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

2017 four-star linebacker grabs SMU offer

By: Andrew Hattersley

After visiting last summer for a camp, 2017 Kennedale (Tex.) Scout 4-star linebacker Baron Browning had been trying to get in touch with the new staff but hadn’t been able to. That’s why he was surprised earlier today when he received an offer from SMU.

“It was pretty surprising because I’ve been trying to get in touch with them but I haven’t had a way of getting in contact with them,” Browning said, “So my coach when I was talking to him he texted me and was like ‘Oh and SMU offered you today,’” Browning said.

The 6-3, 220-pound linebacker had been trying to reach former SMU defensive coordinator Tom Mason since the end of the camp last year and wasn’t sure he was still on the staff after the turnover.

“That’s the only person that I had contact with when I went there, I just watched the camp, never had a chance to visit the facilities or anything like that,” Browning said.

From what he has heard however, Browning is very impressed with the academic reputation SMU has, and says that will likely keep them in the running throughout the process despite SMU being a smaller school.

“I heard it is the Harvard of Dallas, I have a few friends that go there that I played against that played with my brother, they go to school there now but I don’t really know too much about SMU,” Browning said.

While Browning doesn’t really have a list yet, he said that he is going to go to a school that offers him the best education.

“I don’t really have a list yet, I’m still evaluating each team, it just depends on how I fit in, it doesn’t have to be a big school wherever I go, I’m just going to go where I can get the best education, nothing else really matters to me as long as I can get an education, SMU definitely has a good education there.

Browning also holds offers from Baylor, Arkansas, Texas Tech, Nebraska, UCLA, Washington, Oklahoma State, Houston and Texas A&M.

Despite not being able to reach SMU yet, Browning plans to get in touch with the coaching staff again to figure out when he can come and visit the campus.

“I might try to figure something out and get in touch with them through my head coach, we’ll working something,”

Waco La Vega receiver has SMU at the top

By: Patrick Engel

Since picking up an SMU offer in early February, 2016 Waco (Texas) La Vega wide receiver Brandon Benson has grown close with the SMU coaches.

“We’ve been having some good conversations about football and life, and stuff like that,” Benson said. “Usually when I talk to them, we talk about stuff like that. I like how they got in good connection for me and are always wishing the best with me.”

Benson said he talks to SMU more than he talks to any other school. He is close with a lot of the staff, not just one coach.

“I’ve been talking to all the coaches, staying in contact with them,” Benson said. “Usually when I talk to them, I talk to all of them. They’re just encouraging to me to come to the school; they said I can come there and be a big time player.”

SMU has legitimate interest in Benson, and it’s safe to say Benson has legitimate interest in SMU. He loves the laid-back and friendly environment on the Hilltop, which he saw firsthand at a February junior day.

“I really like how they have a family-based program,” Benson said. “The team and coaches, they seem like one big family. I really like that about SMU…At the top of my list, I’d have to say it’s SMU.”

Benson expects SMU to stop by his school for a spring practice within the next week. So far, Auburn, Stanford, Oregon State, Northwestern, Oklahoma, TCU and Baylor have visited him. He said he feels TCU, Oklahoma, Washington, Wisconsin and Washington could offer fairly soon. He didn’t get to visit any spring games, and could not make SMU’s because he took the ACT.

Benson, Scout’s 99th-ranked receiver, said SMU and Kansas are recruiting him the hardest. In addition to those two, Texas Tech, Navy, Texas State and North Texas have offered him. He said he won’t decide until signing day next February, even though he seems to have identified a leader.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Benson wants to show college coaches that he’s come a long way since his junior season ended.

“I just want to show them how aggressive I attack the ball, how I come off the line harder, I block better, my routes are a lot better. I’ve gotten a lot better since last season.”

2016 forward picks up SMU offer

By: Billy Embody

2016 Houston Klein Forest forward DeAndre Williams picked up an offer from SMU this week and was excited.

“My high school coach and my AAU coach told me about it,” Williams said. “One of the assistant coaches texted me and told me they’d keep in touch with me.”

