SMU Defensive MVP Predictions

The Pony Stampede staff picks their defensive MVPs for SMU this season!

Billy: Jordan Wyatt

Disclaimer: 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 Wood

The 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 Gentry

As 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.

Demo: Jonathan Yenga

I’ve always been a fan of Jonathan Yenga. He is a smart, athletic linebacker. Sure, he is undersized, but he has so much athletic potential. Every year his tackle totals go up a little bit. Last season he had 695 and was fourth on the team. I believe he can do even more. It just seems like he needs a system and a defensive coordinator that really knows how to utilize him. If Van Malone has figured it out, Yenga could go from impressive overachiever to a dominant defensive force. He has had the tools, just not the proper place to use them. I think that changes this season.

Patrick: CB David Johnson

It's is a little unconventional to name an MVP who hasn't played a game for his team yet, but hear me out. Bringing on a former SEC player is nice and has some name appeal, but Johnson didn't play a whole lot of snaps during his three years with Missouri. So I'll admit I was unsure (and even a little skeptical) about how much he would contribute in his lone year at SMU, especially because he transferred just a couple weeks fall camp opened. But I'll admit I was too quick to discount him. He surged as camp progressed, ascending from a newcomer with something to prove to a dependable cover corner and possible starter. He's brought needed depth and stability to a position ravaged by injuries and ineffectiveness a season ago. Johnson can play outside and slot corner and has displayed range that SMU hasn't seen for a while at corner. I think he'll find himself in SMU's starting lineup before long. The rest of the cornerbacks have improved in coverage, but Johnson's ball skills will help the unit get some takeaways, which SMU struggled to generate in 2014. Taking the ball away will be essential to SMU improving defensively, and I think Johnson is the best threat of the cornerbacks to make plays on the ball.

Matt: Shakiel Randolph

Senior safety Shakiel Randolph is due for a monster year. He only played in nine games in 2014 and had 17 tackles and 8 pass breakups, but he is better than that. Shaq had a solid spring and a good summer. As one of the senior leaders at the Star, the defense will look to him to make the stops against teams that love to throw the ball and be versatile enough to play in space. Last year, Shaq was in position to make big plays, but he lacked the execution. This year, him intercepting a pass could be the difference in a tight game against somebody like Tulsa or East Carolina, and if he can do damage against Baylor or TCU, he can set the pace for an impressive senior year.

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