The Pony Stampede Hilltop Review 12/4

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

JUCO defensive end grabs SMU offer

By: Billy Embody

Trinity Valley defensive end Desmond Branch has seen his recruitment pick up and even though SMU doesn't hit the trail at JUCOs much, defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt came calling with an offer a couple weeks ago. Wyatt liked his film and impressed Branch in the limited time they've known eachother.

"He's definitely knowledgeable and knows the game of football," Branch said. "He explained to me what the defense was like and I liked it. He explained to me the direction SMU was going. He told me about all the coaches' history and how they started somewhere else and then it was thriving when they left Clemson and their other spots."

Branch has a bit of a deeper connection to SMU via linebackers coach Archie McDaniel, who coached at New Mexico where Branch was before Trinity Valley. McDaniel has kept up with Branch and has been wanting him to come to Dallas to visit.

"It's Dallas. Who wouldn't want to go? He (McDaniel) is a great coach. We've kept up with a couple messages here and there, but it's really picked up in the last month trying to get me to visit."

The 6-3, 270-pound defense end is planning to get to Dallas sometime before he must decide on a school, which he says will happen right around late Decemeber. Branch still doesn't know much about SMU outside of the 30 for 30 on the school.

"From the city to the business school, it's great. It's one of the best business schools in the country and I want to major in business. The opportunity to get my education there will help me farther down in life if the NFL didn't pan out."

SMU isn't alone as Georgia Tech and Mississippi State round out Branch's top three although he doesn't have an offer from the Bulldogs just yet. Branch visits Mississippi State next weekend. Branch is looking for coaches that will push him in a good academic environment.

"I'm looking for coaches that are going to get on me and coach me. I'm looking for a place that fits right for me."

Branch's ability to play inside and outside is a plus, but he's really a pass rusher at heart.

"I feel like I'm one of the best pass rushers. I'm confident in my pass rushing and my hands. It's something I've really practiced a lot on and it helps me get to the ball."

San Diego State, Fresno State, UAB and UTEP have also offered.

Barton hosts Morris, staff for in-home visit
Gabe Brooks / SCOUT

By: Andrew Hattersley

Tuesday night featured a little bit of everything for 2016 Houston Christian HS and SMU commit Harrison Barton when the staff stopped by for an in home visit. 

“It was awesome that coach Morris was able to get his one visit to be able to come, my mom got us some good Tex-Mex from one of my favorite places, we kind of sat down, ate dinner, my parents told stories about when I was little,” Barton said, “Coach Morris and them are around the same age and just talked about that and what it would be like to go off to college.” 

Not only did the dinner serve as an opportunity for Barton’s parents to get to know the staff, but it also was a time for Barton and his dad to ask Morris some football focused questions. 

“It was a good chance for him to really get to know my parents a little and then after that me and my dad got to asking some more important questions like obviously about if he’s interviewed for other jobs and stuff like that,” Barton said, “We also asked if this year was what he expected it to be, obviously he expected better results but just in terms of relationships with players.” 

The 6-3, 295-pound lineman appreciated how upfront Morris was when answering his question specifically about not interviewing with other schools.  

“We’ve all talked about it in the group message and stuff like that, every time one of us sees something about it we send it to him and he always shoots it down and he was really upfront about it just saying there’s no way,” Barton said, “For one thing I mean he wouldn’t want to go coach against Clemson every week, when that stuff came out about the South Carolina job he just told us there was no chance of that happening.”

After year one, the culture change is still a work in progress, but coach Morris and the rest of his staff are very optimistic about the future especially when they can get this class on campus. 

“He talked about how he’s worked to change the culture a little bit and that type of stuff, which was good, and he said he’s tried to build a relationship with the players and the position coaches are just the same way,” Barton said, “I think they realize they had a lot to change, coach Morris was telling us when he first got there he had to teach the guys how to practice, he knew there was a long way to go, obviously he expected better results but I think he knows once he gets this recruiting class in everything will be a lot more doable and possible and I think he’s excited about that and just looking forward to getting better and better.”

The coaching has already begun for Barton, as coach Fry told him to just keep on getting stronger and work on his snaps from center as well. 

“I was talking to coach Fry and he just really wants me to work on snapping the ball, like getting off the ball when I snap it and he wants me to get a lot stronger, he said to me he thought I was good center this year he just wants me to work on snapping the ball and improving with that,” Barton said. 

Not only did the staff impress Barton on their home visit, but equally impressed was Barton’s parents especially when the staff emphasized life outside of football. 