Williams knows SMU isn’t the only school to offer, but that the Mustangs will be a serious contender for his signature.

“It’s good. SMU is a good school, but I also have an offer from Oklahoma State so I have that, but I like it,” Williams said. “I know a little bit about SMU. I know Jarrey Foster is going there.”

Foster and Williams played on Texas PRO last year together along with another new SMU offer, five-star center Jarrett Allen.

“I know Jarrey. We hooped on the same AAU team last year,” Williams said. “We’re friends. We text here and there and get in the gym sometimes together.”

SMU and OSU are the only two schools to have offered, but Penn State, Kansas State, Texas and Houston have also shown interest. So far, Williams is happy with the interest and offers.

“It’s great. I gotta stay humble, but it feels good to get them out of the way,” Williams said. “I should be sharing a lot more because a lot of coaches have been texting me. Shaka Smart texted me and talked to me. I think everybody is still trying to feel out my personality.”

Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown brings credibility to the SMU offer.

“I know a little bit about Larry Brown. I don’t really watch SMU like that, but I know he’s a good coach — a great coach actually,” Williams said. “I like how he runs his team and handles his team. I like Larry Brown.”

With SMU’s recent appearance in the NCAA tournament, Williams says that’s a big plus for him.

“It’s real important because I feel like I can be a big impact when I go to college and make an impact for some of the college teams that are recruiting me,” Williams said. “I’d love to make the NCAA Tournament and see what I can do and expand my game.”

At 6-8, 185 pounds, Williams has great length, but can also handle the ball well for a player of his size.

“I can handle and dribble it, take it up and down the court. I can run the offense. I’m real tall, can handle it and get to the rack, rebound, block shots and play above the rim,” Williams said. “I guess coaches just like really tall players that can handle it and shoot it.”

Williams is hitting the camp circuit hard to try and get noticed and pick up more offers this summer.

“I’m most excited about going to a couple camps. I think I can get into some big camps like adidas nation, NBA Top 100 and some other camps that my coach is trying to get me into,” Williams said. “Probably make some of the championship games and play with some of the top players in the country. I’m really excited about it.”

Prestonwood linebacker has SMU at the top

By: Scott Sanford

2016 Prestonwood Christian (Tex.) outside linebacker Deonte Williams was once considered an underrated prospect, but the rising senior is starting to see his recruitment heat up.

The 6-foot-1, 218-pound three-star prospect visited the Hilltop for SMU’s spring game, and immediately noticed a difference from his previous visits.

“A lot of things have changed. It’s a really good family atmosphere now,” Williams explained. “ They really take care of their players and I just like the way they do things over there now.”

Williams spoke with Coach Morris, Coach McDaniel and Coach Malone while on his visit, and the SMU coaching staff is selling the linebacker hard on both on the field and off the field aspects of the school.

“(They said) pretty much if I come there, they’re going to take care of me. They’re going to make sure I’m taken care of on and off the field and they’re going to help me plan for my future, which is a big thing I’m looking for,” Williams said.

Williams has also started to develop a close relationship with his primary recruiter, secondary coach Jess Loepp.

“(My relationship with the staff) has been great. I’ve been talking to Coach Loepp a lot and we’ve had a lot of conversations about different sports and different aspects of life and stuff like that,” Williams said.

Williams listed TCU, Baylor and Washington as just a couple of schools at the top of his list now, but he is also very impressed by and interested in SMU.

“They’re definitely at the top right now because it’s close to home. It’s definitely one of my options that I’m trying to keep open,” Williams said.

The linebacker, who holds offers from SMU, TCU, Washington, Baylor, California, Iowa State, Louisville and Texas Tech, has no timetable for his commitment, but did say that it could happen at any time.

At the moment, Williams’ only scheduled trip is for a camp at Florida State in June, where his dad played.

