Billy: SMU football’s linemen commits
While the staff has done a great job developing the players they inherited in the trenches, SMU’s 2016 signing class will shore up the offensive and defensive lines in a big way. With the likes of Bryce Wilds and Keaton Bates being added to the mix after redshirting and Kadarius Smith, Braxton Webb, Jacob Todora and Harrison Barton entering the mix, SMU now has true competition for every spot. Kris Weeks and Taylor Lasecki have possible replacements in the wings in Will Barns, Harrison Barton, Bryce Wilds and Jacob Todora in my mind. All would do well in Morris’s power run scheme. Add in the likes of Evan Brown, Daniel McCarty Smith and Briggs competing along the interior and whoever comes out on top will have won a tough battle for the starting spot.
Defensively, the Scott twins, Hunter Thedford and Chris Biggurs are coming off their redshirt seasons and should be joined by Demerick Gary, Michael Badejo, Patrick Jones and Ken McLaurin, plus if Desmond Branch ends up at SMU. That’s talent that SMU hasn’t had coming in defensively in a while. Zelt Minor, Deon Green, Jarvis Pruitt, Mason Gentry and Justin Lawler will have a tall order to fend off this group for playing time. Competition breeds success and that’s what SMU has brought in the last two classes along both lines. It’s needed more than ever for SMU football to take the next step and for that, I’m thankful.
Scott: SMU Basketball continuing to “play the right way”
I’ll admit, I thought there was a chance this team wouldn’t come out of the gates fully motivated after the NCAA sanctions hit. Especially for the seniors, it’s hard to imagine how hard it must’ve been getting the unfortunate news that they wouldn’t be able to compete for a NCAA tournament bid in their final season of college basketball. With all the rumors swirling that Markus Kennedy, Jordan Tolbert or Nic Moore may look to transfer, this program that was on the rise, all of a sudden had sputtered. On top of all that, the Hall of Fame head coach that every single player signed up to play for would be suspended nine games. But thanks to the leadership and commitment of those seniors, the Mustangs are back in the top 25, undefeated, and will have the chance to turn even more heads in the coming weeks with a nationally televised matchup against Michigan. Associate head coach Tim Jankovich has his players playing smart, energetic basketball. Even better, Freshmen Shake Milton and Jarrey Foster are playing very poised basketball as newcomers. An AAC regular season title might be the only end game for this team this season, but you better believe returning players will come back in 2016-2017 with a chip on their shoulder looking to prove they belong.
Patrick: Backcourt depth
SMU is going to face life without Nic Moore next year. The team has struggled when he’s not on the floor the last two seasons, but the depth and talent behind him this year has prevented those struggles. I can’t say enough about Shake Milton’s production and poise while learning two positions. Jarrey Foster is mature beyond his years. While Sed Barefield has had a tougher learning curve, I’m still confident he will be a solid player and eventual starter at point guard. I questioned if SMU would get much out of Keith Frazier this year, but his defense is vastly improved. Frazier impacting the game in ways other than shooting is a welcomed sight. Lastly, I’m high on next year’s incoming freshmen, Dashawn McDowell and Tom Wilson. McDowell’s defense, versatility and ability to score off ball screens makes him a great fit for SMU, and Wilson is an impact shooter. The frontcourt will be a bit thin next year, but SMU will be in good hands because of its backcourt (and Larry Brown, of course).
Hatts: Running back depth
The running back position has been a revolving door for the SMU Mustangs since the departure of Zach Line a couple seasons ago. SMU appears to have found two playmaking options out of the backfield in Xavier Jones and Braeden West. Do both have some areas they could improve? Certainly and with a full offseason in the strength and conditioning program, both will come back next year stronger physically and as better backs after having a year to learn from their mistakes. This will play a huge role in SMU’s development as they can round out this position and focus on building their defense knowing they already have two talented backs to depend for the foreseeable future. Talent is on the way at the wide receiver position and in the trenches that should help this team improve as well. Everything in coach Morris’ offense starts with running the ball and SMU knows they now have two backs to do that which will make Matt Davis and SMU’s other quarterbacks lives significantly easier in the coming years.
Demo: SMU's two BIG wins
This Thanksgiving, SMU has me thankful for many things: Matt Davis, Chad Morris, Courtland Sutton, Xavier Jones, Zach Wood, and the future of the football program. It’s not just football either, how could you not be thankful for Nic Moore, Markus Kennedy, Tim Jankovich and all the freshmen contributing early?
But the thing I’m most thankful for this season is actually much smaller in the grand scheme of things.
You see, I have a couple of buddies that go to UNT. Avenging last seasons’ embarrassing loss has afforded me opportunity after opportunity to return all their trash talk. Even more importantly, that win came so early in the season. We ddin’t have to wait through 11 weeks of losses to celebrate a victory and with SMU’s win last week they have two wins—twice as many as last season!
So I’m most thankful for those two wins, because having twice as many wins as last season shows improvement, even if it is very small.