Matt Visinsky

Notes and takeaways: SMU Week 6 media day

SMU head coach Chad Morris, offensive coordinator Joe Craddock, defensive coordinator Van Malone and quarterback Ben Hicks met with the media on Monday before SMU's road game at Tulsa on Friday. PonyStampede has notes and takeaways from their comments.

“Be at your best”

Finding mistakes from SMU's 45-20 loss at Temple isn’t hard. Head coach Chad Morris was more concerned with the reason for some of them: a lack of effort. 

“The definition of success in our program is your ability to be at your best every day,” Morris said. “If that’s your best, then you were successful. And only you know that.  If our best wasn’t good enough on Saturday, I would have loved to have found that out.”

Morris wants to see the best effort out of his players and everyone in the team. He admitted that he would be happy with it even if it doesn’t produce a win.

“If we can get that, that’s successful to me,” Morris said. “If I’m worrying about the wins, I’m worrying about the wrong thing. Winning is a byproduct of being at your best on a consistent basis. If you are, you’re going to win more than you lose. I promise you that.”

Even with deemphasizing wins, Morris has said he’s not a believer in moral victories or using the crutch of “building a program.” Though he wants to see better effort from everyone in the program – “from equipment managers to water people” – he wants to see an attitude change too.

“Somebody, somewhere, is gonna flip the script and say ‘we’re sick of it,’” Morris said.

On Sunday, SMU had its team meeting, where the coaches reviewed the game film with players. Quarterback Ben Hicks said the meeting had a more intense feel than others, but it was “the truth,” and players need to respond with better play.

“If you got called out, it’s because you didn’t play well. Most of us understood that if we got called out, we have to step our game up and look ourselves in the mirror, man up and start playing better,” Hicks said. “He got after us pretty good. He should have. We didn’t play well and the score shows. If you got called out, you better have a good practice today. I think all of us that got called out are going to have good practices today.”

Solving offensive line struggles

The offensive coaches were especially critical of the offensive line, which allowed 3 sacks and a lot of hits on quarterback Ben Hicks. Offensive coordinator Joe Craddock called the offensive line’s performance “really bad.” 

“It was really disappointing. We all felt like we had a great opportunity,” Craddock said. “We didn’t feel like Temple was as good as they were last year. We feel like we were better (than last year). And for whatever reason, just about every position group on offense didn’t show up. That’s on me and our coaches, and we have to be ready to play. We had a good plan I felt like. We couldn’t protect Ben. Ben got absolutely destroyed. He showed a lot of grit, a lot of determination to keep getting back up, which I thought was very respectful of him to do. He was getting killed.”

On the game’s third play, SMU faced a third-and-10. Temple dropped eight defenders into coverage and rushed three. SMU had a five-man protection plus two other players assigned to chip block the ends. The play still resulted in Hicks taking a hit and an incomplete pass. Craddock said the offense didn’t come ready.

“They did the same thing they did all week on film. If we studied the film, No. 7 (Haason Reddick), had same pass rush moves he showed since last Sunday when we turned the film on,” Craddock said. “Same one. That’s what’s unfortunate, that we didn’t do our part, study and know his favorite pass rush move.”

Morris said he’d consider pulling redshirts off of freshman tackle Kadarius Smith and guard Jacob Todora. They have traveled with SMU and practiced all fall, but haven’t played.

“We actually had a discussion in mid-game the other day about ‘Is now the time to pull the redshirts?’” Morris said. “I said it’s not the time and not right. At this level you can destroy a kid’s confidence and hurt it. “It can take them games, and sometimes a year, to get their confidence back.”

Todora and Smith will get more snaps in practice this week. Morris didn’t confirm they would play, but will be prepared. Morris said he’d prefer not to play them, not wanting to risk ruining their confidence. But he would rather play them and get effort than play veteran guys who do not bring effort.

“Some of our more experienced guys on the offensive side of the ball, to be real honest, aren’t toting the mail,” Morris said. “If that’s the effort I’m going to get, I’m going to get that out of a freshman. You can call it the hot seat, putting everybody on high alert, whatever it may be. It’s the truth. To have our quarterback getting beat up like he got hit the other night was unacceptable.”

Previewing Tulsa

After playing a slower-paced Temple, SMU will face a Tulsa team emphasizes playing fast. Tulsa spreads the field and tries to win in space. Head coach Philip Montgomery, a former Baylor assistant, runs an offense very similar to Art Briles’.

“They do go fast,” said defensive coordinator Van Malone. “It’s going to be a different challenge. One of the ways we’ll prepare for it is we’ll face our offense, because to go against our offense is very different than going against a scout team with guys looking at cards. When we look at our offense, it’s Tulsa. They do a lot of the same things. Sometimes they’ll block runs a little bit different, but the speed and things they overall generally do, will help our players and give us the same look.”

Tulsa is 3-1 and coming off a bye week. The Golden Hurricane most recently beat Fresno State on the road, 48-41 in double overtime, and came back from a 31-0 deficit. The game vs. SMU is the conference opener.

Running back D’Angelo Brewer, who ran for 119 yards and a touchdown vs. SMU last season, has already tallied 524 yards and three touchdowns. He has lost only four yards on runs all year.

“He hits the hole at 100 miles per hour and for defensive backs and linebackers, he’s on you right away,” Malone said. He makes good cuts in the hole. His offensive line is playing well. They’re throwing the ball well.”

This and That

  • Morris said SMU expects to get left guard Daniel McCarty back this week and “anticipates” center Evan Brown playing. Reserve Keaton Bates has been practicing but not playing in the last couple weeks. Morris “hopes that this is the week that he’s ready.” Left tackle Nick Natour’s status for Friday is uncertain, although Craddock said “it doesn’t look like” he will play. Xavier Jones played for the first time since SMU’s season opener, but left with a shoulder injury. Morris said he’s unlikely to play Friday and does not have a timetable for return.
  • Tony Richards played left tackle against Temple. SMU went with him over burning Smith’s redshirt. “The biggest reason we went with Tony is because Kadarius wasn’t practicing well and we were scared to get him in,” Craddock said.
  • Ke’Mon Freeman played a couple series at quarterback against Temple. Craddock said he is going to continue working as both a quarterback and running back. With Freeman splitting time, redshirt freshman receiver Myron Gailliard will also see some snaps at running back. He played both positions in high school. “We’re putting a lot on a kid who’s a very intelligent kid, very driven kid, but he’s got a lot on his plate,” Craddock said of Freeman.

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