Braeden West was a two-star recruit in the 2015 class and originally committed to Houston in 2014 under Tony Levine. He stayed committed when Houston hired Tom Herman, but SMU made him a priority leading up to signing day and put a lot of effort into flipping him. After a late January official visit, he flipped to SMU. As a senior in high school, he rushed for 1,467 yards and 20 touchdowns.
West played 12 games, with four starts. He rushed 62 times for 326 yards (5.3 ypc) and two touchdowns while adding 13 catches for 142 yards. His carries, yards, touchdowns and receptions were second among running backs. West served as SMU’s primary kick returner, with 27 returns for 635 yards. He ran back his first career kickoff return for 49 yards vs. Baylor and had an 80-yard return for a touchdown vs. Temple. West’s biggest problem as a freshman was ball security, highlighted by his two fumbles in one quarter vs. Houston.
West is still going to be part of the rotation in a young SMU backfield. He brings speed and pass-catching ability to the attack and his one-cut-and-go running style is a good fit for zone blocking schemes. But his slight frame, ball security issues and presence of Xavier Jones limit his role. At 5-foot-19 and 170 lbs., West isn’t built to take a beating and isn’t a tough, up-the-middle style of runner. He needs to improve his ball security if he wants to be trusted to be in the game for important snaps. SMU has two running backs who compliment West’s skill set and will keep him fresh, but can also limit his carries. Sophomore Xavier Jones is a little more complete back and early enrollee freshman Aphonso Thomas is a slightly bigger back who shined in the spring game.
West will have more competition as a returner in fall camp too. Wide receiver James Proche is eligible after redshirting last season and should get a chance to prove himself as a kick and punt returner in camp. SMU brought in Arkansas grad transfer receiver Eric Hawkins and expects him to help on kickoff returns and coverage teams. Speedy sophomore defensive back Kevin Johnson should get a look on returns as well.
West is one of SMU’s home-run threat skill players on offense and special teams. That’s going to give him a notable role again, even though he’s not likely to be SMU’s primary running back.