The Hilltop Review 10/23

Come inside for another jam-packed Pony Stampede Hilltop Review with the latest on SMU recruiting.

Ken McLaurin talks commitment to SMU

By: Andrew Hattersley

He’s been waiting for some time now and Wednesday night, Denton Ryan (Tex.) defensive tackle Ken McLaurin decided it was time to Pony Up with SMU.

“I’m really excited, I’m really happy about it man, it just felt like the place to be and it just felt like home so I committed,” McLaurin said. 

The biggest reason McLaurin made the commitment is his strong relationship with the coaching staff that made him feel right at home from the time he stepped on campus.

“I think that’s a big reason,” McLaurin said, “We’ve built a really good relationship over these last eight months, it’s just be really great, I really like the coaches and they are really cool so that made a really big impact.”

First up for the 6-4, 275-pound lineman was calling coach Loepp who was ecstatic to hear the news.

“He was happy, it was just like we got everything done so it was great,” McLaurin said.

Although it was not a long conversation, McLaurin also got the chance to talk with coach Morris and deliver the good news to him as well.

“I called him last night, he was in a meeting it was a little short and quick but he was happy man he was going crazy that I committed,” McLaurin said.

This is it for the talented defensive tackle who will be shutting down his recruitment to focus on the rest of his football season.

“Basically yeah, I’m kind of shutting it down,” McLaurin said, “That feels great, that’s a real big part of the reason that I did it just so I could focus on my team we’re trying to make a run at this title.”

It’s been a monster season for McLaurin so far in every facet of the game on the defensive side of the ball.

“We’re 7-0 right now, I have 37 tackles, seven sacks and four forced fumbles this season,” McLaurin said.

For the big run stopper, he also excited to join a team that from his perspective has been improving as the season has gone along even if the record says otherwise.

“I know that the win and loss column don’t say it but I know that they are a better team so that’s good.”

Croslen takes in SMU game
Annabel Stephan

By: Matt Sanders

Cibolo Steele defensive tackle and 2017 SMU recruit Joshua Croslen recently visited SMU, and his visit left a positive impression on him.

“I was impressed with everything,” Croslen said. “The campus, the facilities and the field were nice, and the coaches were nice and very informative.”

During his time on the Hilltop, Croslen had the opportunity to talk with coaches Morris, Fry and Wyatt.

“We talked mostly about their program,” he said. “They asked me what I wanted to major in and how Steele was doing.”

When deciding where he wants to attend college, Croslen, like most athletes, looks for the perfect combination of football and academics.

“I look at what majors they have, if I feel comfortable in the program and what the coaches want to do with me,” he said.

Along with SMU, Croslen is talking with Indiana, UTSA and Nebraska. Croslen does not have a specific order of schools, but SMU is in the mix for him.

“Right now I don’t have a list, but SMU was the first school to offer so I will always think about them.”

Croslen believes that although SMU’s record isn’t the best right now, it is possible for the Mustangs to turn things around.

“I know they’ve lost some close games but they have improved from last year and they’re still rebuilding.”

Croslen went on to further discuss how SMU can fix the problems that have cost them games this year.

“I think they will fix anything they need to fix and improve on everything,” he said.

While it will be a while until Croslen graduates from college, he believes that the Mustangs will once again be a powerhouse by the time he walks across the stage, wherever that stage may be.

“Hopefully they’ll be the program they were years ago when they were competing with the best schools in the nation.”

Benson takes in first SMU game

By: Demetrio Teniente

It may not have been his first time visiting SMU, but the Mustangs early October contest against East Carolina was 2016 La Vega wide receiver Brandon Benson's first time watching a game on the Hilltop.

The 6-3, 190 pound SMU commit says he’d already visited SMU two or three times before and already had a sense of the campus. 

“My favorite thing has been the people on it,” he said. “Whenever I’ve visited, I always talk to different people and they always seem like really cool people.”

Being so familiar with SMU, allowed Benson to enjoy his visit more deeply and permitted him to focus on specific areas of interest to him. 

“I wanted to meet some of the players I hadn’t met yet and really look at the plays SMU was running,” He said. “I liked what I saw. It was a better crowd than what we get at out games so, yea—I liked the atmosphere.”

Benson has already started developing relationships with some current Mustangs like Courtland Sutton, Matt Davis, Shakiel Randolph, and Ben Hicks. Not to mention he has a strong bond with SMU coaches, Justin Stepp and Claude Mathis.

“We are really close and talk almost every day,” Benson said. “They are some real cool dudes. We’ve been building a really strong bond since they started recruiting me and that’s nice.”

SMU has been struggling this season, but no one in the locker room is disheartened, neither are the recruits and most certainly not Benson. 

“I still believe this is a good team,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time. It’s been tough, they got a brand new coaching staff and it’s hard to just jump in and get things going again.”

With Chad Morris taking over the program when he did, the 2016 recruiting class will be the first one he was involved with from start to finish. We’ve already seen Morris’ willingness to play young players this season and as a result many are looking toward that class to be difference makers when they arrive.     

