Greg Powers / Scout

The Pony Stampede Hilltop Review 1/22

Come inside the jam-packed Pony Stampede Hilltop Review filled with the latest SMU recruiting news.

Watts stops back SMU for visit

By: Matt Sanders

Plano East defensive tackle and SMU 2017 recruit Deiontae Watts recently visited SMU, and it didn’t take long for him to like what he saw.

“When I first went to SMU, I was impressed with how the campus looked,” Watts said. “The coaches are really friendly and I like SMU overall.”

Watts spent most of his visit talking with coach Loepp and coach Wyatt, and they discussed the benefits that come with being a Mustang.

“They were telling me about how the campus is with sports and football and how close everybody is, as well as the opportunity to study at SMU.

Watts currently holds offers from SMU and Colorado, but he is also getting attention from other big name programs.

“I’ve been talking with Baylor, OU and some other schools that have come by this past week,” he said. “I have also talked with UCLA.”

Although it’s still early, and he has no official commitment timeline right now, SMU is one of Watts’ top choices.

“SMU would be in my top five right now,” he said. “I like SMU because it’s really close to home.”

Something that Watts is most excited about for his senior year is to have more of a leadership role.

“It’s really big to be a leader. I’m glad to have an opportunity to keep our team up in spirits and to never give up,” he said. “Win or lose, we have to keep our heads high.”

For his senior year, Watts wants to focus on setting a good example off the field while being successful on it.

“Outside of school, we have to show good attitude because our school has a good reputation. On the field, we will try to win every game and be the best.”

Something recruits appreciate about the SMU coaching staff is how vocal they are on social media and the efforts they make to connect with high school athletes. For Watts, that goes a long way.

“It’s awesome for the coaches to reach out to players,” he said. “It shows that they’re really interested in you and try to help you out.”

Although SMU didn’t win as many games as hoped for last year, Watts can see the improvements the coaching staff has made and that things are going in the right direction on the Hilltop.

“The wins aren’t showing, but they’re doing what they can to make SMU be what they want it to be,” he said. “They don’t give up on the players and they keep pushing forward.”

Benson talks SMU official visit
© Greg Powers

By: Patrick Engel

SMU has spent the January recruiting period working to lock down its current commitments. Waco (Texas) La Vega wide receiver Brandon Benson has been committed since July, but he told PonyStampede on Wednesday he plans to take an official visit to Illinois. SMU wide receivers coach Justin Stepp visited him in Waco Wednesday night to try to ensure SMU wouldn’t lose one of its best players in this class.

“It was really good. We talked about my role in the offense and how things were going to be when I get there,” Benson said. “He said depending on spring practice and how I do in training camp, they’ll determine whether I play outside receiver or inside, like a slot type.”

Stepp also talked with Benson’s mother, who’s been an advocate for SMU for a long time and who the SMU coaches have built a relationship with as well.

“Oh yeah, she loves SMU,” Benson said.

Benson and Stepp discussed the plan to visit Illinois, which he will still take this weekend. Benson took his official to SMU last weekend, and Illinois is his only other planned visit, aside from a possible quick trip up to SMU sometime before signing day.

“Of course, no coach wants you to see another school, but as a player you feel like you deserve to do things like this, so we talked about it,” Benson said.

Benson has never been to Illinois, and the Illini were heavily involved before he committed to SMU. He still maintains a good relationship with wide receivers coach Mike Bellamy, but he isn’t about to forget why he committed to SMU in the first place either.

“You get a little afraid when a player is going to visit somewhere else, but I really like SMU, so something drastic would have to happen for me to leave,” Benson said.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Benson is Scout’s 109th-ranked receiver and 15th-ranked receiver in Texas. He originally picked SMU over Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin, Kansas, Northwestern, Colorado State, Houston, Texas Tech, North Texas and Texas State.

2017 OL recaps SMU visit
© Greg Powers

By: Andrew Hattersley

It was quite the crowd visiting SMU this past Monday when 2017 Plano East (Tex.) offensive lineman Casey Verhulst and a couple of his teammates made the trip over to SMU to check out the facilities. 

“I thought it went pretty great, we had to cut it short because I took Miklo our quarterback and he had to go throw for one of our receivers who’s getting scouted by Washington,” Verhulst said, “But overall I thought the visit went pretty darn great.”

In that time however Verhulst got to see much of the facility that caught his eye.

