Billy: Jordan WyattDisclaimer: We’re not doing darkhorse MVPs, but since the rest of the guys are picking more well known commodities, I’ll try to pick one that could surprise. The redshirt freshman from Wylie has yet to step on the field for SMU, but impressed in the spring by making plays from his free safety spot. Wyatt has been a solid ballhawk for SMU since the new staff’s arrival and with his speed on the backend, he could be poised to have a big year. Wyatt has been a fixture in the secondary and there appears to be very little question that he’ll be back there to start against Baylor. There’s some solid depth at the safety spots in my mind, but Wyatt is the one that really has the speed to cover half of the field very well. It could be a bit of an adjustment – especially against Baylor’s great group of receivers, but Wyatt has looked up to the task so far.
Scott: Zach WoodThe defensive line has been a weak spot for the Mustangs the past couple of years, but I think Zach Wood’s move inside is going to be very beneficial for him and the SMU defense. Not only should Wood help clog up the middle of a SMU defense that gave up over 230 rushing yards a game last season, but Wood’s quickness should also allow him to generate a solid pass rush even from the inside. Last year, the Mustangs’ defense was abysmal, and Wood really was the defense’s best overall player, so I expect him to be the team’s most valuable defensive player once again. Wood was another player who benefitted from SMU’s new strength and conditioning program, and at 6-foot-3, 280-pounds, the senior captain’s transformed body should help him out in a big way.
Hatts: Mason GentryAs a freshman, Mason Gentry was already opening people’s eyes with his good size and long arms, but after a winter with the new staff, the sophomore lineman could be in for a huge year. Gentry was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the new strength and conditioning program that allowed him to bulk up even more while still being able to maintain the speed that allowed him to have a good first season. In his first full season on the Hilltop, Gentry showed the talent that made him a three-star prospect coming out of high school with 38 tackles and 2 sacks. The trait that makes the 6-6, 296-pound defensive lineman such an intriguing prospect is his power and long arms, which should be on display even more this summer. This should help provide a bigger body along a deep defensive line, but also someone athletic enough to make plays all over the field.
Gentry is going to benefit from playing alongside an equally improved Zach Wood who will draw a lot of the attention from offensive lineman early on. Gentry is going to be able to pin his ears back and get after the quarterback. But aside from getting after the quarterback, and possibly the bigger need, is the help Gentry will provide in the run game. During the spring game, Gentry did not have a big impact, which was slightly surprising, but both of his tackles did end up as losses which just gives you a glimpse into what is to come.