The Pony Stampede Hilltop Review 2/23

Come inside another packed Pony Stampede Hilltop Review with the latest SMU recruiting news.

Shelley stops by for SMU Jr. Day

By: Billy Embody

2017 Frisco (Tex.) Lone Star quarterback Jason Shelley stopped by for SMU junior day last weekend and enjoys getting by to see the SMU staff when he can with their solid relationship. The staff feels like he can bring a lot to the offense due to his comfort with a similar offense at Lone Star.

"It's pretty good. We just talk and communicate. It's similar to our offense so it'd be comfortable for me to transition to this one," Shelley said. "I think I'd fit perfectly fine because the way it's played, it's based around the quarterback."

As far as coming out for junior day, Shelley got the full tour, but wasn't really looking at anything specific as he and his family have been by SMU a couple times now.

"Anything. I'm willing to learn about everything right now. Nothing really specific."

SMU, New Mexico and Arizona State are coming after Shelley the hardest right now. The rising senior plans to make it to Stanford and Ohio State for camps this summer too.

Shelley doesn't have a timeline for his decision and is just "going with the flow."

2017 point guard updates recruitment

By: Demetrio Teniente

Nate Pierre-Louis is one of the best young point guards in the country and one of the best players in New Jersey. 

The 2017 Roselle Catholic point guard currently has 14 offers including Connecticut, Creighton, East Carolina, Florid State, Iowa State, Miami, Penn State, Rutgers, Seton Hall, SMU, TCU, Temple, and Texas Tech. 

Recently SMU head coach Larry Brown had the chance to watch Pierre-Louis play. 

“Brown came to one of my games,” he said.  “I knew he was coming and after we talked about how the season was going and how he enjoyed watching me. I mean, he is a legend, a hall of famer. He’s coached so many great players, he’s a living legend.”

The 6-3 175 point guard received his offer from SMU when he was a sophomore.   

“Now I’m still in contact with them,” he said. “but I guess you could say they pulled the trigger on me early in the recruiting process. I’ve watched them play a couple of times. They are really a disciplined team and are hard to play against. It’s easy to see how hard Larry Brown works them—he has really high standards.”

Though Pierre-Louis is getting a lot of attention from schools right now, he’s focusing on the season at hand first. 

“I’m really not getting to deep into recruiting right now though,” he said. “I haven’t taken any of my visits yet. So I really can’t put them in a top ten or anything. I’m just really focused on the season right now.”

And with recruitment on the back burner, for now, he isn’t sure when he’ll get around to visiting some of those schools that have offered him.  

“I’m thinking that we’ll lineup my visits later in the spring,” Pierre-Louis said. “But I don’t have any specific dates or anything. I’m really not sure.”

2017 defensive tackle talks SMU junior day
Binary DataDeiontae Watts.Deiontae Watts (© Greg Powers)

By: Scott Sanford

2017 Plano East defensive lineman Deiontae Watts has blown up since late January, reporting 10 offers from the likes of Oklahoma, Baylor, UCLA, Texas and Texas A&M, among others.

While the top tier power five programs are just beginning to take interest in the local talent, SMU has made their interest clear since November when they became Watts’ first offer.

Watts, who has become familiar with the SMU program after a number of visits, was also invited to the Mustangs’ junior day on February 20.

The 6-foot-3, 300-pound run stopper was impressed by all of the football facilities and changes being implemented, but what stood out to him was the tour around campus.

“The visit to SMU was awesome.  I really liked it,” Watts said.  “They took us around the campus explaining all of their majors and they showed us all of their dorms.  I loved it.”

Since the Mustangs offered him, Watts has been building relationships with his area recruiter Coach Loepp and position coach Buddy Wyatt, but during his visit he also got to talk with Coach Morris who had a special message for him.  

“His message to me was make sure I make the right decision when it comes to recruiting,” Watts recalled.  “He said, in the long run, make sure you go to the school that’s going to benefit you for the right purposes.”

