The Pony Stampede Hilltop Review 1/29

Come inside this FREE edition of the Pony Stampede Hilltop Review with the latest on SMU recruiting.

Rock says 2016 class has 'something special going'

By: Patrick Engel

Cypress Ranch (Texas) Collin Rock will make a position switch from quarterback to safety when he arrives at SMU, but he also has to make the switch from living primarily in Houston to Dallas. He got a taste of Dallas for a weekend on his official visit, which he took with a large majority of SMU’s 2016 recruiting class.

“I really enjoyed it, hanging out with everybody and getting to know everybody a little bit better,” Rock said. “The first night, we hung out with each other, hung out with our hosts a little bit. The next day we took our campus tour, then went back to coach Morris’ house.”

Rock and his parents also met with Kevin Knox, a professor from the Cox School of Business, who told him all about the school. He intends to major in business, and the strong academic environment strengthened his parents’ trust in the school.

“They love it up there, every time we come up,” Rock said. “I think getting to talk with Mr. Knox, that helped out my parents, especially my mom. My mom is a freak about academics.”

Rock was one of the first to commit to SMU in the 2016 cycle, so he has seen the class grow and had the most time to get to know everyone else. He also enjoyed the time spent with his host, Ben Hicks, and work on some of the uncommitted visitors.

“We’ve had the group message that we all talk in every day, so it was great to actually meet some of the guys,” Rock said. “We have (uncommitted guys Audie Omotosho and Clifton Lewis) in the group also, and I think they realize what we have going here and that we have something special.”

Rock hasn’t played safety since his sophomore year of high school, but he’s already working on the transition. He said having a quarterback background helps transition to any position.

“On the defensive side of the ball, I know what the quarterbacks are looking for. That’s going to help me a lot,” Rock said.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Rock originally picked SMU over Navy, but said he has had other coaches contact him, only for him to said he is not interested. He said he will sign his letter of intent right after the clock his 7 a.m. on Feb. 3 and plans to room with Cinco Ranch (Texas) tight end commit Corey Rau.

2017 OT picks up SMU offer 

By: Billy Embody

2017 Katy (Tex.) Taylor defensive end/tight end Camron Horry talked with SMU offensive coordinator Joe Craddock this past week and Horry got good news from Craddock as the Mustangs offered.

"He said we want you and I want you to know we're offering you right now," Horry said. "That just blew my mind and I was speechless. He said they have a private junior day they want me to come to."

"He had talked to me before. He's a great guy. He's super nice and a fun coach to be around. He's one of those coaches that will be fun with you, but when it's time to get serious, he will buckle down."

SMU sees Horry as an offensive tackle, which he played his sophomore year, but does like defense better. Horry admits he also doesn't know much about SMU overall.

"I definitely knew about them though. My best friend's aunt coaches there as the assistant coach of the women's basketball team. One of my close friends (Rodney Clemons) committed there last year," Horry said. "He tells me it's fun up there all the time and we're friends on snapchat and it looks super fun."

When Horry visits, he'll have one main thing he's looking for.

"Just seeing the atmosphere and how everybody functions. For me, if it's not a good atmosphere, I wouldn't want to go there," Horry said. 

Kansas State, Texas, Texas A&M, Northwestern, Oklahoma State and TCU have been showing Horry interest, but 

"It makes me feel like they have confidence in my ability and what I can do."

Horry is moved all over the field for Taylor and he brings a lot.

"My best ability is my length to set the edge and what my coach says is to dominate the edge. He likes me to do that," Horry said. "I need to turn my head quicker when I catch the ball."

Horry is the son of 7-time NBA champion Robert Horry.

Duke: StangGang16 is 'one big family'

By: Patrick Engel

Baytown (Texas) Goose Creek linebacker Myles Duke didn’t take long to commit after receiving an offer from SMU last June. On his official visit last weekend, he didn’t take long to get the reassuring feeling that he’d found his future home.

“The visit went great. It was everything I could have expected,” Duke said. “I really like the atmosphere and that they really wanted to be there.”

Duke was one of the 19 #StangGang 16 members who took an official last weekend, and spending time with fellow commits heightened the family feel.

