Matt Visinsky

Notes and takeaways: Chad Morris pre-UNT press conference

SMU head coach Chad Morris, offensive coordinator Joe Craddock, defensive coordinator Van Malone and quarterback Matt Davis met with the media before SMU's season opener vs. North Texas on Saturday. PonyStampede has notes and takeaways from their comments.

Morris challenges veterans

SMU head coach Chad Morris hasn’t been shy about challenging veteran players to produce. In fall camp, Morris said several veterans have stepped up and earned starting spots, especially on defense.

“We expect these veteran guys to lead the way for us,” Morris said. “Our expectation is for their absolute best.”

Senior defensive tackle Zelt Minor was the first players Morris called out in the spring. Minor is a formerly highly touted recruit who has battled injuries and inconsistency in his first three years. On Tuesday, he was listed as a starter in SMU’s initial depth chart.

“Zelt has had a really good camp,” Morris said. “He’s been here for four years and it’s time for Zelt to do something. The expectations for him are extremely high.”

Cornerback Horace Richardson has started 13 career games and has 4 interceptions. But he has battled injuries and never played more than 9 games in a season. He’s listed as a starter, but Morris still challenged him.

“For whatever reason, he has had a hard time staying healthy,” Morris said. “Much like Zelt, it’s time. You have four months. It’s time. So we have to keep you healthy and you have to go perform. You’re recruited, you’re on scholarship. It’s time.”

Nick Horton moved from linebacker to defensive end this spring. During fall camp, he won the Jerry LeVais award and will wear No. 23 this season. Horton played linebacker during his first three seasons and struggled mightily. After one spring and summer at end, he’s a starter. 

“Nick was a linebacker last year that was out of position,” Morris said. “He didn’t look comfortable. He looked slow, he looked stiff. He wasn’t active in space. You move him about four years closer to the ball and he’s been a pleasant surprise.”

Matt Davis finally has continuity

For the first time in his college career, SMU quarterback Matt Davis has the same offensive staff and scheme for back-to-back seasons. He ran an Air Raid at Texas A&M, a spread at Tyler Junior college, the Run ‘N Shoot in his first year at SMU and Morris’ spread last year.

Davis admitted he is more relaxed in the second year of the same scheme and executing the offense becomes easier with more time.

“It’s just easier just doing the same thing. It sounds simple but that’s what it is,” Davis said. “Every year I’ve been forced to learn something new, get adjusted to a new coach, a new scheme. For once, I got to sit back and say, ‘same people, same scheme, let’s get better at it.’”

Offensive coordinator Joe Craddock said SMU’s emphasis on playing faster will help Davis. The staff did a study that found that SMU scored a point on every seventh snap. With more snaps and more of the playbook in use, SMU should score more points.

“He knows our system in and out, makes the proper checks, gets us in the right protections, and he can do it at a fast pace,” Craddock said. “The biggest thing that helps him is that we’re gonna snap it more plays in the game and give us a chance to score more points.”

Myron Gaillard claims a starting receiver spot

Redshirt freshman wide receiver Myron Gailliard is listed as SMU’s starter at slot receiver, beating out Shelby Walker.

“He’s really emerged and has had a really good camp,” Morris said. “It doesn’t surprise me because he had a phenomenal summer and we saw glimpses in the spring. 

Gailliard was the least heralded member of SMU’s five-man 2015 receiver class. He and fellow redshirt freshman James Proche will start at the receiver spots opposite Courtland Sutton. 

Freshmen to play key role in secondary

Morris said freshmen Eric Sutton, Christian Davis and Mikial Onu will play this year. Onu can play both safety spots and Davis will back up Jordan Wyatt at field corner.

“Anyone who has been around Christian, any coaching staff, they’ll say, ‘That kid, he’s really business-like,’” defensive coordinator Van Malone said. “He doesn’t say much, but he’s all about business. You don’t get that much in freshmen.”

Malone credited the veteran defensive backs for helping the freshmen adjust and pick up the defense quickly.

This and that:

  • Craddock said sophomore running backs Xavier Jones and Braeden West biggest improvement has come when they don’t touch the ball. “They’ve done a good job of knowing protections in particular,” he said. “They’re a lot more savvy in protection and blitz pickup.”
  • Morris said that redshirt freshman offensive lineman Keaton Bates will miss the season opener with an injury, but is expected back soon.
  • Two freshman offensive linemen, Jacob Todora and Kadarius Smith, will travel with the team to UNT. Morris said they will only play if necessary and his preference is to not play them.
  • On his Tempo Talk radio show Monday night, Morris said that he expects 10 to 12 of the 25 true freshmen to play this year.
  • SMU’s full depth chart:

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