“My mom always said that the first time she saw me and coach Morris meet each other and he gave me a big hug, from then she knew what type of guy he was and she likes him because he cares about more than football, like he put a water bottle on the table and said the water bottle is the football aspect but the table is the rest of life, and the table is the more important part,” Barton said, “My mom is really impressed with his character, and that he’s got expectations for what you’ll do at school and reaching your capability, and my mom is interested in the non football stuff just because that’s how moms are and my dad has a lot of confidence in him that he can turn it around and also he’s just concerned with the non football stuff too like academics.”

Barton will be on campus for a visit in a couple of weeks when the whole class comes to campus for a visit. 

2016 athlete talks SMU visit, recruitment

By: Matt Sanders

Arlington Heights quarterback and current UNT commit Deion Hair'Griffin attended SMU's final home game against Tulane, and was impressed with the Mustangs’ coaching staff.

“It was great for me,” Hair-Griffin said. “I got to experience the coaching staff up front, and it was good to see how they coach their players so that I know what I’m going into.”

Although SMU’s record was not impressive, Hair-Griffin knows that the team is headed in the right direction.

“They’re working mighty hard,” he said. “It shows me that they have determination. Any kid who knows football would want to be a part of that.”

Hair-Griffin believes that his senior season was a success, especially from the leader standpoint.

“I had to be a coach on the field and I had to teach guys what football was like,” he said. “It was a little different, but I feel like I did a good job.”

Hair-Griffin believes that being a leader this year will go a long way for him.

“Being a leader shows who you are and what your team stands for. It made me grow as a player and as a person.”

As his high school career comes to an end, Hair-Griffin is preparing to take things to the next level in college.

“The speed of the game will increase,” he said. “There’s a bigger learning gap in college. If you prepare yourself, you shouldn’t get caught off guard too much.”

Hair-Griffin is still firm on his UNT commitment, and his goal for his first year is to just be ready.

“My goal for my first year at UNT is to just prepare myself. I haven’t gotten out of high school yet so I haven’t thought about goals too much. I will hopefully have football goals in the spring.”

Although he believes SMU will turn things around, he is focused on improving the football team at UNT.

“I would like to see UNT, the program I’m going to, on top.”

SMU tight end commit recaps SMU game

By: Scott Sanford

Before the Thanksgiving holiday, 2016 Cinco Ranch (Tex.) tight end Corey Rau took in the Mustangs final home game of the season against Tulane.  

After picking up some cold weather SMU gear, and visiting with the coaches before the game, the SMU commit and his family witnessed the Mustangs second win of the season.

During his first SMU game of the season, the 6-foot-4, 243-pound Rau paid close attention to the Mustangs offense and how he should expect to be used starting next year.

“We basically run the same offense at my high school,” Rau explained.  “They utilize the H-back a lot more at SMU than they did at Cinco Ranch, and they’re a high-powered offense.”  

The SMU commit enjoyed his time on campus, but was especially happy to catch a victory.

“It was good for them to get a win,” Rau said.  Especially at home for the seniors since it was their last game at Ford Stadium.”  

What made Rau happiest on his visit was seeing his future teammates’ reactions to the win in the locker room.

“We all went in after the game and all the guys were going crazy, dancing around, playing music, and even the President and athletic director were there to support Coach Morris,” Rau said.  “It shows how much they care so I thought that was really cool.”

Rau knows the program is headed in the right direction, but he believes the team has a lot of room for growth as well.

“First thing we have to do I think is come closer together as a team and play for each other,” The Scout two-star said.  “An ugly win is better than a pretty loss, so if we just learn to play for the team, we’ll turn this thing around for sure.”

While Rau’s high school season ended abruptly after a first round loss to Ballaire, the Katy, Texas native felt, overall, his play was where he wanted it to be.

“I had to make the most of every ball thrown to me,” Rau said.  “We really didn’t throw the ball that much this season, but I think I did pretty good.  All of my touchdowns were 40-plus yards and I led the team in receiving yards so that’s good.”

With the kind of numbers Rau put up, it’s no surprise he’s still hearing from the likes of Florida, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Minnesota and Colorado, but his special bond with the coaching staff has him fully committed to the Mustangs.

“Their belief in me, and how they constantly are telling me how they wish I was there right now is huge,” Rau said.  “They think that I can make a huge impact on this program, and that’s what matters to me—coaches that believe in me no matter what.” 

Rau, who doesn’t have a specific date in mind just yet, plans on taking his official visit to the Hilltop in January.  

Onu gets visit from Malone

By: Scott Sanford

With the Mustangs’ season already in the books, SMU’s coaching staff is now hitting the recruiting trail with a little more than two months until Chad Morris is scheduled to bring in his first full recruiting class.