“With them stressing from day one that they were like a family,” Duke said. “When everyone committed, we started a big group message and we’ve been in contact even since and talk every day. When we finally met them, it was almost like we’d known them forever.” 

Unlike his recruitment, Duke has needed time to decide his academic interests for college. After the visit, he has a clearer idea of some of his areas of interest.

“I think my favorite part was talking to the professors because I had to feel my way through and wait to see what I actually wanted to pursue in college,” Duke said. “I met with a professor from the business side, psychology and sports management. The business (program) stuck out. I really like that fact that the business school is second to none. Getting into that and being able to pursue something there, and just having the SMU name will help my build a lot of connections.”

Duke’s parents joined him on the visit, but were only looking for reassurance as well.

“They were sold before we even got there, just from talking to the coaches and from the first time we went up there. It was icing on the cake really,” Duke said.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Duke’s primary recruiter through the process is linebackers coach Archie McDaniel and also his future position coach. Duke played quarterback in high school, but will play star linebacker in SMU’s 4-2-5 defense.

Sutton recaps SMU official visit

By: Andrew Hattersley

It was a jam-packed weekend for Cedar Hill HS (Tex.) defensive back and SMU commit Eric Sutton who had been looking forward to this weekend since committing to SMU last summer. 

“It was really good, there was a lot of food which was really good,” Sutton said “It was just really good to be able to put a name to a face.” 

Despite getting to know a lot of the players really well through a group message, Sutton enjoyed finally getting to meet a lot of the guys in person. 

“I committed last June so I know a lot of these guys really well through our group text,” Sutton said, “It was just really good to be able to see everyone in person it was a good time.”

For Sutton, this also served as an opportunity for him to see some of the coaches even some of those he hadn’t got to know as well through the recruiting process. 

“It was really good to see the coaches again, I’ve built a really good relationship with them over the last year,” Sutton said, “It was cool at the dinner we also got to meet some of the coaches that we didn’t know as well through our recruitment, like I got to sit near coach Stepp and get to know him a little bit.” 

The weekend also gave the 5-10 cornerback the chance to get a sense of what his next few years on the Hilltop will be like. 

“The coaches just gave us a little overview of what our schedule is going to be like and what our next four years at SMU will be like,” Sutton said. 

The biggest point of emphasis for Sutton and the rest of the commits however is the family aspect the coaches have emphasized since day 1. 

“Just getting to spend some time with the coaches and rest of the commits and see everyone so excited, it really is like the family the coaches talked about.” 

Barton enjoys official visit to SMU
Gabe Brooks / SCOUT

By: Andrew Hattersley

It was a weekend many of the commits had been waiting for, a chance to hang out together and enjoy some good food, some meeting for the first time and the opportunity to spend a couple days on campus at SMU. For 2016 Houston Christian (Tex.) offensive guard and SMU commit Harrison Barton, the weekend was everything he hoped for me and more. 

“I mean it was awesome, finally the coaches got the chance to roll out the red carpet for us and make it special and do a little bit of special things for us,” Barton said, “It was great how we ate good, got to see the campus, got to hang out with the players and the rest of the commits it was good.”

Through the group message all the commits knew each other very well, and some had even got the chance to play again each other, but this weekend served as an opportunity for a number of guys to truly find out about each other and put a name to a face. 

“Yeah it was awesome, yeah we had all met each other, technology can only do so much, we had all met each other and played against each other we knew each other somehow but really it was good to just spend time with each other face to face,” Barton said, “People that we didn’t know just get to put a name to a face and just to get to know each now that we’d be playing alongside each other.”

For Barton he appreciated how much time and effort the staff put in to make this a memorable weekend for all the players. 

“It was awesome they spent a lot of time making sure the weekend was well planned, that everything went organized, that we got cookies in our room, our room was organized, we ate well, we went to Texas de Brazil I mean just we just ate all you can eat we ate well that day so it was great they really catered to us which was awesome,” Barton said. 

“The weekend also served as an opportunity for Barton and the rest of the guys to find out what the next four years will be like for them both on and off the field. 

I mean we got an idea of the schedule and we got to go into a meeting with coach Craddock, coach Morris, coach Stepp and coach Fry and learn about the offensive talent the offense has produced,” Barton said, “That was awesome we just learned the benefits of coming through this offense.”