“I see us being able to come in and make a huge impact,” Benson said. “We are in a big group on Twitter and we talk to each other every day. We are already really close—because of that, I think we can come in and make a huge difference right away.” 

Vincent, Jr. gets first offer from SMU

By: Patrick Engel

SMU dipped into the Golden Triangle and offered 2017 Port Arthur (Texas) Memorial defensive back Kary Vincent, Jr. earlier this week. It was Vincent’s first offer, and he wasn’t exactly expecting it.

“I had just walked into the fieldhouse (for practice) after my last-period class when my coach called me in and told me coach Van Malone was on the phone,” Vincent Jr. said. “It really surprised me. It was the last thing that was on my mind.”

Vincent was surprised because he hadn’t really talked with the SMU coaches before. He tried to get in contact with Malone over the summer but could not.

“That was the first time I had actually been contact with coach Malone,” Vincent Jr. said. “He just told me how much he liked my highlights and if I could suit up and go to Florida with them this week.”

Despite the lack of previous contact with the coaches, Vincent has paid attention to SMU since Chad Morris took over and is well aware of its sterling academic reputation.

“Not only the sports, but the academic factor and that’s my main priority,” he said. “Other than academics, coach Malone has coached a lot of people that I know, and all had great things to say about him. That really took a toll with me.”

Malone coached Vincent family friend and Port Arthur native Danny Gorrer at Texas A&M from 2006-08. Gorrer played six seasons in the NFL. Vincent’s dad, Kary Sr. also played for the Aggies and was a sixth-round pick of the New Orleans Saints in 1992.

Vincent has not been to SMU yet, but said he is planning to visit for the home game vs. Tulsa on Oct. 31. He has also had a lot of contact with the Baylor coaches. Despite his family connection with Texas A&M, Vincent isn’t waiting on any certain offers.

“There’s not really a special one, I’m just taking it all in,” he said. “Whatever God blesses me with, I’m happy, and I’m going to weight all my options.”

The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Vincent plays both corner and safety for Memorial. He fits the type of versatile defensive back that SMU covets. 

2017 cornerback picks up SMU offer 

By: Andrew Hattersley

The process is just getting started for 2017 Marcus HS (Tex.) cornerback Matt Hankins and that is why he was thrilled to pick up his second offer from SMU earlier this week.

”It was really exciting you know, we are still early in the process, that’s my second one so it’s still really exciting for me,” Hankins said.

Hankins does not know the staff that well yet as they only spoke to him for 15-20 minutes while offering him his scholarship, however he’s looking forward to developing that relationship down the road.

“Not much, I talked to them yesterday when they offered me, they talked with my me, my dad and my mom for maybe 15-20 minutes but that was about it really,” Hankins said.

The staff was equally excited about offering him and was not shy about telling Hankins how highly they thought of him.

“They were just excited, excited to offer me and that they were just really aggressive with their corners that play, which is exactly how I play,” Hankins said, “They were just talking about this faith and how they wanted their players to be around their family.”

One of Hankins top priorities is finding a school with a good education, and that is one of the big plusses he already sees with SMU.

“I like the school, it’s a good school, their education is up and coming so its definitely a thought,” Hankins said.

The 6-1, 160-pound cornerback is planning to take a visit to SMU next week for SMU’s Halloween matchup and will have his eye on the play of the cornerbacks.

“A good with the relationship with the coaches to the players, how the corners play, just good team effort,” Hankins said.

This will not be the first time Hankins has been on campus, the Flower Mound junior camped at SMU a couple times this past summer and the previous summer.

Hankins other offer right now is from Duke although he is also hearing from Oklahoma State. For Hankins, he sees a lot of similarities between SMU and Duke and is pretty happy those were his first two offers.

“I like that school too, its got a good education and their coach says they’re an up and coming school and a program, they’re both good offers I’m still working my way through it,” Hankins said.

Hankins is very talented for still being a relatively young player but knows he still has some work to do to become a complete player.

”Some of the things that I do well are my press game and making plays on the ball when its up in the air, I’m just really aggressive” Hankins said, “Some stuff I need to work on is when I turn my head looking for the ball not to stop or slow down.”

Smith still committed to SMU right now
Student Sports

By: Andrew Hattersley

After deciding to join the Mustangs last summer, SMU commit and 2016 Plano offensive lineman Kadarius Smith has been focusing on his own season which has been a bit of an up and down time so far.

“It’s been going good, we aren’t having that successful of a season right now but its going good, things are getting caught up we’re practicing better,” Smith said, “I’ve been getting a lot better from where I was last year, just developing my technique and how I am as an offensive lineman just getting better.”

Smith has also kept in touch with the SMU coaching staff who has been keeping him posted on how the practices have been going for the Mustangs and their thoughts on the season so far.

“I actually talked to them last night [Tuesday night], coach Craddock was very upbeat and I talked to coach Morris and he said that there have been some great improvements and that they had their best practice yesterday [Tuesday],” Smith said.