Watt says that his relationship with the coaching staff and the academics at SMU are why the Mustangs are on the lineman’s short list, along with Oklahoma, Baylor, Colorado and Texas A&M.

Just this past week, Watts picked up his Oklahoma offer, which was special for him.

“I’m from Oklahoma, and I’ve always been an OU fan, so it’s really big for me,” Watts said.  

In the end, however, Watts plans to keep an open mind and listen to all of his options.  When it comes to finding the right school, the Plano East product is looking for a combination of athletics and academics.

“I’m looking forward to getting a good education from the college I choose,” Watts said.  “I’d be okay with leaving Texas.  It all depends on if the school is right for me.  Early playing time would also sway me towards a team, but it’s not a big main thing.

For now though, Watts plans to continue taking the recruiting process day by day, which starts with a visit to Texas A&M this weekend.

Houston commit visits SMU junior day
Marqez Bimage

By: Andrew Hattersley

With the focus now on the 2017 class and beyond, SMU hosted their second junior day last week, an invite only day. One of those to receive an invite was 2017 Brenham HS (Tex.) linebacker Marqez Bimage.

“It was really fun, beautiful campus, the campus is really nice, great school,” Bimage said.

For Bimage, one of the more enjoyable parts of the visit was getting to see SMU’s facilities, as well as, get an idea of what is coming in the future. 

“It was really nice, everything was just up to par, everything was just really nice,” Bimage said. 

With a smaller crowd in attendance it also allowed the coaches the opportunity to connect with the 6-2, 215-pound linebacker on a more personal level, something he enjoyed. 

“Talking to the coaches, coach Stepp and coach Morris it was all good,” Bimage said, “They really want me there, they’re great people and they seem like great guys and everything just went really well, everything was nice.” 

Both coach Stepp and Morris stressed an optimistic vision throughout the conversation if they are just given a little more time.

“They told me that that they were turning things around, that they had just got there and that they were starting something new, which I believe” Bimage said, “They just said give them some time and they will turn everything around, that’s what they’re trying to do with the program.” 

Both before and after his visit, Bimage has been keeping up with the coaching staff on a daily basis. 

“Every day, we keep up with each other every day,” Bimage said, “They have a guy up there right now Courtland Sutton and me and Courtland are friends and there is just like a three way connection between Courtland, my recruiter and me, we all just kind of vibe together and everything just goes well.” 

Bimage is currently committed to Houston, and while he stressed he is still committed there, he is keeping his options open and taking advantage of the entire process. 

“I’m committed to UH but just still weighing my options,” Bimage said, “I just feel like they are on the rise and it was a good time for me to commit and where I’m going to play is just great, just the coaches they told what I needed to hear and I just went with it.” 

Bimage will be back at SMU for more of their spring practices and games as he continues learning more about the Mustangs. 

“I’m sure of it, I don’t have anything scheduled right now but I’m sure of it.”

La Porte linebacker impressed by SMU visit

By: Patrick Engel

SMU’s junior day Saturday hosted about 65 players and earned positive reviews from many of the attendees. 2017 La Porte (Texas) linebacker Terrel Bernard picked up an SMU offer in September, but finally visited campus for the first time for junior day.

“Me and another one of my teammates, (ATH) Austin Upshaw went up there,” Bernard said. “It was really nice to see all the facilities and talk with all the coaches.”

Bernard and the rest of the visitors toured campus, saw the team’s weight rooms, met with each of their recruiting coordinators and tried on jerseys in the locker room. SMU even showed the recruits some of its new uniform designs.

“They’re supposed to be getting a new contract with Nike this next year, so they’re supposed to be upgrading all their stuff,” Bernard said.

Despite seeing the campus, facilities and hearing about SMU’s facility plans, Bernard enjoyed talking with the coaches the most.

“The coaches and how personable they were and how we got to talk to all of them, that was great” Bernard said.