“We saw basically the entire athletic facility, we saw the training rooms, doctors office, team rooms, locker rooms all that good stuff,” Verhulst said, “I thought they were great a big thing of mine is I do cryotherapy every weekend and they have one of their own cryotherapy chambers, and that’s a big win, a big win for me.”

Coach Loepp was the one taking players around the facility while a number of the other coaches were out recruiting, but Verhulst will be back in a couple of weeks for SMU’s first junior day to talk with his position coach Dustin Fry.

“Definitely will talk to coach Fry, big thing of mine is I really want to get a coach that I like because that’s the coach of my future for the next some odd years,” Verhulst said, “I feel like if I can’t get along with this guy and we can’t see eye to eye then it’s not going to work.”

One of the most enjoyable parts of the visit for Verhulst was getting to visit with one of his best friends Miklo Smalls, who is also receiving interest from SMU.

“Oh yeah, Miklo is our starting quarterback so it was really cool,” Verhulst said, “We’re like the duo because I protect his blindside and he makes all the big plays.”

Verhulst and Smalls will visit as a tandem early on, with both of them going to a couple of junior vdays over the course of the year together.

“Oh yeah, he’s looking at big schools just like me, we’re going to a couple different junior days together,” Verhulst said.

The 6-6, 270-pound lineman is very familiar with SMU as his father and grandfather both attended the school.

“I’ve actually gone to a couple of games, my grandfather he’s an alumna, so is my uncle,” Verhulst said, “They were just students but they really like to hang around.”

The powerful lineman currently has offers from Texas Tech and Houston but there is one other out there he is anxiously waiting to receive.

“I haven’t really brought it up because I don’t want to seem to forward, but I really want the SMU offer,” Verhulst said, “They’ve kind of danced around the fact saying they think you’d be a pretty good fit on this team.” 

2017 DB gets red carpet treatment

By: Scott Sanford

The Mustangs had a handful of juniors on campus earlier this week to check out new facilities, try on jerseys, and learn more about the SMU program. 

One of those juniors who experience the red carpet treatment was Lake Dallas (Tex.) defensive back Kobe Boyce

The 6-foot-1, 175-pound defensive back enjoyed learning about SMU, but his favorite part was getting to suit up like one of the guys.

“My favorite part was getting to go to the locker room to try on the jerseys and checking out the equipment.  I had no idea they had so many jerseys,” Boyce recalled.  “Everything in the future looks nice.  It’s like I want to be a part of it.”

In the locker room, Boyce got to catch up with the coaches he is most familiar with—Coach Loepp and Coach Smith.

While those may be the only two coach Boyce has gotten to know so far, the entire coaching staff made an impression on the Dallas native.

“It looked like they were really enjoying what they were doing,” Boyce explained.  “It wasn’t like a show they had to put on, but they were actually enjoying seeing us try everything.”

Boyce has yet to pick up his first offer, but he knows that it all starts with getting the needed ACT score.  

Once the academics are out of the way, the junior corner plans to work on improving his stamina.  He also is focused on improving his flexibility in his hips.

Clark talks in-home, official visit
SCOUT

By: Demetrio Teniente

Recently, SMU commit 2016 Cedar Hill safety Michael Clark, got his third in-home visit—this time from coaches Jess Loepp, Claude Mathis, and the man himself, Chad Morris.   

“It was a good visit,” Clark said. “I got a whole lot of information and my family got to talk to the coaches about a lot of things.”

Having committed to back in July of 2015, Clark has developed a strong connection with all of SMU’s coaches and the recruiting class of 2016. 

“I have a really good relationship with [the coaches] and with the other recruits,”

Clark said. “We talk to each other every day.”

And even as tight as the recruiting class is, earlier this week, a member of the group left. 

On Tuesday, 2016 Sapulpa running back Dae Williams decommitted from SMU and committed to Louisville two days later.   

Proving how close the 2016 class is, Clark says no one has any hard feelings. 

“We’re all really good friends,” he said. “It’s still his decision. If he feels that it’s best for him to play somewhere else, then I think he should be able to go do that.” 

In just a few weeks, Clark will be putting pen to paper, making his commitment to SMU official. 

“I remember watching guys like Damarkus lodge signing last year,” Clark said.  “Being in that position this year is pretty cool. I know for sure my mom and dad will be there, but I know my whole family would want to be there too—so I’m not sure who I’m going to have with me.”

Since the end of the season, Clark has shifted his focus to the track season but he is also preparing for college—both on and off the field. 

“I decided I want to go into the Cox School of Business after my frist two years,” Clark said. “But I know I need to maintain business degrees.”

