Spring football is finally here after a long break without bowl season for SMU. The staff wrapped up a full 2016 recruiting class, finished up winter conditioning last week and the team now turns its attention to spring football. Here are five questions I'd like SMU to answer during spring football, which starts up Tuesday.
1. Will Matt Davis secure the starting quarterback job again?
There's not too much doubt that Matt Davis is one of SMU's leaders and the coaching staff's best bet as starting quarterback, but after a 2-10 season, all positions are certainly up for battle. Sure there are some players that should be "locks" like Courtland Sutton, but overall, most are open. Chad Morris and Joe Craddock brought Davis along slowly through last year as he adjusted to the system and coaching. They weren't afraid to throw Darrel Colbert, Jr. into games. Davis is poised to take on the starting quarterback role again this season, but I'd like to see him wrap it up in spring ball. Declare Davis the starter and go all-in if he performs well, which after a solid conditioning program again and more work in the film room and now on the field, I think Davis should do. Whether Morris names Davis the starter again, is yet to be seen, but if Davis earns it, I'd certainly like that decided going into fall camp and leave the backup battle to heat up in training camp.
2. Will players along the defensive line step up?
The offensive line will be influx until the fall I believe with freshmen arriving and while the same can be said for the defensive line, there's a few returning pieces that need to step up. Justin Lawler, who will move to the weakside of the defensive line and possibly at linebacker, was one of the more consistent pieces of the line last season. The interior is a bit of a different story as Mason Gentry, Deon Green and Zelt Minor, are the three returning pieces that rotated in with others, but now must fight for their jobs. The 2016 freshmen are coming and so is Chris Biggurs for playing time. Anyone along the defensive line that can make a big impression will go a long way to earning more time this fall. Delontae and Michael Scott, Hunter Thedford and freshmen in the fall are coming into the mix at defensive end. This is a group in general that will have loads of competition in the fall, but this spring should be a dogfight to prove themselves to the staff that is looking for a pass rush and some run stoppers.
3. Is SMU's solution at center on the roster right now?
This is a position I fixate on because obviously, it's important as the center touches the ball every play, but even more so for communication along the line and cohesiveness for the group. With Taylor Lasecki graduating, SMU has a hole here. William Barns is on the roster now and so is walk-on transfer Rex Prince - both have experience at center. Harrison Barton was signed as a center, but will there be a new face to the battle? If Barns can separate himself as the elder statesman coming out of spring, it might help hold off Barton, who has a real chance to play right away. There are key positions coaches would rather not worry about going into the summer and center would be up there I'd think.
4. How will the redshirt freshmen on defense perform?
The high-profile names of Michael and Delontae Scott will be watched intently along the defensive line, but what about Jordon Williams at the Star? Or Rodney Clemons at safety? There are others, but there's a lot of pressure on the two latter players to step up in my mind. Williams was recruited to be the guy at the Star and Clemons has some playmaker in him on the backend. Great springs from these two will will ease concerns about the defensive future being up to the 2016 class as much. This spring is about the defense in my mind. Steps forward will be a huge sign to what Van Malone and the staff will roll out against North Texas.
5. How many snaps will James Proche push for off the bat?
There's plenty of people that believe the most explosive receiver on the roster sat out this past season. James Proche has electric speed, feet and vision and just spent an entire season living in the weight room. The staff has to be giddy to get Proche back working with the offense on a regular basis. Last year, Proche was on scout team, but this season could be a breakout year. Proche can be moved around and now won't be completely new to the system. Proche has a chance to lock down one of the receiver spots opposite of Courtland Sutton before other receiver competition arrives this fall. Will he make a huge push or will it take time? With Proche's talent, the sky is the limit.