The Hilltop Review 8/28

Come inside another jam-packed Hilltop Review for all the latest SMU recruiting news!

2016 center sets SMU visit date

By: Patrick Engel

SMU basketball will host another one of its biggest 2016 targets, Mike Layssard, on an official visit this fall.

“I’ll be coming up on a visit really soon, in the first week of October (Oct. 2-3),” Layssard told Pony Stampede.

Layssard’s visit and high interest in SMU is unsurprising considering the strong relationship he has with SMU assistant coach K.T. Turner.

“I talk with coach K.T. almost on a daily basis,” Layssard said. “He’s a laid-back type of coach, like me. He always tells me what’s in store with the school.”

Layssard’s official visit will be the first time he gets an in-depth look at SMU, but he drove around the campus with his AAU coach, B.J. Johnson, and teammate Dashawn McDowell and loved what he saw.

“It was absolutely amazing. It was beautiful. I loved it,” Layssard said. “I loved the campus. When I went into the gym and saw it, I was like ‘wow.’”

The 6-foot-9, 240-pound center had a big summer, securing offers from SMU, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Providence and Memphis. He also holds offers from Rhode Island, Texas A&M, Wichita State, Mississippi State, South Florida, Wake Forest and Murray State. He showed teams that he’s more than just a low-post bruiser.

“I showed that I could stretch it out and play a little more than just inside and showed that I can handle the ball a little bit better. I can mix in (the jumper),” Layssard said.

Layssard said that SMU, Oklahoma, Wichita State, Texas Tech, Rhode Island, Providence and Murray State are the schools showing the most interest in him, but he has yet to set an official to any other school. He admitted that he’s not super sure where he’ll go for his other visits yet, or if he will take them at all. Layssard also said that he’s open to committing on a visit if he gets the right vibe.

“I could commit on one visit, depending on how the visit goes,” Layssard said.

Layssard is a three-star prospect.

SMU commit talks senior season, future

By: Matt Sanders

Cinco Ranch (Tex.) tight end and 2016 commit Corey Rau is ready for his final year of high school, and he wants to go out on top.

“I want to be first team all district and state, but I don’t want to be a “me” kind of guy,” Rau said. “I want to play for my teammates and win district and make a run in the playoffs.”

Although Rau had a good junior year, he believes there is one big thing he can change for his senior year.

“I want to be a better leader and get my team further in the playoffs this year,” he said.

Rau wants to visit the Hilltop sometime soon, but he is not sure exactly when.

“I’d have to compare my schedule with theirs to make an official.”

Rau understands that he’s about to undergo a major transition in education levels, so he is already preparing himself.

“I want to be ready for school for sure by studying a lot more,” he said. “For football, I want to get stronger and faster because it’s a huge jump.”

Everybody has a different set of expectations for the Mustangs this year, but Rau believes this season can a successful one.

“I would like to see a winning season; that’d be the best thing for them.”

Rau has a sense of pride that he is part of the first full recruiting class under the new coaching staff.

“It means a lot honestly,” he said. “Just knowing that I’ll be coached by some of the best in college football is a great feeling.”

The 2016 class for SMU is almost full, and is one of the largest in the country, and Rau believes that speaks volumes about Chad Morris and company.

‘”It shows that we believe in coach Morris and the rest of the coaching staff, and that we can turn it around.”

SMU commit plans Baylor visit

By: Andrew Hattersley

It’s been just over a month since 2016 La Vega HS (Tex.) wide receiver Brandon Benson committed to SMU, and in his mind he is still just as confident in his decision as he was when he committed.

“It’s going really well, nothing has changed with SMU, that’s most likely where I’ll end up because I love it there and they love me so if everything stays the same that is most likely where I’ll end up,” Benson said.

The 6-0, 185-pound wide receiver has not had the chance to visit SMU much but he did get the chance a couple of weeks ago to catch up with the coaching staff.

