Bold Training Camp Predictions

The Pony Stampede staff chimes in with their bold SMU training camp predictions!

Billy: David Johnson comes out with a starting job

I'm not sold on Missouri transfer David Johnson just yet. He appeared in 19 games for the Tigers and didn't have an interception. He moves to the AAC where maybe he'll be able to find his groove. Johnson slipped from the second team to third by the end of spring, but has experience against SEC receivers and four years of college experience. That experience and hopefully, some newfound playmaking, will allow Johnson to grab a starting spot opposite of Ajee Montes. When healthy, Montes has been one of SMU's better defensive backs, but with Horace Richardson, Will Jeanlys and others relatively unproven, there's no reason why Johnson won't be able to go and grab a starting spot if he can get Van Malone's defense down.

Scott: Line earns starting RB job

Being the brother of former star SMU running back, and current NFL player, Zach Line, it's no surprise Prescott Line came to SMU with high expectations. The younger Line brother rushed for nearly 2,500 yards and 40 touchdowns as a senior in high school, numbers that smashed Zach's 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns.

And because it took Zach a few seasons to reach the level of play he played at his final two seasons as a Mustang, I'm predicting that this season will be Prescott's breakthrough season.We saw it a little with Prescott's 90 yards and 2 touchdowns against Connecticut last season, and I think we will continue to see huge strides from last season. The rising junior, weighing in at 234 pounds, is a load to handle, but his lack of quickness has held him back at times. With the proper off-season training thanks to new strength & conditioning coach Trumain Carroll, and with Coach Morris' revamped offense, I believe Prescott is poised for a much-improved season.

Patrick: Gaines, Sutton and Minor make first-team All-AAC

Yeah I know, this sounds a stretch, especially for a team that landed zero offensive or defensive players on an all-conference team last season. But that's why this is called a bold prediction, right? These guys are some of SMU's most talented players, but they didn't make the impact they were capable of under the old staff for a variety of reasons. Chad Morris and his staff will get the most out of their abilities, and I believe all-conference-type seasons are in store for all. Gaines was a highly touted tight end recruit when he came to SMU in 2013. But in June Jones' offense, tight ends didn't exist, so he was playing out of position and didn't looked comfortable. Morris' offense is very tight end friendly and Gaines looked much more comfortable in spring practices back at his natural position. I think he has as much natural ability as any tight end in the AAC and will have a huge season.

Sutton redshirted last year but is an imposing target on the outside. He was the most impressive player in the spring game and looks like the starter at the X receiver, a position that always put up big numbers in Morris' offense. He'll be Davis' number one weapon and another dangerous target alongside Gaines. Minor was also a highly touted recruit, but didn't deliver a splash in his first two years like many expected him to and didn't crack the starting lineup consistently. He'll be playing defensive tackle now (he played end his first two years), which I think suits him best in a four-man front. He's explosive, strong and a good athlete for his position. He has the ability to bring interior pressure, shoot gaps and play the run well. Minor has put in a lot of work and I think he's motivated to burst onto the scene this year. If he does, he will be one of SMU's best defensive players.

Hatts: Justin Lawler Will Start at Defensive End

SMU is going to need a couple of surprises this upcoming year to turn around a woeful team that was 1-11 last year. One of those surprises could be redshirt sophomore Justin Lawler. Lawler did have a couple of nice games last year, followed by a big spring performance. Lawler showed a sneaky potential during the spring game to get after the quarterback, something he did rarely last year with two QB hits. During the spring game however, he had six tackles, two for a loss and one sack. The 6-4, 249-pound defensive end showed he has good speed off the edge, which will give him the leg up in a very competitive defensive line race. Most of SMU’s options are big however and don’t necessarily show the speed potential that Lawler does. Do I expect Lawler to be the best player on this defense? No, but SMU fans will be pleasantly surprised what they get out of him this year. I expect him to pick up where he left off in the spring immediately in fall camp and grab one of the defensive end spots.

Demo: Montgomery overtakes Montes

I was really big on Jesse Montgomery last year and I think he didn’t get enough opportunities to show what he could do. I like Ajee Montes, but I think he has a better skill set for the nickel spot. I don’t see how the longer, more athletic Montgomery doesn’t overtake Montes for that starting spot. I remember watching a practice last year and seeing Montgomery jump up and intercept a ball 10 yards in front of the receiver. It wasn’t underthrown, he just jumped that high. Montgomery has good speed, freakish leaping ability, ball skills, and the drive to improve. Jury is still out on his coverage ability, but I’m not too worried about that. It's not like anyone was stellar last year in coverage.

Matt: A True Freshman Receiver Starts

Darius Joseph is the only returning player who had a okay 2014 season, and Courtland Sutton had an offseason to remember, so they are clear starters, in my mind. No other returning wide receiver had significant playing time or offseason performances that were impressive enough to earn a starting spot. The incoming wide receivers provide depth at the position, and a couple of them already have the size and talent to be a starter. Although there are several freshman who could be starters, I believe Kevin Thomas (above) will be the guy. If not him, then Alex Honey. James Proche and Xavier Castille have the talent to start and will see plenty of time too, but Thomas and Honey have the talent as well as the size that SMU is looking for on the outside.

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