SMU Position Preview: Quarterbacks

Billy breaks down the SMU quarterback situation going into the 2015 season!

Returning Players: Neal Burcham, Matt Davis, Darrell Colbert, Garrett Krstich, Jordan Severt.

New Addition: Ben Hicks

Departed Players: Kolney Cassel

2014 Recap

SMU played musical chairs at quarterback with Neal Burcham, Kolney Cassel, Garrett Krstich and eventually Matt Davis all playing. Burcham and Cassel were both lost for the year after the first couple games, which left Krstich and Davis to go back and forth as the quarterback. Krstich showed some promise, especially against East Carolina, but ended up losing out as the starter for the rest of the year to Davis. The offensive line was brutal, but in the last five games as the starter, Davis showed at times why he was a highly touted dual-threat quarterback. Davis led SMU to a win in its final game against Connecticut with his 191 yards on the ground. Davis progressed as SMU simplified a playbook that couldn’t be executed with the play of the offensive line.
Grade: C-

2015 Outlook

The outlook is much better in 2015 with an offense built around a power run game, fast pace and a play-action passing game. While SMU’s offensive line is key to giving the running game credibility and allowing the quarterbacks to find time, the passing game is more forgiving to poor pass protection. Morris’ play-action game will be there a lot of the time due to the commitment to the run, creativity in the playbook, and better weapons on the outside. A trio of Courtland Sutton, Jeremiah Gaines and Xavier Castille is already a huge improvement from last year. Add in more speed and size at running back and receiver respectively and the quarterbacks will have more confidence in the players around them.

The Starter

After his performance this spring, Matt Davis should be the starter without a doubt. Davis showed great command of the offense, chemistry with receivers, consistency and leadership that SMU needs. Davis’ dual-threat capability will add another dimension to the offense as well. This isn’t the spread option, but having a real threat for keepers and in the zone read will help take some pressure off of the running backs and allowing defenses to key on just the backs. Gaines and Sutton made huge strides this spring and made plays with Davis. The explosive potential of both of those along with adding Castille, having Darius Joesph to come in and Kevin Thomas as well on the outside gives Davis some real weapons.

The major strides Davis took this spring were in his deep ball accuracy and decision making. Davis wasn’t running around half the field trying to make the big play, but instead took what the defense gave him while also taking his shots down the field. The pass rush had their days at times this spring, but Davis made better decisions with where to go, when to take the sack or throw it away, and also just by staying calm. His leadership took a major step and Davis looks confident as ever coming out of the spring.

The Backups

It was a back and forth battle all spring, but Darrell Colbert and Ben Hicks were locked in all spring as the backups. Colbert had solid days and Hicks did too, but in terms of consistency, Colbert had the edge. You could see why Hicks was an Elite 11 finalist and as heralded as he is, but he looked like a freshman much of the spring. That’s not a knock on him and he has a bright future on The Hilltop, but if all three of the quarterbacks continue to progress, there’s a chance Hicks will redshirt. Unless Davis is lost early in the year to injury, Hicks will be holding a clipboard based on the spring.

Colbert looked a lot better with his mechanics, footwork and command of the offense. Redshirting Colbert was a great move by the previous staff as he was just not ready for the college game. With the year off and a fresh start, Colbert looked comfortable in an offense that was similar to the one he ran in high school.

Hicks felt the pressure at times in the spring and forced balls into coverage, but don’t even get close to freaking out. Hicks also made some beautiful throws this spring that not many quarterbacks on the roster can make consistently. Hicks had been constantly working with the receivers in the area to get ready for the summer before spring even started. Castille, Proche, Thomas and Herndon were fixtures on campus and that could help Hicks make a last push for the starting job in camp, but for now, I’ve got him behind Colbert, but I’m pretty cautious about making that permanent.

The Rest

Krstich did a good job for SMU all things considered and showed fearlessness out there against pretty tough odds, but Krstich still only could do so much. Davis has a lot more talent than Krstich and while he was focused every game about righting the ship, “Stich” played the best he could with little around him. Burcham and Cassel both were absolutely assaulted in the couple games they played before their seasons ended early. Severt was stuck on the bench and just isn’t a fit in Chad Morris’ up-tempo offense. The rumor is that Burcham will be medicalled this fall, which will allow him to focus on graduating, freeing up a spot and possibly moving into coaching. His body has really been beaten up the last few years.

The Unknown

Will Ben Hicks progress enough to earn playing time? He’s got the work ethic, more talent coming in around him and an entire summer, but can he pass Darrell Colbert, who had a strong showing this spring? I’ve got all the confidence in the world Hicks will be everything SMU fans are hoping for, but it may be best to let Davis and Colbert go this year as the No. 1 and No. 2 guys. Hicks will get his time, but how important will a few snaps against a JMU or even Baylor be in his development? I don’t see that as the right time to being the Hicks era.

Bottom Line

Davis is the guy and for good reason. He’s got command of the offense, respect in the room and more confidence. Over the summer, through 7 on 7 and working even harder on his mechanics, Davis should be even more improved this fall. Get excited for that because if he can get some help in the running game and some offensive line play, the targets are there for Davis to lead a bounce back year for the SMU offense and get things moving in the right direction quicker than most could have hoped.

QB1: Matt Davis – RS. Junior
QB2: Darrell Colbert, Jr. – RS. Freshman
QB3: Ben Hicks – Freshman
QB4: Garrett Krstich – RS. Senior
QB5: Jordan Severt – RS. Freshman
QB6: Neal Burcham – RS. Junior

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