nguyen said. “It definitely seemed like a family environment.”

While Nguyen didn’t get a chance to talk to the coaching staff, he has heard enough about them to know that he would be in good hands on the Hilltop.

SMU’s junior day was the first for Nguyen, and he enjoyed all of the amenities plus the Mustangs’ practice he got to watch.

“I liked how everything (at junior day) was so organized,” Nguyen said. “I thought their practice was really interesting as well. I liked their Oklahoma drills and what not.”

Nguyen’s recruiting process is just getting underway, so the rising senior has not been in contact with other schools yet.

The center is however working towards getting his name out to other coaches.

“Well, this season and upcoming spring ball I need to show up more (on the field),” Nguyen said. “Then I need to start putting my name out there any way I can. I just want to get a chance to play at the next level.”

In the mean time, Nguyen plans to visit SMU at least once more, including the Mustangs’ spring game on April 18.

Flower mound defensive back impressed with SMU

By: Andrew Hattersley

2016 Flower Mound HS (Tex.) cornerback Devyn Coleman was at one of SMU’s first spring practices and came away impressed with the coaching staff and their vision for each football player going forward.

“I liked it a lot, I can tell it’s a great experience, they have a good coaching staff,” Coleman said, “I liked them all pretty well, I talked to the corners coach [Coach Loepp] and the defensive coordinator mostly.”

Academics are an extremely high priority for the Flower Mound cornerback and he loved that the coaching staff shared this same belief.

“They guarantee your graduation, and they care about your education and that it’s a great school to be at,” Coleman said.

Along with the academic side, facilities also play a big role in Coleman’s positive view of SMU.

“The facilities were really nice, I liked the field, the locker room is nice, weight rooms, I liked it a lot, they have a very good training staff” Coleman said.

Coleman said he is receiving interest from Missouri, Kansas State, North Texas, Midwestern State, as well as, a couple other smaller division 1 schools but he does not yet have any offers.

The 5-10, 162-pound cornerback will be back on the Hilltop again this weekend and again for SMU’s spring game April 18th. This time he says he will be paying closer attention to the style of practice, specifically what the defensive backs do.

“I’m probably going to look closer at what drills the DBs are doing and look closer at how the practice is going.”

Skyline linebacker talks SMU interest

By: Patrick Engel

2016 Dallas Skyline linebacker Danzell Sims is a popular DFW sleeper pick, and he made the easy trip SMU’s March 28 junior day. Like most visitors, Sims was impressed with the coaches’ energy level.

“They’re very enthusiastic,” Sims said. “They’re always hyper. If someone messes up one play, they’re like ‘get it together the next play.’ They were fun to watch.”

Sims also liked the facilities and the plans for the upgrades in and around Ford Stadium, especially the weight room.

“It was really nice, I like the facilities like the weight room,” Sims said. “Being a smaller guy, I stay in the weight room since I’m trying to get bigger.”

The visit was Sims’ first college visit, and he hadn’t had much contact with the SMU coaches before. His only other planned visit is for TCU’s spring game, although he did get invited to a Kansas State junior day that was canceled due to snow. The local product said he plans to go to a lot of camps in the summer.

Sims, who is 6-foot and weighs 192 pounds, does not have any offers, but said SMU, Kansas State, Missouri and Washington have been showing interest.

Skyline boasted a pair of senior linebackers with several Power five offers, and Sims started alongside both and said his season was a success.

“Everything went good, I was one of the younger guys on the field. And I was starting next to Anthony Wheeler and Malik Jemison,” Sims said.

Sims has the opportunity to seize the playmaking and leadership roles that Jemison and Wheeler occupied. He plays outside linebacker and can do a little bit of everything from that position.

“I’m great at open field tackling, I shed blocks from linemen very well, and I can cover receivers,” Sims said. “I’m fast off the edge when I blitz…I’m working very hard in the weight room right now. I’m trying to get to 205 (pounds) so I can be a bigger hitter and tackler.

Austin Westlake WR loving SMU’s academics

By: Matt Sanders

Austin Westlake junior wide receiver Kylen Skonning took in SMU practice last week, but he was already impressed with SMU even before arriving to the Hilltop.

“It’s a great academic program,” he said. “It’s known for its academics, and it puts academics first.”

Not only was Skonning impressed with how head coach Chad Morris runs practice, he also noticed similarities between SMU and Westlake.

“Their practice reminded me of one of my practices because they did things that we did,” he said. “Our offenses are similar.”

Just like other players who have attended SMU practice, Skonning had nothing but praise for the job coach Morris and his staff have done to turn the program around.

“Coach Morris is a great coach because he stresses family and creates a great atmosphere,” he said.

Skonning believes that the effort the coaching staff has put in will bring success to the program.

“They had a low point last year, but they can only go up from here,” he said. “The program is going to pick up and we will see SMU as one of the top teams in the conference.”

Skonning is receiving interest from teams such as SMU, UNT, Harvard, and Penn. As he heads into his senior year, he has several goals for himself, both on and off the field.

“I would like to be a little more consistent with catching the ball and blocking,” he said. “I also want to be an all around good teammate and good leader for the younger guys because I want to be a good example and a great role model.”

Although he is working on improving his game, Skonning wants to better acquaint himself with SMU.