Shelmire reflects on watching class grow

By: Demetrio Teniente

With signing day just around the corner, SMU had a big get together with all of their committed athletes last weekend. 

Among those in attendance were 2016 Lutheran South Academy wide receiver Joshua Shelmire and his family. 

“It went well,” he said. “I really enjoyed it. We got to tour the campus, dorms and see the facilities.”

Not  only did the commits get the VIP tour of the hilltop, but they also got to see where the man himself, Chad Morris, hangs his hat. 

“We just hung out and had a good time,” Shelmire said. “We played a lot of games—Madden, cards, some arcade games.”

For pretty much all the commits, this last visit was far from their first time visiting SMU. For some it was the third, fourth and even fifth time rolling through University Park.   

“I’d been to SMU about three or four times before,” Shelmire said. “It was more in detail this time though. I got to hang out with Courtland Sutton a little bit and we just talked about SMU and how he’d been enjoying it.”

Shelmire was the first in the Class to commit and has been able to sit back and watch as everyone else joined the ‘Stang Gang’.  

“I got to see all the other guys as they committed,” he said. “And it kind of felt nice knowing that I’d been the first one.” 

Smith gets chance to get closer with StangGang16
Student Sports

By: Demetrio Teniente

The clock is winding down and with each passing minute we inch closer and closer to national signing day. 

Every program across America is double and triple checking their lists, talking to commits, their coaches, and family, anyone who knows them to make sure they have all their ducks in a row. 

Last weekend, SMU had a huge gathering at the Hilltop with their commits and their families. 

While the SMU recruiting class of 2016 is already very tightly knit, the get together offered a chance for the players, the players’ families, and the SMU coaches to become even that much closer. 

2016 Plano offensive lineman Kadarius Smith say this visit, more than any other was by far the most important. 

“The other visits didn’t really matter too much,” Smith said. “Back then you’re just feeling it out and seeing if you liked what you were seeing. But now I know I was able to actually understand and take in everything they were telling me about the academic side, and the athletic side.”

After the players got a tour of the campus and the athletic facilities, they all shuffled over to Chad Morris’ house. 

“It was a lot of fun,” Smith said. “We basically went there and played some basketball, and looked at all the stuff he had from all his coaching stops.”

As the days go by, and Feb. 3 gets closer and closer, Smith says he can’t help but get excited about making everything official.

“Back then [when I made my first visits SMU was] just another school I was looking at,” he said. “But now that signing day is getting closer it’s becoming a reality that I’m going there.”

2017 linebacker getting major attention, earns SMU offer
© Greg Powers

By: Billy Embody

2017 Sachse linebacker Riko Jeffers picked up an SMU offer after SMU offensive line coach Dustin Fry stopped by and then delivered good news on the 

"He just told me that the SMU program is coming up and it's about to change and how he wants me to give him an opportunity and come for a visit to see what they all have coming," the 6-1, 225-pound linebacker said.

Fry invited Jeffers to an SMU junior day on February 20, which he plans on attending and trying to find out. 

"I have a teammate who transferred to Cedar Hill and he's going to SMU, but no I don't know too much about SMU," Jeffers said.

Jeffers visited SMU in eighth grade, but hasn't visited since. He's got plenty to learn. After talking with Fry for the last few weeks, he's beginning to build a relationship with him.

"He seems like a really good guy and he sells the program. When he says they're going to turn around the program, I believe him," Jeffers said. 

Oklahoma State and Kansas have also offered and he plans to visit later this year. Iowa and Houston have also been showing interest. Jeffers will attend junior day at Houston this weekend.

Jeffers is still working on coverage skills, but is a physical linebacker who brings it every play.

"I feel like I need to work on covering 1-on-1 with running backs and slots. That's what I feel like I need to work on," Jeffers said. "Wherever the ball is though, I'm going to go to it. I try my best to make plays every play and take no downs off. I feel like I can make good open field tackles and I hit with a purpose."

Jeffers' goals for his senior year include setting the school record in tackles while making a deep playoff run.

Onu can't wait to be 'officially a Mustang'

By: Demetrio Teniente

It’s that time of the year again.

National signing day is days away and universities everywhere are doing last minute checkups with their recruits, making sure everything will go as smoothly as possible. 

