Xavier Jones & Braeden West: SMU’s two-headed rushing monster returns in 2016 after carrying the rock a combined 214 times at 4.5 yards a pop for 960 total yards with 12 touchdowns—10 of those scores belonged to Jones.
Jones, a 5-10 200 pound Spring High School product, also led the Mustangs backfield in receptions with 27—good for second on the team—and 214 receiving yards. His ten rushing touchdowns set an SMU record for most touchdowns by a freshman. He also threw two touchdown passes. What can’t this kid do?
While Jones is the odds on favorite to take the lion’s share of the touches, West adds his own element of danger to the Mustangs’ offense.
The 5-10 170 pound back from Katy, Tex. is lightning fast out of the backfield and a dangerous return specialist to boot.
West rushed for 326 yards to go with his 142 receiving yards, 635 kickoff return yards, and 1,135 all-purpose yards. His ability to make people miss in the open field gives every touch he has homerun potential.
Aphonso Thomas & Joseph Paden: Thomas has some upside to him while Paden hasn't gotten any serious looks at playing time.
Paden rushed for 217 yards with four touchdowns his sophomore and senior season at Cisco Junior College and his crowning achievement in high school, according to his SMU bio, is rushing for 89 yards in a game as a senior.
It could be argued that he simply hasn’t had very many opportunities—as demonstrated by his solid performance this past spring—but even so, his body of work is unimpressive.
Thomas is coming off a 1,568 yard season with 21 touchdowns in his senior year. He also tallied up 934 yards with 12 scores in his junior season.
The 5-10, 200 pound back was a three-star recruit from Van High School and might stand an outside chance to get some touches after an impressing in SMU’s spring game.
Still, it remains to be seen what either backs’ role will be in 2016.
Jordan Carmouche: Saturday will be our first time seeing Carmouche get touches in an SMU uniform against actual opponents.
At 6-0, 240 pounds, he could provide a different look and some much needed size to the SMU backfield.
Both Jones and West have similar running styles, so Carmouche would provide a nice change of pace. Carmouche could have a big role in the offense if the staff likes him enough as a running back. There's a chance he'll earn playing time as the big back, but with Jones and Thomas both being 200 pounds, the staff might elect to move Carmouche to defense.
Carmouche comes out firing on all cylinders and looks like an angry hippopotamus running through a group of toddlers. He creates so much carnage and rips off so many helmets with his unreasonably powerful stiff-arms that Joe Craddock has no choice but to bump up his touches to get him on the field.
With West being so dangerous in the return game, he is given less touches and therefore is at optimum strength for his mystical kickoff return wizardry.
It’s a win-win.
Between Jones and West, SMU’s backfield is already pretty crowded, but the departure of Prescott Line leaves an opening in the rotation for one of the other three to assert themselves.
Jones and West have already shown what they bring to the table, but Carmouche, Thomas and Paden are still relative mysteries.
The appeal of Carmouche is his size. The idea of having an explosive, punch-you-in-the-mouth, former big-hitting linebacker as a running back is intriguing and would—as mentioned before—provide a nice change of pace to the offense.
You kind of get the same type of wrinkle from Thomas, so either one might be a fun addition to the rotation. It might force one of the other two into a smaller role—and if I had to choose it’d be West—but they are so versatile that they could become even greater weapons in (what once was) their secondary roles.
Bottom line: just like last season, SMU’s stable of running backs should be the motor that drives this offense.