Speaking before SMU’s first day of fall training camp, head coach Chad Morris stressed that he wants to strain the players to their max.
“This is going to be a pretty tough camp for them all,” Morris said. “We’re fixing to drop them in the grease.”
Morris guaranteed SMU will play better than it did last year. Using a familiar phrase, he said the team will take each day camp and the season “one day at a time.”
“We’re going to be better, there’s no doubt,” he said. “What is better, I don’t know – we’ll talk about that in December – but we’re going to be better.”
SMU signed a 25-man freshman class in February and added two blueshirt players. Morris said he would ideally like to redshirt all of the freshmen, but knows that’s not possible. The goal in signing a big class early in a rebuild is to turn the roster over as fast as possible.
“We’re going in with the intent that they will all play, and we’ll see how they handle it,” Morris said. “The grind of camp is coming. There will be a time, probably in the next 10 days, where the freshman will hit the wall. Those who climb the wall will keep going, and those that don’t, we’ll look at redshirting them.”
Morris reiterated that Jordan Carmouche, the highest-ranked signee in the class, is starting camp as a running back. Carmouche held nearly 20 Power 5 offers to play linebacker, but SMU signed him as a running back. He wanted a chance to play running back, and SMU promised it would give him one.
“He’s going to start at RB,” Morris said. “He’s at 240 right now. That’s a big back. He moves well. He’s going to have an opportunity to play running back, with our depth there – or lack thereof. We’d really like to see him emerge and be a bigger back for us. If that doesn’t work out for us and that’s not what’s best of this football team, he’s going to end up on the defensive side of the ball.”
Mitchell, Bates still limited, Hawkins officially joins SMU, three players not on roster
Morris said linebacker Kyran Mitchell, linebacker Jordon Williams, safety Rodney Clemons, defensive back Kevin Johnson and guard Keaton Bates are healthy. Each missed all or most of spring practices with injuries.
Morris said he held out three players from practice Wednesday. He expects Bates to be a full participant in camp by mid-August. Mitchell was limited Wednesday and is also scheduled to be a full participant soon.
“We expect him back full-throttle,” Morris said of Mitchell. ‘He’s a young man who’s totally transformed his entire body and really prepared for this season. He has unbelievable respect among his teammates.”
Morris officially announced the additions of wide receivers Trey Quinn and Eric Hawkins. Quinn, a former four-star recruit, transferred from LSU in the spring. He has to sit out the 2016 season, per NCAA transfer rules, and will have two seasons of eligibility starting in 2017.
Hawkins transferred from Arkansas in July and is eligible immediately as a graduate transfer. He is expected to help on special teams, kick returns and offense.
Morris did not announce some other moves. Cornerback Jesse Montgomery, kick returner Deion Sanders Jr. and tight end Hunter Herndon are not on the roster anymore. Herndon was at practice in street clothes. Running back Darius Durall transferred to Southeastern Louisiana.
Morris not concerned with Big 12 talk
SMU is going all-in on its push to join the Big 12, which announced in July that it is exploring candidates for expansion. Shortly after, SMU announced and unveiled renderings of Phase 1 of its athletics facility master plan, which includes an indoor practice facility for football.
Morris said he is worried about getting SMU to win in its current conference.
“I want to get good where we are,” Morris said. “I’ll leave [Big 12] up to other people on campus and the administration. My focus right now is coaching football and on our players and staff.”
Offensive line still fluid, Morris singles out two senior DL
Morris said SMU’s offensive line is pretty fluid and is cycling through a lot of different combinations, freshmen included. He said Jerry Saena is the top right guard as of now. Saena won the weight room award, which Morris said shows a player’s commitment to transforming his body by impressing in workouts and improving his diet.
One constant on the line is Evan Brown, who is taking over for Taylor Lasecki at center.
“Evan is extremely smart and intelligent,” Morris said. “He knows how to get everybody lined up.”
“We have to have some guys step up that have been here,” Morris said. “Zelt Minor, he’s been here long enough and it’s time for him to perform. He was a highly recruited guy. He’s had an unbelievable summer.”
“Nick Horton, who moved from linebacker to defensive end, is a guy we need to step up and play and be a force. He had a really good spring, so we’ll see how he comes out in fall camp.”