Tim Heitman - USA Today Sports

2016 SMU Football Position Preview: Linebackers

Hatts breaks down SMU's linebackers going into the 2016 season in the latest Pony Stampede Position Preview.

The Starters

2015 was a tough year for this group allowing 261.2 yards per game on the ground. This year, they return a couple bright spots from last season Jackson Mitchell and Kyran Mitchell. These two combined for 8.5 tackles for a loss last season. Kyran also picked off a pass while Jackson forced a pair of fumbles. Joining both Mitchell’s in the lineup at least to begin figures to be RC Cox. Cox had 30 tackles last season and a sack. At least to begin, Cox should get the first look for SMU at the Star position although that could be a position that some freshmen push him as the year goes along. This is still a group that lacks the size needed to be a shutdown group, it is promising however that coach Morris mentioned both Mitchells as showing tremendous improvement after winter and summer workouts. 

The Backups 

SMU has some good options that should see significant playing time off the bat as well. Noah Spears and Myles Duke are two players depending on how well they adjust could certainly see time for SMU early on. Both players’ instincts and athleticism are attributes SMU dearly missed last season.  Nick Horton Anthony Rhone, Jordon Williams and Carlos Carroll are also key players who could see time throughout the year if there is not significant improvement amongst the linebacker group. Both Horton and Rhone have started games in the past for SMU and figure to be valuable role players and provide leadership for a young group. Blake Carlisle, Matt McNew, Jeremy White, Jordan Ward, Andrew Adams and Zane Smith round out this group.  

The Unknown 

One of the key positions for SMU’s defense is the Star position. Heading into the second year under coach Malone’s defense, SMU has still not found somebody to fill this position. Myles Duke is a promising addition but it is asking a lot of a true freshman to come in and dramatically impact this position. If SMU wants to improve on this side of the ball, they are going to have to find somebody athletic enough to fill this role and get after the quarterback more than last season. Heading into his junior season, it’s an important year for RC Cox to make that jump and lock down the position allowing some of the younger players to grow into the position. 

Bold Prediction

Yes this is a bold one, but Kyran Mitchell will find his name on an all conference list come seasons end. With an increased role this season, and the strides he has made in offseason workouts, Mitchell is primed for a big year. The 6-0, 221 sophomore linebacker showed he had playmaking ability last season and I expect there to be even more of that this season. Mitchell is probably one of SMU’s more athletic players on defense and that should help him continue to force turnovers and make some plays in the backfield. Mitchell finished last season with 4.5 tackles for a loss and was one of SMU’s only bright spots from a miserable season. 

Overall Position Outlook

Will this position be better this season? Yes probably, but how much remains to be seen. SMU lost a couple of key veterans namely Jonathan Yenga that they will have to replace. But with some nice pieces coming in like Noah Spears and Myles Duke to rotate in, this position certainly has the chance to be better next season. There certainly still are some question marks but I expect both Mitchells and RC Cox to build on last season and continue to improve. Health will be a key factor this season and something they certainly struggled with in past seasons.  

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