Billy breaks down SMU's 2016 recruiting class on defense with rankings, who SMU is targeting with remaining spots & predictions.
The defensive side of the ball is a little bit more unclear on the options SMU will go to if the current ones don't jump on board, but I did my best to compile and rank the list of SMU commits and targets.
It’s really 1A and 1B when it comes to SMU’s top targets at defensive end, but I’ll go with Onwuzurike here because of his more polished technique as a pass rusher, which SMU desperately needs. SMU recently made his top ten list of schools, but it’s unlikely SMU will land the talented defensive end from Allen when it’s all said and done. The fact that SMU is in the top 10 is nice and maybe if he waits long enough, a couple of decent performances by SMU will get Onwuzurike to take a harder look.
Fitzgerald visited SMU frequently in the spring and has a solid relationship with the entire staff. He’s bigger than Onwuzurike right now and has the frame to add even more weight and be able to play the strong side. Fitzgerald has been picking up a ton of offers since the spring and while SMU is a longshot, Fitzgerald does have a great relationship with the SMU staff. SMU was the second school to offer Fitzgerald and will see if that early interest will pay off.
Becker is a player that SMU has found itself involved with, but not exactly sure where he can fit in. He does hold an offer, but the staff hasn’t told him where they’d like him. The only spot for him to fit in SMU’s class is at defensive end and that’s where he projects. I don’t think he’d be able to put the weight on to play offensive line. He’s more of a backup option to keep in touch with, but not a bad prospect to have down the line.
Badejo has played for the most part as a standup outside linebacker, but already has enough size to play the weakside defensive end. Where he can affect SMU is in the pass rushing game. His highlight tape shows he’s a disruptive force and there’s something to be said for causing chaos on offense, especially when Badejo is a player that can be moved around to create different looks with zone blitzes.
Gary has a very good get off on the ball and that will serve him well as he continues to develop his pass rushing moves. On social media, Gary is one of the most active SMU commits and will bring a swagger to the defense with his high motor play.
I still think Jones projects better at defensive tackle and has the strength to play inside. Where Jones needs to get better is playing low and developing his pass rush moves. Right now, Jones plays in an odd man front and rotates between tackle and end. His pass rushing moves are suspect with the bull rush being his only consistent move.
Prediction: Defensive end has some of the best depth in terms of SMU targets left on the board and a ton of quality as well. If this was 2017, I’d say SMU would have a very real shot of landing an Onwuzurike or Fitzgerald, but like with Audie Omotosho, it takes a lot for these recruits to take that leap of faith. SMU will maybe add another defensive end along the line, but my gut tells me they’re full here and will be looking to add one or two defensive tackles.
Just under 6-foot and with great strength, Wallace is the most likely to head to SMU with Iowa State one of the other players in his recruitment. Wallace enjoyed his visit for camp at SMU where he picked up the offer. Sources close to the program feel confident that SMU will land the local defensive tackle, which will go a long way to developing a pipeline from Skyline, one of the top programs in the state.
2. Aymiel Fleming (La Marque, Tex.)
This East Texas stud is just a two-star prospect, but I really like his film because of his get off and long arms that allow him to control offensive linemen. He’s really quiet on the recruiting front and doesn’t have a Twitter or a phone number we’ve been able to get so we’re in a similar situation like Ja’Ron Wilson where we don’t know how much he’s interested. That being said, Fleming should be a target at the top of the list for SMU along the line.
3. Nicholas McCann (Arkansas, Tex.)
Nick McCann is a big guy that SMU is coming after and if McCann can get over to SMU for a visit and Arkansas ends up not offering, SMU is in a good position to make a run for him. At 6-2, 290 pounds, he’d be a massive piece to slide in let’s say next to Joe Wallace. He’s really physical in the middle and that’s something SMU desperately needs and on top of that, he’s ready to go physically when he steps on campus. An update from McCann is needed to see where SMU stands, but McCann is a big target SMU shouldn’t be afraid to pursue until February.
Prediction: I can’t speak to Fleming and McCann at this point too much, but I like where SMU is at for Wallace. I really don’t think Ames is going to impress him just because he wants somewhere that’s easy to get to for his parents and doesn’t feel like the middle of nowhere. SMU is in a great spot for him and now with the addition of Deon Green, I like SMU to land Wallace and unless they really end up high on one of the other few offers, will likely be done.
Carlisle has great speed and already has experience playing the Star position in his defense at Dickinson. He loves to play out in space while being closer to the box and his physicality will be a welcome addition to this defense. He’s kept his recruitment close to the vest and wouldn’t even share what other schools were showing interest in him, but if SMU can hold on to him, Carlisle could come in and contribute early in my mind.
Ward is built much more like a linebacker at 6-3, 210 pounds, but at the Star, he’ll look much like SMU’s Shakiel Randolph does. He’ll have more physicality and presence in the box than the other two commits as of now, which will help when SMU deals with teams that like to run the ball a lot and Van Malone can bring the blitz with Ward and he can use his athleticism to beat linemen.
Duke will be a raw player at the Star since he’s only going to be playing defensive back for really the first time this year after playing quarterback for Goose Creek.
Prediction: SMU is done at the Star position and will just work on holding onto Carlisle, Ward and Duke. Very solid mix of athleticism, speed and size here to allow SMU to change the look of the Star linebacker based on the schemes they face and situations.
