Billy and Hatts look at what we learned and didn't learn about SMU football from spring practice!
What we learned
Davis can be the guy
and Jeremiah Gaines
have to be the biggest beneficiaries from the new staff's system and Matt Davis
working with Joe Craddock
. Davis took some big strides fundamentally this spring from what we can see and while he took off in the backfield at times in the spring game, did a good job hitting his third step and letting the ball fly. The play action game that was non-existent in June Jones' Run N' Shoot will help Davis and any quarterback at least give the defense something to think about. Davis has the athletic ability to make plays out of nothing like he showed last year in spurts, but it's his development as a passer that was the most impressive development this spring. Not only as a passer did Davis develop, but as a leader. Ben Hicks
got the full praise from Chad Morris for the way he's acted, but there's no doubt that if you watch Davis, this is his team and his time to take the reigns for a full season. With the offseason workouts and fall camp coming, Davis has more time to take the right steps to becoming the AAC breakout player of the year.
SMU's defense is set to thrive
Forget about the pass rush and run defense going against a weak offensive line. SMU's defense has the athletes to take a big step in Van Malone's 4-2-5 defense this season. The linebackers and Star could be a group that has a big-time year. Shakiel Randolph
played well before getting hurt at the Star, but Kyran Mitchell
stepped up and had a huge spring game. Anthony Rhone
also played well although had a quiet spring game. With Jonathan Yenga
and Nick Horton
at inside linebacker, watch out. Yenga can run and Horton looks like a grown man now that he's back. Malone looked to be experimenting with different packages of players to help in pass rush as well with Robert Seals
making the transition to a standup defensive end. If Seals can provide a spark off the edge, the pass rush will see a big boost from him and could cover up some of the lack of depth at cornerback. While SMU has to stay healthy in the secondary with Ajee Montes
, J.R. Richardson and others all being hurt during spring, the front seven could be a nice surprise due to the depth at linebacker and versatility along the defensive line. Zelt Minor
was hurt and SMU moved Zach Wood inside and with big bodies like Nick Reed
, Spencer Hollie
and Mason Gentry
inside, SMU will be able to play a lot of different linemen and keep guys fresh.
Players are buying in
The energy, the attitude and the play on the field took a jump up in just four weeks of spring practice and spring workouts. The players competed every single day for playing time and to impress the staff. Morris had the team salute the crowd every single open practice and the family atmosphere is truly felt across the board. From the confidence displayed by the staff to the players, SMU fans should feel cautiously excited following spring practice. SMU found a few playmakers even with the offensive line struggling, but that shouldn't cover up what is in motion. #PonyUpTempo is here and with everyday, every new hype video, every relationship built by this staff, SMU football inches closer to being relative and competing for championships. It might not happen this year, but don't kid yourself, Morris and company are making believers out of just about everyone, especially the players.
What we didn't learn
The Offensive Line
Throughout the spring, one of the biggest questions about this team has been whether the offensive line would show signs of life or whether they would continue to struggle. Coming out of camp the line is still filled with moving parts as the staff continues to try different combinations to see what works the best. Davis is equipped to cover up some of the struggles on the offensive line. He will need a couple players to step up, such as Taylor Lasecki
, if this offensive line wants to clear up some of their issues and develop a strong running and passing game. A certain positive for this team is having offensive line coach Dustin Fry
’s hands on style to work with this group on a daily basis. This is certainly is a question mark coming out of spring, but expect the line to get better as time goes along once Fry can get a little more work in with the players.
The starting job appears to be Matt Davis’ to lose but behind him things are a little unclear. Freshman Ben Hicks was predicted to possibly challenge Davis for the starting nod, but instead experienced mixed results throughout spring ball. Hicks certainly showed at times why he was highly touted coming out of High School with some strong throws but he did tend to rush a few throws and had trouble overthrowing his receivers. Darrel Colbert showed the ability to make plays with his legs but he too struggled passing the ball. During SMU’s spring game, Hicks and Colbert alternated series with the second team and it appears they will continue to battle throughout the summer for the backup quarterback job behind Matt Davis. Both certainly offer encouraging attributes for the team but neither appears quite ready to start just yet and might need a little more time behind Davis.
This is a position grouping that should be a little concerning for fans. The mustangs lost a couple of players from last years defense, and are only bringing in one secondary piece in this years class, as well as, transitioning the likes of Shakiel Randolph to other positions. Throughout the spring, this group has been a little hot and cold for the defense. They have made some big plays, including forcing some turnovers during practice mainly through interceptions. However, with the aggressive style this team has been playing with, they have also given up some big plays. This became evident in the spring game especially on a couple big touchdown passes like the 45 yarder to Courtland Sutton for a touchdown. One key for this team is to determine is whether guys like A.J. Justice
, William Jeanlys and Jordan Wyatt
can take that next step to help solidify the back end of this defense.