“Since I committed I haven’t been anywhere else so I’ve just been hanging around here and then I’ve been back to SMU once,” Benson said, “They had a small little camp so I went there and got to talk to the coaching staff a little bit more and got to talk to the players a little bit more as well.”

One of the topics of conversation for Benson so far has been checking in on how the team has been looking.

“They said they are seeing a whole lot of improvement than when they first came and they’re just putting in a whole lot of things to get ready for the season so they feel like everything is a lot better,” Benson said.

The La Vega wide receiver has his own season to worry about though, which gets underway Friday night.

“I’m feeling excited and as confident as I’ve ever been, its the last year so we have our first game tomorrow, I’m ready,” Benson said, “I’m looking to see a lot of competition that I can go against, try to better myself every game and every week.”

As SMU has continued to rack up the commits, the commit group chat is growing and so are the relationships between all of the players. Benson is among those excited to make a name for himself at SMU, and hopefully turn the program around in the coming years.

“I’m excited that people don’t really see SMU as a big football program, so the coaches see that as an opportunity, they’re real amazing and think we have the chance to come in and turn things around and be on top,” Benson said, “Make big names for everyone on the team so I’m really looking forward to turning around the program.”

This story of turning around the program has been the center of conversation for the coaching staff ever since they took over SMU.

“The staff talks about it a lot, coach Morris wherever he has been, he’s been successful, the family, we always talking about getting in there and working hard and learning the system, and if we do that, that’s just the key to making everything happen,” Benson said.

There will likely be a lot of recruits in town for SMU’s matchup against Baylor, and one of those who plan to attend is Benson.

“I’m planning on going next weekend when they play Baylor, I’ll most likely be at that game,” Benson said.

Before he steps on campus at SMU, Benson has a couple of areas he would like to improve in to allow him to be ready when he comes in next fall.

“I’m kind of working on everything, being aggressive to the football, I’m just going to continue working on my vision, my explosion, ball security things like that.”

Badejo transitioning to new position

By: Scott Sanford

Different players use two-a-days to work on different aspects of their games.

For 2016 Mansfield Timberview (Tex.) linebacker Michael Badejo, the end of fall camp signified the completion of his transition from defensive end to outside linebacker.

“I actually like this position a lot better,” Badejo said. “As a defensive end, I’m usually just on the line, but I like that I have more space as a linebacker.”

The change wasn’t a drastic one, but there were a few difference the 6-foot-3, 220-pound rising senior had to get used to.

“(The transition) wasn’t really hard, but the covering part—going into coverage—was the hard part,” Badejo said. “During spring I got to learn some things about that, so I came back in the fall and got it down.”

Badejo will be lining up on the other side of former SMU commit Craig JimLawson, who decided to reopen his recruitment at the end of July.

While Badejo and JimLawson have talked about playing college ball together for sometime, his friend’s decision to decommit from SMU does not have Badejo wavering.

“Not at all,” Badejo said when asked if JimLawson’s decision got him thinking. “We have been playing ball together since peewee, and we always talked about going to the same school, but after two or three weeks he told me he wanted to open his recruitment back up, and I just said ‘alright bro.’”

Other schools continue to reach out to Badejo via twitter, but the outside linebacker really only talks with the SMU staff.

The Mansfield product did say, however, that he knows he wants to stay in Texas, so if other Texas schools come calling, he’ll likely listen to those programs.

Right now, Badejo plans on making the trip to Houston for the Mustangs’ matchup against the Cougars, and he will likely be on the Hilltop for homecoming weekend.

Gary recruiting hard for SMU

By: Scott Sanford

Despite 2016 Kimball (Tex.) defensive end Demerick Gary wrapping up his fourth high school fall camp (third on varsity), this one had a different feel to it for the SMU commit.

In June, Henry Cofer was hired as the new athletic director and head football coach at Kimball High School, which meant players had less than two months to familiarize themselves with the new system and way Cofer runs his program.

