Position Preview: Defensive Line

Scott previews SMU's defensive line in the latest 2015 Pony Stampede position preview.

Returning Players: Zach Wood, Andrew McCleneghen, Robert Seals, Mason Gentry, Zelt Minor, Spencer Hollie, Michael Epley, Justin Lawler, Elie Nabushosi, Jarvis Pruitt, Spencer Conley and Cameron Smith.
Departed Players: Darrion Wright, Gareth Riley-Ayers and Tim Esfaniari.
Incoming Players: Michael Scott, Delontae Scott, Hunter Thedford, Parker Collins and Chris Biggurs.

2014 Recap: The Mustangs struggled to get any kind of pass rush from their defensive front last season, which was really the biggest negative for this group. Yes, Zach Wood led the team in sacks (4), but as a group, the big guys up front had just nine total sacks and 20 tackles for loss.

With little depth up front, especially at defensive tackle, SMU was stuck with what they had last year. This group wasn’t the only reason the defense as a unit let up on average 41.3 points per game, but it was definitely a big one. Not only did this group fail to get after the quarterback, but they also struggled to stop the run, allowing 235 rushing yards a game.

2015 Outlook: While this group didn’t have a ton to work with in 2014, the Mustangs only lose one key contributor and gain a few intriguing freshmen. The Mustangs’ move to their four-man front is intriguing because while SMU still lacks depth across the defensive front, the change should help with their slacking pass rush. With the new scheme, and new defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt, the Mustangs will have the opportunity to improve a ton.

Expect a blend of veteran presence from Wood, Gentry, McCleneghen and Seals to go along with perhaps the Mustangs most talented lineman in Minor and high-profile freshman Michael Scott. While Seals and Minor have yet to live up to expectations, the new coaching regime should gives these two talents players a nice spark of rejuvenation. Because SMU isn’t the most talented at this position, expect to see backups playing important roles at times.

The Starters: Darrian Wright is gone, which gives highly touted lineman Zelt Minor the opportunity he has been waiting for. And with the Mustangs move to the four-man front, I expect redshirt sophomore Mason Gentry to be lining up right next to Minor when the season starts. On the outside, Wood is one obvious choice, and then it comes down to McCleneghen and Seals. There have always been high hopes for Seals, but the senior hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, so I see McCleneghen getting the nod initially.

The Backups: While there isn’t a ton of depth, there are a few intriguing backups for the Mustangs. Seals will provide a solid third option, and who knows, maybe it’s finally the Pearland, Texas native’s year. Nick Reed and Spencer Hollie should also help clog up the middle some. But it will be very interesting to see how willing the SMU staff is to throw Michael Scott into the fire as a freshman.

The Unknown: The key for this unit’s improvement is the development of a pass rush, so will the scheme change help? If these guys can’t get after the quarterback, the Mustangs won’t improve like expected to from last year. While expectations are high for the offense, if the defense can’t get off the field on third down, it won’t matter how many points Matt Davis puts up.

DE: Zach Woods, Andrew McCleneghen, Robert Seals, Michael Scott
DT: Zelt Minor, Mason Gentry, Spencer Hollie, Chris Biggurs

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