After last week’s scrimmage we got a look at a first unit of Jarvis Pruitt, Zelt Minor, Deon Green and Justin Lawler. This group is obviously led by Lawler, one of the team’s captains and last year’s leading tackler (64 total, 9 TFL’s, 5 sacks). And while there are high hopes for him, there is still a lot of room for improvement, and room for others to make jumps into the starting lineup, after watching last weekend.
While Minor is a player who arrived at SMU with high hopes, he hasn’t yet cracked his full potential after recording just 9 tackles in 2015. South Carolina transfer Deon Green is finally healthy, but will have to fend of some of the younger guys including Ken McLaurin after picking up just 1.5 TFL’s and failing to clog up the middle at times last season. Pruitt has consistently gotten better since his freshman year, but he will also have to fight off younger talent with the Scott brothers both expected to impress as redshirt freshmen.
For now, the list of reserves includes talented young players such as Michael Scott, Chris Biggurs, Ken McLaurin and Dermerick Gary, as well as a few veterans. A number of these reserves could become starters by the end of the season if they play their cards right. Either way, expect reserves to get quality playing time so that starters can remain fresh in crunch time.
On the inside, juniors Mason Gentry (below), Keyfer Roberts and freshman Ken McLaurin should see the majority of the time as the primary backups because of their size and strength. On the edge, The Scott brothers are good candidates to see early playing on third downs because of their speed and length.
This position was so thin last year, but even with some talented freshmen coming in, it’s still not known if the youngsters are going to push the veterans for their starting positions. The defensive line was probably SMU’s thinnest position last season, and it showed against the run, and on third and fourth downs.
There is undoubtedly more talent along the line than last year, but the big question is: can the younger players step up to when called upon, or take advantage of increased playing time?
Zelt Minor (below) will finally come into his own after two years in this new weight program and defensive system. Am I 100 percent confident in the prediction? Not exactly, but this is his final chance to live up to expectations, and I do think he’ll make a significant effort to keep his starting spot. Some of the younger defensive linemen should force Minor to play his best or otherwise lose playing time, so it’s officially sink or swim.
Like I said above, the position group as a whole should have no problem improving from last year, but because it’s still not a deep position, there will still be growing pains. A lot of this year’s success will depend on how the older players play, so it will be interesting to see if the coaches have to throw the younger players into the fire early, or if the veterans can perform like expected.