Clark will be taking his official visit at SMU this weekend. 

2017 DB picks up SMU offer

By: Billy Embody

SMU wide receivers coach Justin Stepp stopped by College Station (Tex.) A&M Consolidated for a visit and decided to go ahead and offer 2017 defensive back Tyon Merchant, who called coach Stepp after his coach told him to.

"Coach Stepp told me everything about my offer and that I got it," Merchant said. "I was happy. That was my first offer so I didn't know how to react, but to be happy and excited."

The 6-1, 180-pound defensive back has been in contact with Stepp for a while now and says their relationship has been built over the course of the season.

"He just tells me that the school really wants me and they need me to help put the school out there and they want me to do that," Merchant said. "He seems pretty cool to me and pretty blunt."

Defensive backs coach Jess Loepp has also been in contact at times, but right now Merchant is trying to find out more about the school.

"They've told me it's a pretty good education and they're trying to get the football team back. Right now, I'm just keeping my options open."

TCU and Houston have also been in contact and Merchant expects them to offer. 

Merchant switched to cornerback from linebacker this year and his effort is what sets him apart.

"I'm one of the players to jump around with, but I'm not one to be pushed around. I'm going to go 110 percent every play," Merchant said. "If you come my way throwing the ball, it's either going to be knocked down or intercepted. Really be physical out there."

Merchant has already visited SMU this fall for a game, but will be back on January 30 for Junior Day.

"I liked it. It's pretty big, but pretty quiet. I'm looking for a city. I want to find out about the education - something that deals with engineering or animals."

Local WR loves SMU visit

By: Scott Sanford

Even as someone who has visited multiple times in the past, 2017 Lincoln (Tex.) wide receiver Devodric Bynum is still able to find new aspects of SMU that he enjoys when he steps onto the Hilltop. 

Visiting this time for junior day, the 5-foot-11, 166-pound Bynum almost committed on the spot he enjoyed it so much.

“The buildings, the new practice facility, and just bringing everyone together to try and get things changed—I really considered committing,” Bynum recalled.  “I think that they show a lot of care to the kids, and it’s about more than just football with them.”

While he was impressed before the upgrades, Bynum says the weight room additions and plans for the practice facility have him excited.

“Man, I already love (the practice facility),” Bynum said.  “It has bleachers for your parents to watch you practice and everything.”

The Dallas native, who picked up his SMU offer back in September, has grown close to Chad Morris and Buddy Wyatt since the Mustangs started recruiting him.

While he’s just getting to know Coach Morris, his relationship with Coach Wyatt is already at a very comfortable level.

“Coach Buddy Wyatt and I talk almost everyday and he’s a great dude,” Bynum said.  “On the visit we talked about staying healthy now, and how when I get to college it’s not just about playing, but also about taking care of my body.”

The Mustangs are still the wide out’s only offer, and they will get a few extra brownie points for being the first school to offer, but they’ll still have to battle for Bynum’s talents with program like Texas, Notre Dame, Houston and TCU.

2018 defensive back grabs SMU offer
Harvey Levine/FOS

By: Demetrio Teniente

It’s still early in the game for 2018 Sachse defensive back Isaiah Humphries, but he just picked up his first offer from SMU on Jan 15. 

“I was really excited about it," Humphries said. “I was seeing a lot of 2018 DBs getting offers and was wondering when I’d get mine. Then out of nowhere, SMU offered me.”

Humphries says the offer from SMU came as a surprise to him, as he hasn’t been talking to them for a long time.   

“Honestly, I haven’t really talked to them that much,” He said. “I talked to Jess Loepp, but I haven’t talked to my position coach yet. I’m going to go meet the coaches at SMU on Monday.”

Humphries intended visit on Monday won’t be his first time on campus.  

“I visited SMU last year,” he said. “It was nice. I went during the east Carolina game. I’ve been to SMU a couple times because it’s really close to where I live.” 

Humphries has also been getting interest from schools like Northwestern, Penn State, and Boise State.  

The 5-11 180 pound sophomores, say he already know what he is looking for when he is looking at potential universities. 

“The school has to have good academics,” he said. “A good football program, a good business school, and I also like the idea of the bigger schools that aren’t near a big city.” 

SMU’s Cox School of Business is nationally recognized as one of the best the country has to offer—something Humphries probably already know. 

“Business schools are something I’m really looking at,” he said. “I want to major in business administration. It’s my goal to be a business administrator when I’m done with football.”


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