Spears is a physical linebacker that I had a lot of trouble putting in front of Long, but I will because of his ability to fill the gap, which is just something that cannot be more important in a defense that will put a lot of stress on the linebackers to fill gaps with gap responsibilities. He’s got solid size and if SMU can land Spears, it will be another win over the Red Raiders and continue to position SMU in the conversation for even more recruits in future classes.
Long has some natural size that is just undeniable at 6-3 and over 200 pounds. He plays quarterback at North Shore, but his build is exactly like Cardale Jones at Ohio State. SMU will move him to linebacker if they can land him, but having to land him will require them to recruit him at “quarterback.” Again, SMU can offer him as a quarterback and not give him much of a shot to compete, but it will be a somewhat awkward commit for the staff to land.
Wise is a kid from a solid prospect at Coppell and a kid that resembles the Scott brothers in terms of build. He’s a bit of a tweener, but projects as an outside linebacker. Although in SMU’s system there’s a chance he could be at weakside defensive end. SMU hasn’t shied away from Coppell and they shouldn’t in the future. I like his film, but I just don’t know where he’ll fit in at SMU.
Committed to SMU
1. Craig JimLawson (Mansfield Timberview, Tex.)
JimLawson has great speed to come from the linebacker position. His ability to fire through the gaps is what I love about him in the run game and his ability to run sideline-to-sideline is huge for this defense. If SMU can’t land another linebacker, they’ve got a heck of a land for the Leo linebacker in JimLawson.
Prediction: SMU is on the outside looking in for Spears, Long and maybe even Wise, but if there's a safe bet, I'd say Scapulpa (Okla.) athlete Dae Williams is a better bet out of these three. SMU has offered Williams as a linebacker an Oklahoma newspaper reported, but we'll have to see how that plays out. Right now, there's not much focus in Oklahoma for the staff.
Green is by far the most talented defensive back legitimately on SMU’s board right now. There are others like Obi Eboh, Parrish Cobb and Eric Cuffee with offers, but in terms of actively interested in SMU, Green is the biggest name. Not only would Green add to the DeSoto connection, but he’d undoubtedly help in the recruitment of La’Darren Brown. He has to be a priority for the SMU staff as he approaches his decision date.
Williams is behind Green as the most heralded recruit at defensive back with a few Power Five offers and a great local connection with South Grand Prairie. Williams visited SMU a few weeks ago and while hurrying to set up the visit, many thought he’d commit, but he’s taking his time. By the end of the summer, I’d expect a decision from Williams and unless a school really blows him away, SMU should be in it until the end.
Mitchell is a big corner with long legs and arms that can help him when matching up against bigger receivers. He’s a little raw in the finer things like fighting off cut blocks, understanding play flow, but he’s got the tools to be uber successful in Malone’s scheme where he puts defensive backs on an island constantly. Mitchell is already planning to commit on his July 24 visit he tells me so watch for that if SMU’s other spots don’t fill up.
While Clark has immediately come into Cedar Hill and started after coming over from Sachse, he’s still got to prove he can handle the load at one of the top programs in Texas. He impressed in the 7on7 circuit, which is encouraging. Clark stands 6-2, which adds great length to SMU’s defense at the safety position, where he’s projected to play. Overall, Clark should end up at SMU and that will add some nice backend length to the program.
5. D’Angelo Ellis (Cypress Ridge, Tex.)
A corner that will take some time before being able to contribute based on his 150-pound frame, but one that has solid film. Ellis would be the second Division I corner along with Ian Peterson for Cy Ridge and possibly the more instinctively talented. He’s somewhat of a long shot, but has visited and has his eye on SMU>
Moran will visit later this summer with David Moore, but SMU has pushed back their original visit date likely because Moran isn’t at the top of SMU’s board. He’s not a bad prospect and has some solid offers, but he’s not from Texas. SMU will take a commit from Moran if Clark and others are off the board. They’re not in a rush to have him visit and that’s just fine.
Sutton has the best speed and instincts of the group and there’s no secret why he’s the highest rated. Sutton has solid length and great break on the ball. He’ll be going up against some of the best talent in the state all year and that will help him develop even more.
2. Mikial Onu (Richmond George Ranch, Tex.)
Onu brings some size at 6-foot, 190 pound with 4.5 speed, but I like his break on the ball and ball skills. Onu has the ability to make plays with the ball in his hands after he gets it and that’s a huge deal to a defense that hasn’t been able to really create turnovers.
Davis is a candidate that a lot of people think could pick up some bigger offers including Baylor as one to watch. He’s got long arms, a constant theme in this class, and will be able to matchup man-to-man at the next level.
Rock is kind of the same story as Duke being the quarterback for Cy Ranch this year, but Rock is a heck of an athlete and will be a solid safety prospect for SMU. He’s got to adjust to playing on the backend, but he’s a great example of a solid football player that will likely be able to make plays on the back end.
Long Shot prospects to watch:
1. Rajah Preciado (College Station, Tex.) has offers from the likes of UNT, Fresno State, UTSA and Arkansas State and isn’t close to a decision time. Preciado is also a little undersized at 5-9, 177 pounds so SMU can afford to wait before other players make decisions.
2. Ke’Mon Freeman (Liberty-Eylau, Tex.) The 6-foot, 205-pound prospect is out of Texarkana and one of the underrated East Texas prospects that SMU has discovered along with Arkansas State and North Texas. Freeman has to get his ACT score up, but he’s a prospect to watch for SMU as the season unfolds.
Prediction: Michael Clark will commit to SMU I really believe. He’s dragging it out for some reason, but Clark is pretty set on SMU. That leaves one more spot available and Green can have it or Mitchell will likely be SMU's last commit at defensive back.