Bernard liked that the coaches were the same people and gave him the same vibes like they had over electronic communications. His primary recruiter has been linebackers coach Archie McDaniel, and they have developed a relationship since the fall. “We talk probably once every week or every two weeks, about different stuff. We have a pretty good relationship,” Bernard said.

SMU isn’t the only school that has recruited Bernard for a while. He has good relationships with a couple other coaches at different schools.

“I have a pretty good relationship with coach (Carlton) Buckels) from Baylor and coach (Todd) Orlando and coach (Kenith) Pope at U of H,” he said.

Bernard visited Houston already and is going to Baylor for a March 18 junior day. He said he would like to visit Northwestern and Kansas State in the spring too. Between Houston’s junior day and the other games he’s been to, his SMU experience ranks right with them.

“It compared really well to the other schools. It was a lot of fun and really nice,” Bernard said.

The 6-foot-1, 207-pound Bernard has offers from Baylor, Dartmouth, Houston, Kansas, Kansas State, Northwestern, SMU, Texas Tech, Texas State and Washington. He said he doesn’t have a leader and won’t commit until the summer as of now.

L.D. Bell lineman talks SMU junior day

By: Matt Sanders

L.D. Bell offensive lineman and SMU recruit Brendon Weatherspoon attended SMU’s junior day, and left the Hilltop impressed.

“The campus is beautiful,” Weatherspoon said. “Culturally, the team is historic. The coaching staff is great. You felt welcomed when you heard them talk, and they’re building great new facilities.”

During his visit, Weatherspoon made sure to talk with as many coaches as possible.

“I have a connection with coach Smith, but I also talked with coach McDaniel, coach Fry and coach Morris.”

Although he is starting to focus on his recruitment, Weatherspoon wants to still focus on his high school career.

“Off the field, I think the team as a whole needs to be more of a unit,” he said. “There were multiple times last season that came down to the wire and we needed to make sacrifices for each other. We got a new head coach and we have a new offseason plan, so that’s good.”

Weatherspoon has goals for his senior year such as making the playoffs and improving his grades, but because of the opponents in Bell’s district, he knows the team has its work cut out for them.

“That high level of competition is good for us. We’ve missed the playoffs the past two years.”

Going into his senior year, Weatherspoon knows that he will be one of the leaders of the team, and he looks forward to embracing that role.

“You go into workouts and go in everyday thinking that you have to set the standard for everybody and you can’t slip up. It’s tough, but it’s the seniors’ jobs.”

Along with SMU, Weatherspoon is hearing from Houston, Texas State and Oklahoma State. While currently holds no offers, he has hope that he will earn them.

“That first scholarship will open the door for more opportunities,” he said. “It won’t be the end of a goal, but the beginning of an opportunity to raise standards for myself.”

When it comes to deciding a college, he knows the books mean more than the pads.

“Academics are huge for me and my family. My dad is a principal, and he always told me to focus on my grades,” he said. “I want to study political science. My mom is an attorney and I want to follow in her footsteps.”

Weatherspoon has not prioritized his schools, and he wants to keep his recruitment open until national signing day next year.

Weatherspoon is impressed with what the coaching staff has done at SMU so far, and he has high hopes that they will continue to improve the program.

“The coaching staff has ambition to bring success to the team. It’s a great thing to see them with a strong recruiting class and they’re fighting for their respect.”

Weatherspoon believes that how the coaching staff has handled recruiting will go a long way for the program.

“There’s California and there’s Florida, but Texas is the Holy Grail of high school football, so I think it’s great to recruit locally,” he said. “Social media is definitely a huge part of life now, so whenever a coach can connect with a recruit, it helps build a relationship.”

Weatherspoon believes that within a few years, SMU will have made a complete turnaround.

“I would like to see SMU up there fighting for a conference championship,” he said. “Seeing them bring an American Athletic Conference title to Dallas and in a New Year’s Six bowl would be really nice.”