“I really would like to get a better look at the campus,” he said. “I am interested in what they have going on there.”

Local WR impressed by SMU’s tempo

By: Billy Embody

2016 Bonham wide receiver/tight end Corey Smallwood made the trip to SMU for junior day and was impressed with the tempo the team operated with.

“I liked it. The campus was nice and the facilities were all really nice,” Smallwood said.

The 6-3, 210-pound receiver spoke with offensive analyst Mark Smith and offensive line coach Dustin Fry on junior day.

“They were talking to me about my senior season and that they’re looking forward to what I can do my senior year,” Smallwood said. “They want to watch my film.”

For Smallwood, practice really impressed.

“Watching them practice. There was a lot of competition,” Smallwood said. “They’re really high tempo and they’re not taking anyone’s crap. They’re getting work done.”

For SMU’s offense, the tight end role is key due to its versatility and Smallwood could be a candidate to certainly be moved around.

“That would be good. I like the way they run their offense,” Smallwood said.

On the field, Smallwood can really contribute in numerous ways, but it’s his blocking that stands out.

“I block pretty well for my size. I’m not as big as a tight end. I’m usually just a receiver. I block good and I like to go fast.”

Smallwood is working especially hard on his blocking technique this spring and summer to be able to contribute more as a down tight end.

Smallwood wants to major in Kinesiology and what stood out the most was just the overall vibe of the campus.

“It’s really close to home and it’s a really nice campus with all the facilities and dorms,” Smallwood said.

North Texas, Texas Tech, Northern Colorado, Midwestern State and Southeastern have all shown interest in Smallwood and he’ll take a trip to MSU this weekend.

McNew believes relationships are key for the Mustangs

By: Matt Sanders

Robinson linebacker and SMU signee Matt McNew attends every weekend SMU football practice, and as the weeks go by, he gets more comfortable on the Hilltop.

“I have a lot of fun being on the sidelines at practice,” he said. “Everything is up tempo, intense, and well organized. There is no standing around.”

One of the most important relationships McNew has made is with linebackers coach Archie McDaniel, and that started before either of them were associated with SMU.

“I have a great relationship with coach McDaniel,” he said. “I’ve known him since my junior year when he was still at New Mexico.”

For McNew, relationships have been a key factor. Not only does he get along with the coaches, but he is becoming close to current players and members of the 2015 class.

“I’m getting along great with everybody. I feel like I’m starting to fit in,” he said. “The current players are good guys because they welcome everybody.”

McNew knows that the team is coming off a disappointing season, but he respects what head coach Chad Morris has done to this point.

“It means a lot for coach Morris to turn the program around,” he said. “It shows how good of a coach he is, and it shows what he can bring to the team.”

Coach Morris has stressed how important it is to recruit locally, and McNew believes that tells a lot about his future head coach.

“He is very faithful to Texas, and he loves Texas football,” he said.

Although it is difficult to tell how good the team will be this year until the season starts, McNew knows that an excellent opportunity is there for the Mustangs.

“The team has a chance to be a whole lot better, and I hope we can contend for a bowl game, but only the season will tell that.”

Jenks offensive lineman recaps visit

By: Andrew Hattersley

2016 Jenks HS (OK) center Mason Minnix was on campus March 28th for the first time and came away convinced the future was bright for SMU.

“I was really impressed, I knew they had a good staff, but I was really impressed with coach Morris,” Minnix said, “I love the new offense, it’s fast and that’s how we run it at my school, it’s just a whole new atmosphere, they just want to win.”

Minnix was also very impressed with practice and the intensity that each and every coach, especially coach Morris, showed throughout practice.

“I like how intense it was, and all the coaches across the board were intense but coach Morris was always preaching speed and aggressiveness and there’s not a play where he doesn’t notice,” Morris said, “He was always getting in someone’s grill or getting in someone’s face, he was just buzzing around, he was as energetic as the players.”

The 6-2, 275-pound center said he spent a lot of his time watching the offensive line and was very impressed with how engaging coach Fry was with his players.

“I spent a lot of time watching the offensive line obviously and coach Fry was always fired up and engaging with his guys, it was just fun to watch, I was really excited,” Minnix said.

After seeing practice and meeting the coaches, Minnix has no doubt the turnaround could happen faster than expected.

“I know SMU from an academic standpoint, it’s impressive, but athletically over the past few years it hasn’t been where its been in the past but after my visit I really think they’re going to turn it around, I was very impressed,” Minnix said.

Not only did Minnix enjoy taking in a practice and seeing the coaches, but found the facilities as something he could get used to in the future as well.

“I was actually really impressed, and the weight room was really nice, and the training room was really nice too, I was really impressed with how they had so many doctors on site, and the physicians,” Minnix said, “I also do like the strength coach, I mean everything, they have just about everything you could ever need and everything that another school would have they are about to get which was very impressive too and they were saying what the new upgrades they were going to have and it was very impressive.”

No schools have offered the Jenks center yet but he is hearing from Arkansas State, Tulsa, Penn, Dartmouth, as well as, SMU.

Minnix will also not be able to attend the spring game for SMU but he is planning to visit the Hilltop again in the coming weeks.

While he waits for his first offer, Minnix is continuing to work on becoming a lineman that can play all positions, instead of just center, by working on his pass protection.

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