The 6-2, 270-pound offensive lineman has been impressed with the season so far even if the record isn’t what they would like it to be.

“I think they’re obviously going in a different direction, they may not have the best record right now but they are just way way better than they looked last year,” Smith said.

The Plano offensive lineman would also like to see the team continue to improve and come through a couple times on what the coaching staff has been preaching the last couple of weeks.

“I just want to see how they bounce back and coach Morris was always telling me that things would be totally different if they had just played a full football game for four quarters so he just told me they’ve been playing halves at a time, they’ll take one quarter off and then pick it up the next quarter,” Smith said, “I just want to see them make improvements.”

Although Smith hasn’t been able to make it up to the Hilltop yet this season due to work, he is planning on taking a trip up to the Hilltop next week for SMU’s Halloween matchup.

“I’m just gonna be there like a game, go through the meetings and all that, and after that I got to get back up and watch it from the students eyes and from the spectator perspective,” Smith said.

Although he hasn’t been able to make it up to SMU and see some of his future teammates in person, Smith has kept in regular contact with the team and their friendship is growing stronger and stronger as the season progresses.

“I talk to them pretty much everyday we have a group message with all of the commits and a couple of the guys we are trying to get so we talk everyday and its nothing like we just met each other we know each other really well,” Smith said, “We’re really close friends maybe even closer than the group SMU got last year with the full cycle of commitments.”

SMU has kept in touch with Smith but so have a number of other schools that are still trying to flip the Plano lineman. Despite all the constant attention, Smith maintains he is still committed to SMU.

“Oklahoma State, they’re pretty frequent with their recruitment, also Fresno State they offered not too long ago and you know they they’re just reaching out to me and just trying to offer me more than what SMU can give me,” Smith said, “I haven’t made any changes on my commitment. I’m still committed right now.”

Hendrickson defensive lineman impressed by SMU staff 

By: Billy Embody

2017 Hendrickson defensive lineman Nelson Mbanasor has been keeping up with SMU defensive backs coach Jess Loepp and defensive lineman Buddy Wyatt on Twitter lately and is impressed with them so far.

 Theyre both really good coaches and seems like a really nice men. I just started talking to coach Wyatt, but me and coach Loepp have been talking for a while. Its a really open relationship (with Loepp), Mbanasor said. We talk about how my play is and my game tape is. We also talk about getting me up for a game.

Mbanasor got on campus for a recent game and enjoyed SMUs campus even though the team lost to James Madison.

I really like it, especially the coaches. They make you feel really welcome. Other than that, the game atmosphere is really nice. Its great. The stadium isnt big, but its still a good stadium.

The staff sees Mbanasor at defensive end, but they havent gotten into their scheme too much with him yet.

We havent really talked about the scheme, but from what Ive seen, theyre really physical coming off the ball with the defensive ends.

Purdue, Texas and Oklahoma are the other schools showing interest in Mbanasor. Hes visited Texas a couple times, who he keeps up with from time-to-time.

I talk to coach Vaughn about how theyre going to recruit me and stuff, the 6-3, 237-pound end said.

As far as the right fit for him, Mbanasor wants a physical defense with an attitude because thats how he plays.

My style is being physical. Each and every single play, Im coming off the ball and trying to make a play.

Willis Point running back talks SMU visit

By: Billy Embody

2016 Willis Point running back @Marques Crouch is enjoying a great senior season so far and took time out of his schedule to visit for SMUs Homecoming game against James Madison.

It was a great atmosphere and I really loved SMU. Theyre doing a good job with basketball and other sports, but they kept that football atmosphere and thats what I loved about it, Crouch said.

Crouch talked with SMU running backs coach Claude Mathis and was taking plenty of mental notes on his visit.

I was talking to coach Mathis and really, I wish I had a notepad because I was taking mental notes of their running backs and seeing their speed, making their one cut, and how they were a big help for SMU in that game, Crouch said.

The SMU offense is built on the running game and Crouch was impressed with the talent and attention to detail.

Their players knew exactly what they were doing and they had athletes on the team. I didnt really expect that much athleticism from them, but they blew my mind away with that.

While Crouch is just getting to know the SMU staff, hes high on SMU after the visit.

That was my first time talking to coach Mathis and Stepp, and the staff. Hopefully, I can keep in contact with them because I love that place really.

As for SMUs rebuilding process, Crouch is liking what the staff is doing so far.

Coach Morris is doing a good job getting their name out there, the 5-10, 187-pound back said. Hes building SMU up. He really turned the players into athletes and thats what I like.

While Crouch hasnt gotten much Division I interest, he has already tied his touchdown total from last year (11) when he was battling injuries all season and has totaled close to 1,000 yards on the year.

I dont think I have just fast speed or agility, but Im really a mix of power, speed and agility.

As far as a college, Crouch wants to show people what he can do on the field and blow them away.

Im looking for a place I can get my name out there. Where people can say thats Marques Crouch and hes a good back, Crouch said. Im looking to get some offers, get my grades up and get those offers. 

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