Assistants have been all over the state of Texas, and defensive coordinator Van Malone stopped by Richmond to see 2016 George Ranch cornerback commit Mikial Onu

While the 6-foot, 185-pound Onu talks with Malone regularly, the senior defensive back enjoyed getting to meet with him face to face—something the two haven’t been able to do since Onu’s visit to the Hilltop for the North Texas game.

“He basically stopped by and met my family,” Onu said.  “My Grandma and my sister live near by so we just sat down and talked.  It was cool.  We didn’t talk that much about the season and stuff.  We mostly talked about how he got into coaching and just regular conversation stuff.”

Malone also talked about how excited he is for Onu to get to campus so that he can begin competing for early playing time.  

SMU’s secondary struggles were well documented this season, but Malone voiced his confidence to Onu, saying that will change with this class.

“This is a new coaching staff with a new system, so this is their first time being able to recruit position specific players and players that fit their scheme,” Onu explained.  “A lot of the guys in this class are going to have a chance to come in early and make an impact.”

Onu is excited to get to campus next summer, and looking forward to his official visit sometime in January, but he’s got another playoff matchup to worry about before focusing on his transition to the college game.

George Ranch’s Longhorns will look to avenge last year’s playoff loss to Temple this evening at 7 p.m. against the Wildcats.

Shelmire impressed after seeing coaches, talks future

By: Andrew Hattersley

SMU’s season wrapped up last weekend and one of their first trips of the offseason was to visit Lutheran South Academy and SMU commit Joshua Shelmire. It served as an opportunity for Shelmire and the staff to catch up about the season and what the talented wide receiver’s role will be next year. 

“It was great, coach Stepp came and coach Morris and coach Craddock came through, it was really good it went really well we talked a lot about the team, it was a really good visit,” Shelmire said. 

The offensive staff reiterated their excitement him and the rest of the class coming to the Hilltop next fall during his in-home visit.

“They were pretty excited about me, they want me to get up there and contribute, they think I can make a difference,” Shelmire said, “Pretty much the whole class, they’re excited about us, all in all we had a really good time.”

 The 6-2, 185-pound receiver sensed the staff was even more excited about next season than they were this year after getting a sense of where they need to improve. 

“They talked about their season, they felt confident and they’re really excited about next year, it will be a really revealing year next year so they’re really excited for that season,” Shelmire said, “It seems like they are a little bit more excited this season than they were last year, they just got to be more consistent, they’re kind of a young team with a new coach, they’re really pumped about next year.”

The visit also served as a chance for Shelmire’s parents to get a sense of what their son’s time at SMU will be like. 

“Both my parents were in the room they talked with them, they really liked them, they liked the coaches, they talked about what it would be like while I’m up there, how they let the parents know what the game time and schedules look like and how they keep them informed and updated on their players,” Shelmire said. 

The elusive receiver was impressed with the way SMU stuck with a couple talented teams and knows next season will be all about being more consistent. 

“They looked good at times, they competed against some of the top schools like TCU, Tulsa a good half in that one, I think they just need to be more consistent, more energy throughout the whole year,” Shelmire said. 

Sometime in January, Shelmire will also take his official visit to SMU; however, the date has not been determined. This will be the only visit that Shelmire will take. 

2017 guard talks SMU, junior year

By: Matt Sanders

L.D. Bell guard and SMU recruit Anesu Sitole finished his junior season on a high note after dealing with multiple injuries.

“I suffered an ankle sprain week one and also suffered a concussion week nine,” Sitole said. “Though I dealt with injuries this year, I was blessed to have been named second team all-district offensive guard.” 

Instead of letting injuries get him down, he used them as opportunities to grow.

“Injuries reveal the character of a player, so I looked at it as just a minor setback for a major comeback,” he said. “I still attended every practice to hold up my leadership role even if I was just a voice on the side.”

Although Sitole is already a leader on his team, he wants to improve his role when he becomes a senior.

“I plan on embracing it and turning it up a couple notches during this offseason,” he said. “I take this role very seriously and have been very vocal and trying to lead by example.”

While Sitole is focused on his senior year of high school, his college recruitment is picking up. Along with SMU, he has heard from schools like Georgetown, Midwestern State and Missouri.

Sitole attended SMU’s games against James Madison and Tulane, and he was impressed with how the Mustangs are starting to turn things around.

“I love the environment there and all they have to offer, and what coach Morris is doing with the program.”

When it comes to what Sitole looks for in a school, his biggest priorities are about the comfort.

“I definitely care about the environment of the school and the support system from coaches given to the players, and also the location and the current team chemistry,” Sitole said.

Sitole believes that when graduates from high school in 2017, SMU will continue to be on the rise.

“I’d like to see the program still going in the right path that coach Morris is currently building, and for everyone involved with the team to believe in it and buy in, and do whatever it takes to get rolling on that path.”

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