2017 quarterback visits SMU junior day

By: Scott Sanford

Despite hailing from the small Central Texas town of Mexia, 45 minutes east of Waco, 2017 quarterback Jaylen Gipson has big town aspiration.

At 6-foot-2, 190-pounds, Gipson holds offers from Texas Tech and Colorado State thus far, but he’s also receiving interesting from SMU, along with a slew of Big 12 schools like Baylor and Kansas.

Coming from a town with an estimated population of 7,500, visiting Dallas for SMU’s junior day had the chance to be quite the culture shock.  

But the signal caller says his time spent touring the campus and getting to know the coaching staff made him feel right at home.

“We walked around campus and everything is together, so I liked how that was,” Gipson said.  “Coming from a small town, everything was so compact and close together it was very familiar.  It’s not like Baylor or TCU where everything is spread out, so I was very comfortable and I think it would be a good fit.”

Gipson enjoyed visiting with the other players during his junior day visit, and seeing all of the facilities, but one coach in particular caught his attention.

“The main thing that stood out to me was the Coach Morris was with us the whole time,” Gipson explained.  “He was with us, talking to us, and that was pretty cool.  It shows he really cares about his players.”

The Mustangs’ style of play is also appealing to Gispson, and he knows the type of success Morris has had with quarterbacks in the past, which is something that stands out to him.

“I know Coach Morris was the offensive coordinator at Clemson so he definitely brought a strong offense with him and it’s something I could see myself playing in one day,” Gipson said.

During his visit, the quarterback spoke with Coach Mathis, Coach Craddock and Coach Morris, all of who reiterated the Mustangs’ interest in him as a quarterback. 

Gipson, who runs a 4.5-second 40-yard-dash, did not pick up an offer this time around, but the coaching staff plans to visit him during the spring, which could lead to an offer.  

While Morris’ track record with quarterbacks, specifically DeShaun Watson, is impressive, his first year on the Hilltop highlighted some growing pains.  But even after winning just two games, Gipson realizes the program is headed in the right direction.

“They’re recruiting some really great guys,” Gipson said.  “I was there (Saturday) and they had some really talented guys visiting.  Give them another year and they’re going to be back on top.”

Just a junior, Gipson’s recruitment is now starting to heat up.

While he speaks with Colorado State and Texas Tech weekly, he has also been in contact with the staffs at Kansas, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Arkansas.

Texas Tech, SMU and Baylor are the only Texas schools to show interest thus far, so Gipson has plans to attend camps at every Texas school this summer to get his name out there.

Between now and his visits this summer, Gipson is focused on fine-tuning some of those quarterback skills he hopes to show off to collegiate staffs.

“I’m trying to get a little faster, work on my footwork, and my mobility in the pocket, “ Gipson said.  “I know I have one season left and I’m trying to have the best season that I can.”

2017 offensive lineman stops by for visit

By: Andrew Hattersley

SMU’s second junior day attracted a number of high profile visitors to the Hilltop and among those in attendance was 2017 Nashville HS (Ar.) offensive lineman Kirby Adcock who appreciated getting the chance to meet with the coaches and discuss his game and the school.

“It went pretty good, real good, I enjoyed it,” Adcock said, “They told me they loved my film, they talked about the dorm rooms and the education and some of the facilities they are building.” 

The 6-5, 280-pound offensive lineman came away impressed with the facilities and the direction they are heading.

“Those are some nice facilities they have there at SMU, I really was impressed by their facilities,” Adcock said. 

Adcock has not been talking to the coaches that long but has enjoyed getting to build a relationship with coach Fry and coach Craddock. 

“First I told them I was interested them and then they told me they were interested in me,” Adcock said, “I told them I would be up there for junior day, and they told me they’d love to have me there, they seemed kind of surprised I was there everyone was really nice, everyone knew my name and then after that coach Fry and coach Craddock both told me thanks for coming and how excited they were to see me there.”

