Matt Visinsky

What we learned: SMU Spring Game

The Pony Stampede staff breaks down what we learned about each position following the SMU Spring game.


After starting the game with a nice 40-yard completion to Courtland Sutton, Ben Hicks struggled for much of the day. Hicks finished 13-of-30 for 240 yards and a touchdown. Take out a 70-yard TD to Jeremiah Gaines and the pass to Sutton, and Hicks was 11-of-28 for 130 yards. Not great with the amount of snaps he had. Hicks struggled keeping his throws at the right level, with several overthrows high and to the outside. Hicks had plenty of open receivers, but wasn't consistent enough. The bright spot is that Hicks did have several throws that just made you say, 'wow' when you think about what he could bring. When Hicks is able to step into a throw and let it go, the arm strength is obvious and he can fit the ball into places the other quarterbacks can't. That was apparent on throws like the 15-yard dig to Alex Honey right on his break or a post to Honey later in the game. The problem is getting Hicks to be more consistent and make those throws more often. It wasn't all bad for Hicks, but it wasn't encouraging in terms of the potential to see Hicks get more time this season. 

Darrel Colbert, Jr. (below) had some issues with his deep ball on Saturday as he had one picked off by Darrion Millines and another post picked off after the throw was a bit off target. On the day, Colbert finished 5-of-20 for 46 yards. Colbert's package was designed to get him moving out of the pocket for the most part, while Hicks stayed in much of the time. Colbert had the most to gain from Saturday and didn't take advantage of it. His passes weren't as wildly off target as Hicks' were at times, but it was still an underwhelming performance.

Matt Davis was the winner of Saturday's game as neither quarterback impressed enough to make a run at the starting job as of now. -Billy

Running Backs

Early enrollee Aphonso Thomas and walk-on Joseph Paden each topped 100 yards rushing, with Thomas leading everyone with 126 yards on 13 carries and 2 touchdowns. Thomas had a tough time early in the spring, but improved and gained confidence throughout it. That led to more snaps, as did Xavier Jones’ and Braeden West’s limited carries later in the spring. 

On Saturday, Thomas displayed better patience and vision, which he struggled to do earlier in the spring. He likes to bounce runs outside, sometimes too quickly, thus not letting blocks develop. On a third-and-short early in the game, he made a bad read on a block by a wide receiver and was tackled short of the marker. But he patiently followed a lead blocker on both of his touchdown runs. He’s not as fast or explosive as Jones and West, but he’s strong and is more willing to run through traffic. Jones should enter fall camp as the top back, but Thomas’ improvement this spring helped him make a case for snaps next year. -Patrick

Wide Receivers

Matt Visinsky

After a Courtland Sutton-centric spring game last year, SMU spread the ball around this year. Sutton hauled in a 40-yard catch on a deep ball on the game’s first play, but that was his only catch. Alex Honey led all receivers with 55 yards and one touchdown. His touchdown came on an end zone fade from Hicks that he jumped for and toe-tapped while going out bounds. Honey has been touted as similar to Sutton because of his size, but he hadn’t consistently displayed Sutton-like ability at the catch point until Saturday. 

James Proche and Xavier Castille each had five catches, and Proche had the most targets (unofficially). Proche would have had one more catch on a deep ball had Darrell Colbert’s throw not hung in the air too long. He had three steps of separation on the route. He and Castille each played snaps at the 2- and 5-man spots opposite Sutton and Honey. Castille only had 22 yards receiving to Proche’s 48. Castille dropped a throw on a slant that would have went for about 15 yards. Kevin Thomas didn’t play in the game. offensive coordinator Joe Craddock complimented Ryheem Malone’s spring season on Saturday, which cumulated with a 3-catch, 23-yard day. -Patrick

Tight Ends
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremiah Gaines continues to shine at a thin position. He had a strong spring last year, but didn’t have the same impact in the regular season. He led everyone with 109 receiving yards and had one touchdown. His long touchdown came on a hot throw from Ben Hicks, and he immediately shook a defender and ran the rest of the way. He caught a back-shoulder pass from Hicks too. He struggled blocking last season, but displayed improvement all spring. He blocked on the perimeter more and held blocks for longer. He led the way for one of Thomas’ touchdowns. 