Now that fall camp has officially concluded, Gary is happy with the strides his team has made in their new system.

“We’re still in the learning process of learning his system and how he wants things, but it’s all coming together,” Gary said. “We’re bonding together though. It’s coming along and it looks like we’re going to have a great season.”

The 6-foot-2, 240-pound defensive end already feels comfortable with the new system, so he spent his time working on other aspects of his game.

“Mostly my endurance. I knew this year I was going to be a major part of my team coming in as a senior—being a captain of my team—I know I can’t take any plays off,” Gary explained.”

As a senior, Gary is focused on establishing himself as a leader on the field and in the locker room for his team.

“If the see me slacking—its like a domino effect—so I know I had to change a little and get into a leadership role,” Gary said.

While most of Gary’s focus is one his upcoming game against Woodrow Wilson High School, the rising senior has been active on the recruiting trail for his future college.

Some of SMU’s top targets like Andrew Fitzgerald and Audie Omotosho remain uncommitted, but there’s one player off the board already that Gary keeps a steady stream of contact with.

“I’m still working on Big Joe (Wallace), a long-time friend of mine,” Gary said. “He’s committed to (Texas) Tech, but I believe we still got a chance in his recruitment. We talked just yesterday (Saturday) at the mall. It’s a long time from here to February so some people are going to change their mind.

As for the current 2016 SMU commits, Gary says they all think this class could be special.

“We talk almost everyday and we just tell each other that we’re going to stay faithful until February,” Gary said. “We think we can be special and now we’re just trying to get others to see what we see.”

Gary and most of the 2016 committed class talk almost every day, and the group have plans to attend SMU’s homecoming game against James Madison.

Because of the Hilltop’s proximity to Gary’s home, the Kimball product hopes to make it to the Baylor game as well.

Williams playing iron man football this season

By: Billy Embody

Sapulpa athlete and SMU commit Dae Williams is happy to have a commitment out of the way because he will be busy this season for his team.

“I’ll actually be starting both ways this year at running back and safety,” Williams said. “Last year, whenever I did that, I played linebacker so it’s a whole new experience. I think it’s to show my versatility and that I can play any position. It’s what’s best for the team.”

With his commitment out of the way, Williams said it’s really helped him relax and focus on the season.

“It’s stress relieving. I can just focus on my team and getting a state title. I love it. I didn’t think it’d be that big of a deal, but now that I’ve done it, it feels good.”

Williams knew that when he tripped to SMU this summer, that he’d likely commit.

“I had talked to the coaches and I had fallen in love with the coaching staff. All I needed was just to see the facilities and fall in love with those too,” the 6-foot, 215-pound athlete said. “Everything when I went there was just perfect.”

There were a few things that made SMU really stand out to him.

“The coaching staff and just community in general. I know that after college, it’s going to set me up for life so it’s a great education. I knew right off the bat that’s where I needed to be,” Williams said.

Army, Navy, Houston and Colorado State are all still in pursuit of Williams, who is listening at the very least and wants to take his official visits.

“As of right now, I’m pretty solid in my commitment, but I’m going to go ahead and take my officials and see what I like about the other schools that have offered me,” Williams said. “I’m planning on visiting Army, Houston and Louisville and then of course SMU, but I don’t know about the last one (visit).”

Most colleges are recruiting Williams as a running back, but SMU is one of the few that likes him at linebacker. It doesn’t really matter to Williams though.

“Whatever position that’ll get me a scholarship. I’m more looking for the family aspect with the coaches, but of course offense will play a little role.”

The do-it-all athlete put on 15 pounds this summer to prepare for the grind of the season.

“My effort and my strength have gone up a lot and my speed. Those are the biggest things I worked on this summer,” Williams said. “Just our heart (has gotten better). We’re coming in as a team that thinks we can compete for a state championship and not one that lost every game last year. It’s tough, but whenever you have the right coaching staff, it helps.”

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