So far Adcock does not have any offers however he has been hearing from Tulsa, Iowa State, Arkansas State, Arkansas and Louisiana Tech.

Adcock said he is definitely going to try to make a spring practice in the future but is not sure yet what date that will be. 

Paul enjoys getting to SMU, "whenever I can"
Greg Powers |

By: Billy Embody

2017 Bremond (Tex.) quarterback Roshauud Paul made the trip over to SMU for junior day and came away impressed with the changes the program plans to make in the future.

"It was pretty good. I liked it a lot. I got to see some things I haven't seen or learned about the university so it went well," Paul said. "I didn't know they were getting a new indoor facility and I didn't know there were new uniforms either so that caught me by surprise."

The group of recruits got the tour of the campus, facilities, dorms and other aspects of the campus too. Paul was most excited to see what was new.

"I've been here a couple times. I'm just really excited to see what they've updated. They're really trying to get a good program here, I already know that they will and I'm excited to see what they've got in store."

SMU offensive coordinator Joe Craddock is straight forward with Paul and that's what he really likes about him, but receivers coach Justin Stepp also keeps up with Paul.

"It's really close. He's a real cool guy. He just keeps it 100 with me. He doesn't try to over do it and tell you what it is. He just keeps it 100. He wants me to come in and play quarterback," Paul said. "I actually have a strong relationship with the receivers coach because at first they wanted me to come in and play receiver, but now it's quarterback. Coach Stepp is always talking to me and saying we need a quarterback to throw to my receivers because I'm going to have receivers for you to throw to, but we just need that quarterback."

At the end of the trip, Paul got to talk with Chad Morris, who pushed him to be a part of something special by being one of the first few commits for the 2017 class.

"He's real cool. He's a real energetic guy. I like everything about him now," Paul said. "They were really excited for me to be there and glad I made it out. They want me to join StangGang17 and really get this thing started. We've talked many times and he just kept it real. They want me to come in and make an impact early."

SMU's offense fits Paul's game very well and while playing quarterback isn't what he has to do at the next level, it helps SMU that they want to build around him.

"They always told me that it's built around me and that it fits me well. They always say I can come in and make a big impact and build around me. That means a lot whether or not I'd pick there or go to another school," Paul said. "To me, it doesn't really make a difference (playing quarterback), but I just want to get the ball in my hands and make plays." 

For Paul to get invited to the more intimate junior day means a lot to build on his relationships with the staff and he was excited to take advantage of that.

"It means a lot and they've been trying to get me up here. Everytime they want to get me up here, I come up because these guys are real and I keep it real with them. I'd come up and see this beautiful campus all the time."

Paul's favorite part of the visit was the individual attention the SMU coaching staff gave all the players and that's what stood out the most.

"I've been to a lot of visits and SMU was the one that the coaches didn't just pair off and disappear. They were there and telling me everything about the university that they knew," Paul said. "It really elevated them for me because it told me so much about their athletic program and what they stand for."

Paul isn't anywhere near a decision, but said it could come before his senior year. Nebraska, Oregon State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU (where Paul originally committed) and a few other schools have been coming after him really hard. Paul will trip to Oklahoma on March 5 and be back for an SMU spring practice.

2017 receiver checks out SMU

By: Demetrio Teniente

Allen High School has been one of the premier high school football programs in Texas for some time now. 

SMU is thinking 2017 wide receiver Carson Schleker could be yet another playmaker to come from the halls of Allen. 

Recently, Schleker received in invitation to SMU’s junior day.   

“I’ve had a few schools look at me but nothing much so far,” he said.  “SMU was my first junior day to go to. I was kind of surprised to be invited.”

Schleker said one of the highlights of junior day was getting to meet the SMU coaching staff. 

 “It was a really good experience,” he said. “The campus was cool and meeting the coaches was probably the best part. I got to meet pretty much every single SMU coach.”

Schleker says aside from the campus atmosphere and the academic side of the University, the right fit for him will have a lot to do with his relationship with the coaches.”  