Williams loving SMU after offer

By: Billy Embody

2016 South Grand Prairie defensive back Caesar Williams had been waiting for an offer from SMU and it finally came this week.

“I love the offer. It’s been one of the ones I’ve been hoping for. I love the school and I love the program,” Williams said. “I love the school and it’s one of my top schools I’m looking at. I’m just waiting for my spring ball to finish up and go from there.”

The offer has Williams seriously considering a decision in the next few weeks.

“That was the goal was playing my senior season before making any decision and committing, but I have schools that I lean more towards that showed me interest early and offered early and having trust in my ability to play for their school.”

Williams feels at home on SMU’s campus and has been a frequent visitor.

“I love it. I’ve been to their campus at least four times in the last month,” Williams said. “I went to the spring game, I came down for a practice and a junior day. I just keep going because I love it up there.”

His step brother, Wilton McCray, played linebacker at SMU and that’s yet another connection for the local defensive back. Defensive coordinator Van Malone talked with Williams about why SMU decided to offer.

“I talked to coach Malone after he gave my head coach a call after practice and said they love what I do and we practice like they do,” Williams said. “It’s very physical, up-tempo, just like PonyUpTempo is fast on offense and defense.”

The similarities between the two programs are probably why SMU has offered a few SGP products.

“He just talked about how everything he saw me do at practice, doing this and doing that, and how I will fit their scheme really well,” Williams said.

Defensive backs coach Jess Loepp has made a great impression on Williams so far.

“I love him. I know he’s a new coach, but I love the way he coaches DBs. I saw the way he coached one of his best DBs, Jesse Mockingbird, and how he’s just always fired up and trying to get the best out of his guys everyday. He never takes his foot off the gas pedal.”

Williams has also talked with head coach Chad Morris at the spring game and keeps up with him on Twitter.

“He’s written me hand-written letters, he’s DMed me and telling me I’d fit well with the school. I’ve talked with him after practice and introduced me to a couple players. We keep in great contact.”

The biggest selling point for Williams on SMU is the staff.

“The new coaching staff that’s coming in, I know they’re going to have a great year this upcoming year,” Williams said. “The coaches have a great history with coaching football and I know it’s going to be a great program.”

SFA, Texas State, and Navy have all thrown their hats in for Williams as well. A few of his teammates including uncommitted 2017 safety Jeffrey Okudah have SMU offers and Williams said it’d be great to team up at the next level. “It’d be great to play with some of my teammates because my senior year is coming up and it may be the last time I play with some of them, but to play with them in college and at the next level and go to school with them would be great,” Williams said.

Clay Mack, one of the top defensive backs coaches in the Midlands region, coaches Williams and works with him on the finer details of his craft, helping him elevate his game.

“We work on different stuff every day. Man coverage and off-man coverage because a lot of school like DBs that can play great off-man coverage because not a lot of people can do it,” Williams said. “A lot of people can get in your face and press you, but a lot of your talent shows in off-man and zone turns.”

Plano running back updates recruitment, SMU interest

By: Patrick Engel

2016 Plano (Tex.) running back Brandon Stephens ended his junior year with a solid offer list and a sought-after skill set, but he’s chosen to take recruiting slowly this spring. He’s limited the visits and isn’t worried about planning future ones right now.

“I haven’t had any visits lately, and I’m not sure where I’ll be going in the future. I’m just trying to finish out the school year out strong with my grades, and then I’ll worry about recruiting once the school year ends,” Stephens said.

That’s not to say he’s lost interest in recruiting. He’s still talking to colleges consistently, including SMU.

“I talk to coach (Jess) Loepp and coach (Claude) Mathis about once a week,” Stephens said. “The offensive line coach was there for one of my O-lineman, Kadarius Smith…I said ‘what’s up’ to him and shook his hand, but I didn’t have much conversation with him.”