With Hunter Herndon still out and Mitchell Kaufman moving back to linebacker, Dylan Dickman was the primary backup. He moved from the backfield to lay a crushing block on a sweep play for Malone, but didn’t catch a pass. The unit needs depth and will get it with Corey Rau’s arrival this summer and if Herndon can get on the field. -Patrick

Offensive line

Overall, this unit showed some improvements, but they still have plenty room for growth before the 2016 season kicks off.  The first unit of Chad Pursley, Braylon Hyder, Evan Brown, Jerry Saena and Chauncey Briggs seems like it will be set until William Barns and Daniel McCarty are healthy and can push the guys in the middle for playing time.  Pursley has been a pleasant surprise, and his strength and long arms help him out on the edge at tackle.  Brown, now at center, seems to be transitioning well, but the more he gets used to the new position, the better he’ll have to get at recognizing blitzing and calling them out.  At the guard spots, Hyder and Saena need to do a better job of getting movement on their run blocks.  Their overall size should benefit them though as long as they are able to maintain good footwork and avoid getting beat with pass rush moves.  At right tackle, Briggs is the most experienced lineman, but he needs to work on limiting the ground he gives up during pass protection.  As a whole, the first unit needs to work on communicating when extra pressure is brought also.  In the second group of offensive lineman, most of the guys struggled to show that they could compete for a starting job.  Bryce Wilds, who has the physical makeup to be successful, showed that he’s still learning his position in just his third year of football. -Scott

Defensive Line

It didn’t help that Zelt Minor and Justin Lawler were absent from Saturday’s game, but this position should see nice improvement from last year.  The first unit jumped offside on a few occasions, and at times everyone struggled rushing the passer, but there is some added depth still.  Chris Biggurs and Jarvis Pruitt looked the best in my opinion, with nice initial get-off and good overall penetration.  On double teams, Mason Gentry and Deon Green got pushed around some, but overall, they held their own up the middle.  The Scott brothers are both still very raw, but their athleticism is undeniable and I’d be surprised if we didn’t see them on passing downs once the fall rolls around.  Nick Horton saw limited time at defensive end, but his size could help down the line in short yardage situations.  -Scott


The depth problems at linebacker really showed this spring. While Matt McNew and Mitchell Kaufman both had nice days tackling-wise. Much of the group SMU fans saw will likely be relegated to special teams this season. Carlos Carroll moved out to the Star position. Kaufman played fast and aggressively in his move back to linebacker after spending time at tight end this fall. Raul Reyes III and Jeremy White also saw time at linebacker, but for the most part it was McNew and Kaufman getting significant playing time. There wasn't much to takeaway from the linebacking corps as many running plays were broken open for big gains. That's not encouraging and as SMU gets to the fall, a lot will be expected from the likes of Noah Spears and the other linebacker signees. -Billy

Defensive Backs

Darrion Millines stood out in coverage among the defensive backs. His interception came on an underthrown and high-arcing deep ball from Darrell Colbert, which he dropped back to pick off. He nearly had another one after jumping in front of a flat route, but the ball was just behind him. 

Jesse Montgomery had 7 tackles and an interception, which came off the hands of walk-on receiver Austin Rolfe. He was beat in man coverage a couple times, once by James Proche. Jordan Wyatt registered a tackle for loss and performed well when asked to cover Sutton. Will Jeanlys also played a lot at corner. Ced Lancaster earned spring defensive MVP honors before game, but didn’t play. Horace Richardson, Kevin Johnson and Rodney Clemons didn’t play either. -Patrick

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