“Chad Morris is a really cool guy,” Schleker said. “He knows what he is doing and he’s going to turn that program around.” 

While he doesn’t have any current offer, Schleker remains optimistic. 

“I’m just hoping it picks up next year,” he said. “I do hope on making some more visits to SMU, but nothing is planned yet.” 

Local 2017 defensive back talks SMU visit

By: Scott Sanford

After picking up an offer back in October, 2017 Flower Mound Marcus (Tex.) defensive back Matt Hankins wasted no time in taking a trip to the Hilltop, which he did in November. 

And while the 5-foot-11, 161-pound Hankins has been to the campus a number of times, this trip stood out to him the most.

“It was really exciting.  I loved the campus actually, and just spending time with the coaches was just really good to help build our relationships,” the Scout 3-star said.  “My interest grew a whole lot more in SMU.  So far, I would say they have been my best visit.  I’ve been closer with the coaches, and we’ve been talking a lot more, so I would say SMU is up there.”

Hankins has been building relationships with his area recruiter Coach Craddock and his position coach, Jess Loepp.

As time has gone on, Hankins has seen his relationship with Loepp continue to grow.

“It’s real strong,” Hankins said.  “He hits me up every now and then, just checking up on me, and we chat about life and really everything.”

While on his visit, the defensive back also enjoyed seeing the academic side of things.  With plans to major in business, Hankins thinks SMU’s Cox School of Business could be a great opportunity for him.

The Mustangs’ football facilities and training equipment also stood out to the corner because they reminded him of amenities from bigger schools.

“The stuff that they had in the training room, like they had a thing to prevent foot injuries, so I like that a lot,” Hankins said.  “They have all of the technology that the bigger schools have, which is impressive.”

Duke, Kansas, Utah State and Colorado State have all also offered the defensive back, and he has started to hear from California and Oklahoma State.

But because it’s still early in his recruiting process, Hankins plans to take things slowly as more schools express interest. 

For now, with all schools on a level playing field, the corner is set to take trips to Duke, UTSA, and to SMU for the Mustangs’ spring game.  

Rider QB focusing on return from injury

By: Matt Sanders

Rider quarterback and SMU recruit Willie Cherry attended SMU’s junior day, and walked away happy with what the school has to offer. 

“SMU was my first visit so it was really nice,” Cherry said. “The stadium stood out to me, and the way everything was presented to us was great.”

During his visit, he had the chance to connect with the coaching staff.

“I talked with all the coaches, and we talked about their plans for the team.”

Cherry is coming off a knee injury that shortened his junior year, but he is excited to get back on the field.

“I just want to come back 110 percent from my knee injury,” he said.

Along with coming back healthy, Cherry hopes his senior season goes the distance.

“My goal is winning district, and playing all 16 games to make it to state.”

Along with SMU, Cherry is also talking with OU.

“I will visit OU in April, and those are the only two schools I’ve been talking with,” he said. “I’m not really interested in other schools right now.”

When it comes to deciding schools, he knows that academics comes first.

“Education is the most important thing to me, then the surrounding and the campus life.”

Cherry knows that SMU is in a rebuild mode, but he believes that the right coaching staff is in place to make the turnaround happen.

“A lot of the coaches came from Clemson so they know what they’re doing,” he said.

Cherry believes that how the coaching staff focuses on recruiting locally is the smart way to approach recruiting.

“Texas high school football is the best in the country and they have the best recruits. You can get everything you need here.”

Cherry will be visiting SMU again for spring practice, and he plans on participating in a camp on the Hilltop as well.

While he holds no offers, he knows that it will be a reward when he receives that first one.

“Getting the first scholarship offer would mean the world to me because of the work I’ve put into it,” he said.

Although it is a process to turn the team around, Cherry believes that SMU will make major strides this upcoming season.

“This time next year, I would like to see SMU finish first or second in their division.”


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