Stephens expects Loepp and Mathis to visit a Plano spring practice, although they haven’t told him an exact date when they would come by. While Stephens hasn’t taken visits in a while, he did get to SMU’s big February junior day and loved it.

“I went to the junior day about two months ago,” Stephens said. “I had a great time there. They’re definitely trying to get the program back on its feet. That’s what I like. The coaching staff is awesome. Coach Mathis was at Desoto, and I was a big fan of his when he was at Desoto. To get a chance to meet him as the running backs coach was pretty awesome.”

Despite the great reviews Stephens gave SMU, he doesn’t have a favorite, or even a school that’s aggressively recruiting him. He’s that insistent on taking it slow.

“It’s been pretty even-keeled,” Stephens said. “I don’t have any favorites, but I’ve been talking to multiples schools pretty evenly. I haven’t talked to one school more than the other.”

SMU, Ohio State, Texas, Wisconsin, Tulsa, Stanford, Iowa, Illinois, Texas State, Oregon State, Kansas and Washington have all offered Stephens, Scout’s 36th-ranked running back for 2016. He said he will decided when he and his family feel he’s ready, and he’s not sure when that will be.

Plano started spring practices about two weeks ago, and Stephens wants to improve both his on-field skills and his intangibles.

“I’m definitely working on cutting in and out of the hole and getting out quicker,” he said. “Besides my performance, I’m building on my leadership role to let my teammates know I’m always there.”

Stephens is 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds.

Vasher updates recruitment, gets visit from SMU

By: Billy Embody

2016 Wichita Falls Rider wide receiver T.J. Vasher got a visit from the SMU coaching staff this week and could sense their excitement about seeing him.

“They just seemed real excited about being able to come down and check me out while I was working out,” Vasher said. “We had a workout and then we had a 7-on-7 practice.”

Receivers coach Justin Stepp and offensive coordinator Joe Craddock came by Rider, who said his relationship with Stepp is growing and SMU is headed in the right direction.

“Real good. I talk to coach Stepp maybe two or three times a week,” Vasher said. “I still feel real good about SMU. I like what coach Morris has going over there with the program.”

Vasher is liking SMU so much that its one of the schools he has at the top right now.

“SMU has been standing out. Tech and Ohio State still is,” the four-star receiver said. “I don’t really talk to Ole Miss that much, but I don’t really have a team that’s out there right now. I have interest in all these schools.”

Vasher said a lot of schools have counted out basketball for him so the football interest is picking up, but he still picked up a Boise State offer in basketball recently, plus a big time offer in football.

Mississippi State offered me today and that shocked me today because I didn’t even know they were looking at me. They had sent me mail every now and then, but I didn’t see an offer coming from anywhere,” Vasher said. “Coach Gonzalez, a little bit, we didn’t talk a lot, but he’s the one I talk to on that staff.”

Wichita Falls is keeping the spring practices to just 7 on 7s and workouts, which allows Vasher to try to improve his deep threat ability.

“I’m trying to improve my speed and agility going into this year and definitely putting on more weight,” Vasher said.

Vasher has an idea of when he wants to officially commit to a sport and then will take visits after that to decide what school.

“I definitely want to decide what sport I’ll be playing by the end of July so at the beginning of August I know what sport I’ll be playing at the next level.”

2016 receiver updates SMU interest

By: Andrew Hattersley

2016 Mesquite Horn (Tex.) wide receiver Jared Atkinson was at SMU’s spring game last week and loved being back on the campus once again.

“It was fun I liked it, it was a lot of fun and a very good place to be around and there were a lot of people watching,” Atkinson said.

A lot of students showed up for SMU’s first spring game in years, however, it was far more than even Atkinson was expecting.

“It was a lot, I wasn’t expect there so many people to show up because it’s a spring game but it was definitely a good showing as well,” Atkinson said.

In addition to watching the game, Atkinson also got a chance to talk to the coaching staff and was once again impressed with what they had to say.

