Matt Visinsky

Way too early look at SMU Football's 2016 defense

Scott takes a way too early look at SMU's 2016 defense and who's going to be contributing now that National Signing Day is over.

Entering Chad Morris’ second season as the head coach at SMU, expect there to be plenty of shifting when it comes to the Mustangs’ depth chart.  While no coach likes burning redshirts, Morris could turn to more freshmen this year since it’s his first full recruiting class and it’s loaded with talent.  Especially after losing five starters and a few other key contributors, this defensive depth chart has a lot to prove.

Defensive End (2 starters)

DE1: Jarvis Pruitt
DE2: Michael Scott
DE3: Michael Epley
DE4: Michael Badejo 

DE1: Justin Lawler
DE2: Hunter Thedford
DE3: Delontae Scott
DE4: Demerick Gary

Departures: Andrew McCleneghen, Cameron Smith, Robert Seals

While Justin Lawler returns at defensive end for the Mustangs, there’s a lot of turnover at this position.  With McCleneghen, Smith and Seals leaving, Jarvis Pruitt should get a shot as the upperclassman, but redshirt freshman Michael Scott should have a nice coming out party in 2016 after sitting all of last season.  Kimball product Demerick Gary should redshirt to help get his body ready for the collegiate game, but Hunter Thedford and Michael Epley, should both provide some nice size and depth as well. 

Michael Badejo, although on the smaller side, is one freshman that could see early playing time because of his quick get off and athleticism.  And while Delontae Scott was not as highly regarded as his brother, he has the athleticism and length to be a solid contributor.  This group had little depth last year, but despite graduating three seniors, the additions of the Scott brothers and Thedford will help out nicely. 

Defensive Tackle (2 starters)

DT1: Deon Green
DT2: Ken McLaurin
DT3: Chris Biggurs
DT4: Myles McCormack
DT5: Patrick Jones

NT1: Mason Gentry
NT2: Zelt Minor
NT3: JT Williams
NT4: Spencer Hollie

Departures: Zach Wood, Spencer Conley

The defensive line was another position the Mustangs had very little depth at.  And with the departure of Zach Wood, this group will have to take their play to the next level.  After starting all 12 games, Mason Gentry returns as the anchor of this defensive line.  Tentatively, Deon Green slides in ahead of Ken McLaurin simply because McLaurin is a freshman, but don’t be surprised if the Ryan product is starting by the middle of the year. 

JUCO signee JT Williams should both provide some solid depth and size early on, but it’s time to see how Chris Biggurs developed during his redshirt season.  The Coppell native had the athleticism and get-off as a freshman, but he desperately needed to add size.  Patrick Jones has the ability to turn into a solid contributor for the Mustangs, but he is a perfect candidate to redshirt for this staff.

Linebackers (2 starters)

Will1: Jackson Mitchell
Will2: Carlos Carroll
Will3: Jordan Ward

Mike1: Anthony Rhone
Mike2: Matt NcNew
Mike3: Nick Horton
Mike4: Noah Spears

Departures: Jonathan Yenga, Caleb Tuiasosopo, Derek Longoria 

The Mustangs are losing important pieces in Yenga, Tuiasosopo and Longoria, leaving the linebackers a little thin to start 2016.  Jackson Mitchell, Anthony Rhone, Matt McNew and Nick Horton will be asked to be the leaders of this position group, even if they all aren’t starting.  Mitchell and Rhone, both with a little starting experience, will get the early nods as the starters because of their good instincts and athleticism.  Horton and McNew, two downhill linebackers with a little less athleticism, will also be important pieces of this defense.  

Carlos Carroll didn’t see a ton of playing time as a sophomore, but he did show off some athleticism with his play at the Will and Star last year.  He’ll have to step up with little depth at the Will.  If things do go south, you could even see Michael Badejo get a look there on the weak side.  And while redshirting Noah Spears would benefit him the most, this staff may not have that luxury with their lack of depth. 

Star Linebacker

Star1: RC Cox
Star2: Jordon Williams
Star3: Kyran Mitchell
Star4: Jordan Ward
Star5: Myles Duke
Star6: Blake Carlisle

Departures: Shakiel Randolph 

While Kyran Mitchell played well for the Mustangs once he got the opportunity, his season-ending knee injury is worrisome.  He may not be healthy to start the season, so his fill-in, RC Cox, will get first shot at the starting roll.  But a guy like Jordan Williams will be waiting for the opportunity to snag the starting spot.  Williams should get plenty of playing even if he doesn’t start because he has solid overall speed and athleticism, but I would be surprised if Williams isn’t starting at some point this season. 

Now in this defense’s second year, the staff is finally starting to develop some depth, which Jordan Ward and Myles Duke will provide.  Freshman Blake Carlisle is a perfect redshirt candidate because he has a great frame for the position, but he needs to add muscle and weight before playing at the next level. 

Strong and Free Safety

SS1: Jordan Wyatt
SS2: A.J. Justice
SS3: Collin Rock

FS1: Darrion Richardson
FS2: Michael Clark
FS3: Rodney Clemons

Departures: Shakiel Randolph, Troy Castle

 While the secondary as a whole struggled mightily last season, the addition of the 2016 defensive backs class provides some much-needed competition and depth.  Collin Rock and Michael Clark won’t likely start from game one, but both will push Jordan Wyatt, Darrion Richardson and A.J. Justice for playing time. 

Wyatt and Richardson, the two with the most experience, will start out as the number ones, but considering the struggles of this group last season, this staff may not be patient with them.  Clark and Rock both have the athleticism and ball skills to see consistent playing time in 2016.  Jesse Montgomery is a guy that will likely see more time at the cornerback position, but he has the ability to slide over to safety if needed.

Cornerback (2 starters)

CB1: Horace Richardson
CB2: Mikial Onu
CB3: Cedric Lancaster
CB4: Eric Sutton

CB1: William Jeanlys
CB2: Jesse Montgomery
CB3: Christian Davis
CB4: Deion Sanders Jr.

Departures: Ajee Montes, David Johnson

With all of the injuries the Mustangs suffered in the defensive backfield, the secondary is somewhat of a mess even with freshmen help on the way.  Despite missing the final four games with a shoulder injury, Horace Richardson still should begin the season as one of the starters.  After that, it’s quite possible the Mustangs go to freshmen.  William Jeanlys is long, and although I have him penciled in as the starter now, he could easily lose that spot because he lacks ideal physicality and strength.  But another off-season in SMU’s weight room could change that. 

Freshman Mikial Onu has good hips, plus the ball skills and athleticism to see early playing time.  Especially with the struggles this group faced last year, the coaching staff will likely be more willing to burn redshirts and test out their well-regarded defensive backs class.  Guys like Eric Sutton and Christian Davis may not see early playing time, but they very well could earn it as the season progresses.  Montgomery will also add some solid depth with his length. 

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