Well, SMU coach Chad Morris doesn’t do anything small. Last weekend he and the rest of the coaching staff had a big group of SMU’s commits on campus. 

What’s more, after they toured the campus and the athletics facilities, Morris brought everyone and their families to his house. 

“It was pretty great—his house is huge,” 2016 George Ranch corner back Mikial Onu said. “It was cool because he had rings, jerseys and pictures from his Lake Travis and Clemson days. He has a lot of cool stuff like that.”

It may not have been his first time visiting SMU, but Onu said a lot had changed since he last saw it. 

“The last time I was in the athletic facility was back in July,” he said. “So it was cool seeing all the improvements, and also all the other commits, and having all our families meet.”

Following the big get together at SMU, Morris, Van Malone, and Archie McDaniels stopped by Onu’s house and met with his family.  

“We didn’t talk about signing day or anything like that,” Onu said. “It was really laid back and we were just talking a lot about the future.” 

With just a few days before signing day, Onu says he can’t wait to officially be a Mustang.

Clark and rest of class working hard on Omotosho

By: Patrick Engel

SMU commit and Cedar Hill (Texas) safety Michael Clark joined his fellow #StangGang16 members for a big official visit last weekend, and he enjoyed every minute of his time at his future home.

“We toured the campus, met everyone involved with SMU football and I met some of the professors,” Clark said. “And we got to go to coach Morris’ house. I think that was the most fun part.”

Clark’s parents came with him for the visit, and he knows they were just as impressed by the school, coaching staff and hospitality.

“I think they loved it more than me,” Clark said. “They put us in a really nice hotel and we ate until we couldn’t eat anymore, I know they loved that.”

Clark, who wants to study business, met professors from the Cox School of Business. Even though he saved time to learn about the academic side of SMU, he really enjoyed Morris and the rest of the staff treating all the recruits to Texas De Brazil for dinner and bringing them back to his house on a charter bus decked out in SMU colors. It all amounted to a lot of time spent with future coaches and teammates, which he loved.

“It’s a pretty good bond because we’ve been talking every day, so to finally hang around with them is pretty cool,” Clark said.

Part of the hanging out included doing some recruiting. Clark and the rest of the class were working hard on uncommitted visitors Audie Omotosho, Jordan Carmouche and Clifton Lewis. Carmouche sealed the deal and committed to SMU on Thursday night, but the class wants more.

“I think we did pretty good (recruiting),” Clark said. “We all talked to specifically Audie. I know Xavier Castille, he was helping out with him too. Audie told us he would including SMU in his top four.”

Clark hasn’t picked up any offers since he committed in July, but he also hasn’t responded to other coaches trying to contact him. Originally a Kansas commit, he picked SMU in July, shortly after decommitting from the Jayhawks.

Jones ready to get to SMU following official visit

By: Scott Sanford

One of the first five players to commit to SMU, Arlington Heights (Tex.) defensive tackle Patrick Jones was the last member of SMU’s 2016 class to find a roommate.  

However, thanks to nearly his entire class being on campus last weekend for official visits, the 6-foot-1, 277-pound lineman was ultimately able to secure his college roommate (among other things, of course).

“Me and Ken (McLaurin) bonded really well so we decided we’re going to room together,” Jones recalled.  

From finding his roommate, to the family atmosphere at dinners, Jones enjoyed his experience with his future teammates and coaches.  

But his favorite part of the weekend came during the academic tours on Saturday.

“My favorite part though was sitting down during one of the lunches and getting to talk to one of the professors of my major.  I want to major in sport management, so the professor walked me through everything I needed to know and it was really a great learning experience.”

Since committing back in May, the Fort Worth native has grown especially close to running backs coach Claude Mathis during the recruiting process, but he was happy to catch up with his future head coach during his visit.

“I was the first one to meet with Coach Morris Friday evening actually, and we just sat and talked and he thanked me for staying committed,” Jones recalled.   “We went through every from expectation, to what going to happen on signing day.  He just seems like a really great man with great morals and great values.”

Jones, however, is happy that the recruiting process is coming to an end so he can go back to focusing on football.

“I can’t wait for it to be over,” Jones said.  “Recruiting for me is stressful, but I mean it’s been a great ride and I’m ready to sign on the dotted line and start things up with Coach Tru(main) Carroll.”