“I got to talk to them before, they just kept telling the same thing to me that they want me there and all that,” Atkinson said, “To me I believe that they are a good staff.”

Now that Atkinson was back on the campus, he was again impressed with the facilities but also liked his visit a lot more now that he was able to find everything.

“The first time that I went there I was kind of lost because it was big and I didn’t know where to go but the second time I went I knew where everything was cause of my memory,” Atkinson said.

To go along with his offer from SMU, Atkinson also holds offers from Texas Tech, Illinois State, Arizona State and Texas State.

While the 6-3,199-pound receiver is evaluating all of his options, he will be back on the Hilltop this summer for another visit.

“I’ll most likely be there during the summer time,” Atkinson said, “I’m still undecided on where I want to go and thinking everything through.”

2017 linebacker talks SMU interest

By: Matt Sanders

2017 McGregor (Tex.) linebacker Alex Parsons recently visited SMU and took in the spring game. Although it is early in his recruiting, he is very impressed with what SMU has to offer.

“The campus tour was awesome, I’ve never seen a campus like that,” he said.

Parsons received a visit from coach Gunn, and although they didn’t meet face to face, they will soon be in contact.

“He spoke highly of me. He left his card and said he would call me soon.”

Parsons’ high school career is only halfway over, but his experience could easily span over four years. He has played every defensive position except defensive tackle, and he sees that as a huge plus with SMU.

“SMU has a strong defense and I want to play for a defense like that,” he said.

Parsons is receiving interest from TCU and UT-Permian Basin, but SMU has an advantage because of what he wants to study.

“I want to go into sports medicine, and maybe be an athletic trainer. I heard SMU has a good program for that.”

Parsons has not had a lot of time to talk with head coach Chad Morris, but he is impressed with what he has done on and off the field.

“I like the way he calls plays and the intensity he brings to the field,” he said. “Because of him there will be a better recruiting base.”

While his recruiting process will soon pickup, he plans to stay in the moment so he may improve for the future.

“I would like to be a first-year starter, but I know that is hard to do. I just want to focus on high school right now.”

Parsons wants to improve his relationship with SMU, and that will happen within the next couple of months.

“I will attend their football camp this summer so they can see me workout.”

SMU will keep an eye on Rawlins

By: Scott Sanford

Despite picking up a commitment from 3-star Milton (Ga.) 2016 dual-threat quarterback David Moore, the SMU coaching staff continues to keep in touch with other quarterbacks in the 2016 class.

In fact, the day the Mustangs picked up a commitment from Moore, SMU linebackers coach Archie McDaniel visited with Ball High (Tex.) quarterback Gannon Rawlins.

“He said he’s going to be keeping an eye on me. We just talked about the school and he said he’s going to come down for the spring game, along with a lot of schools that have been talking to me,” Rawlins said.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Rawlins, who has visited SMU two times, was impressed by the campus in general and the two coaches he got to talk to: offensive coordinator Joe Craddock and head coach Chad Morris.

“They said they have me on their prospects list,” Rawlins explained. “I asked them an honest question, ‘what am I looking like in the rankings?’ and they said top five or six for quarterbacks, but obviously that guy from Georgia was above me. But they said they’d definitely keep an eye on me through the spring and into my senior year.”

When Rawlins heard Moore had committed to SMU, he was a little discouraged, but ultimately realized this is what happens sometimes in recruiting.

“It threw me off a little bit. Man, SMU is the place I want to be so yes of course I was a little discouraged,” Rawlins said. “But I’m going to get over it, and wherever I end up I’m going to lead my team.”

Rawlins doesn’t hold an offer yet, but he is also hearing from UCLA, Stephen F. Austin, McNeese State, Abilene Christian, Texas Southern, Bucknell and Colorado State.

The rising senior plans to take trips to UCLA and SMU for camps, and also hopes to take visits to Abilene Christian and Houston Baptist over the summer. Rawlins has also played tight end for Ball.

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