2017 RB talks SMU offer, recruitment

By: Matt Sanders

Cypress Woods running back and SMU recruit C.J. Jones' recruiting process is starting to pick up after SMU offered him a scholarship earlier this month. Jones has talked with coach Craddock and coach Mathis about not only their pasts, but also his future.

“We talked about SMU and about where all the coaches came from,” Jones said. “We also talked about where I would fit in the offense.”

Although Jones has not visited SMU yet, he hopes to visit really soon, and the coaching staff has already helped SMU stand out to him.

“The coaches are really friendly and seem like good coaches,” he said. “They also seem to really care about the players.

SMU coaches are getting attention for the presence on social media, and Jones believes that it could be very beneficial for the program.

“I think it’s very important to connect on social media,” he said. “It shows that they’re active and giving more effort.”

Along with SMU, Jones holds an offer from Duke, but is also getting attention from other schools.

“I went to Oklahoma State’s junior day, and Navy and Michigan State have contacted me,” he said. “I have also talked with one of the TCU coaches.”

Although it is still early and he has no official commitment timeline, SMU is one of Jones’ favorite schools.

“SMU would be one of the top schools because of where the program is headed and the coaches.”

Although his recruitment is heating up, Jones is still focused on high school, specifically on stepping into a leadership role for his senior year.

“My goal is to be a better leader,” he said. “People watch me and look up to me, so I feel like I need to be a better leader.”

Jones knows that SMU is in a rebuilding mode, but he respects the efforts the coaching staff has made to turn things around on the Hilltop.

“The coaches at SMU believe that things are headed in the right direction.”

By the time Jones graduates from high school, he believes that SMU will have taken even bigger steps to becoming a dominant program.

“I think SMU’s record will be better and they will get some big time recruits.”

Benson recaps SMU official visit
© Greg Powers

By: Scott Sanford

It wasn’t long ago that Waco La Vega (Tex.) wide receiver Brandon Benson was considering taking a trip to Illinois to make sure he had explored all of his options.

But after his official visit to SMU, he saw all he needed to see to reaffirm his commitment to the Mustangs.  

“It was the best,” Benson recalled.  “I toured the campus, talked to people in the major I want to take, and they talked about how everything would fit around football for the next four years.”

The 6-foot-2, 193-pound wideout has been in the famous group text for 6 months now, but seeing the camaraderie with his future teammates up close sealed the deal for him.

“It was the players,” Benson recalled.  “Just talking to some of the fellow 2016 members, they just made it feel like that’s where I belong.”

Like most, Benson enjoyed seeing all of the perks that will be available once he’s at SMU, but the Central Texas native is focused on what he can control, which is the product that he and his teammates put out on the field.

“I most excited about the opportunities we’ll have at SMU,” Benson said.  “It hasn’t been like the Pony Express days for some time, but I’m ready to see if we can bring that back and recreate that camaraderie around SMU again.”

Davis talks SMU official visit

By: Scott Sanford

Even with just two other members of his recruiting class with him, Midway (Tex.) defensive back Christian Davis enjoyed every second of his time on the Hilltop.

The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Waco native took in his official visit with fellow Central Texan Brandon Benson and Demerick Gary, and enjoyed both the athletic and academic sides of the trip.  

“It was a great experience,” Davis said.  “The campus was great and I actually got to see the business school since that’s what I want to major in.  SMU really did a great job of providing us with everything we needed to know and I’m excited to sign next Wednesday.”

Davis enjoyed seeing the future facility plans as well as all of the new equipment, and while all of those amenities are nice, he knows those aren’t the main reasons he chose the Mustangs.  

“I really believe in what they have ready for us,” Davis said.  “All of us have a good chance to play early, and we just need to get up there with the right mindset and get ready to turn things around.”

While Davis said he’s readying himself for a little bit of homesickness, he’s also very eager to make things official on signing day.

For the time being, however, the cornerback is focused on a few aspects of himself and his game that he wants to improve.

“Right now I’m focused on getting faster and putting on weight, but not too much,” Davis said.  “The most important thing though I want to focus on is gaining mental and physical toughness because I know college is going to be tough.”

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