With spring practices in the books for SMU, we take a look at how SMU's depth chart on offense could shake out heading into next season in a way too early look.
QB1: D.J. Gillins
QB2: Ben Hicks
QB3: Rafe Peavey
This one might shock some folks, but it's what we've been hearing for a while now. D.J. Gillins was brought in to start at quarterback. After Gillins sat out the entire spring from full-contact drills, that's tough for some to believe with Ben Hicks and Rafe Peavey being able to battle it out and get the extra reps. After Peavey's excellent day on offense in the spring game and Chad Morris still saying Hicks has the edge coming out of the spring, that leaves the competition still open without a doubt. If you were there, you'd notice Gillins standing behind the offense, getting every single rep as if he was in there and making a read based on what he saw. While that's different than playing, he's expecting to start and treating it as if every mental rep is crucial, which it is. Gillins was recruited by Chad Morris at Clemson and it's not shocking why. He's a solid fit for the offense and I still expect him to start at the end of the day, although it could certainly end up closer in competition than it seems. Hicks will hold onto the backup job on the chart, but it'll be interesting to see what would happen there if he was needed as Peavey continues to pick up the offense.
RB1: Xavier Jones
RB2: Braeden West
RB3: Ke'Mon Freeman
Yes, another position where the starter (and backup) were both out for the spring game, but in this case, it was more by design than necessity. Xavier Jones will be the starter and was poised for a huge year before being injured for much of the season. In his place, Braeden West rushed for over 1,000 yards and Ke'Mon Freeman emerged as a threat in the backfield too. It's a pretty easy pecking order to see here for SMU, but keeping the backfield healthy could make or break the Mustangs' season.
9M1: Courtland Sutton
9M2: Kevin Thomas
9M3: Alex Honey
While Courtland Sutton is the unquestioned starter at the 9-man spot, it's nice to see Kevin Thomas, who has admittedly been in the doghouse during his time at SMU, finish strong in the SMU spring game. While Alex Honey sat out the spring game, Thomas was making plays and should get some more playing time because of his performance in the spring. He's noticeably bigger and, one would think, can turn the corner in terms of maturity.
2M1: James Proche
2M2: Xavier Castille/Brandon Benson
Another position that is going to be tough to take away from the incumbent is James Proche II's spot at the 2-man. Xavier Castille will have a chance to earn playing time at both the 2 and 5-man positions with Porche taking a tight hold on the position. Castille also has to stay healthy to do that, which is why we could see Brandon Benson or Joshua Shelmire (if healthy) getting in the mix here too.
5M1: Trey Quinn
5M2: Xavier Castille/Shelby Walker
At the 5-man spot, Trey Quinn is a kid that SMU coaches have always wanted on their team since their days at Clemson. The group is tight and and you can tell he's much more comfortable, especially after his big day in the spring game. With Castille's health issues, Quinn will start next to Proche and might end up being a solid AAC Newcomer of the Year candidate. Castille can work in here as well as Shelby Walker and Myron Gailliard.
Tight Ends (3-Back)
TE1: Raymond Epps
TE2: Corey Rau
TE3: Ryan Becker
The biggest riser of the spring might have been Corey Rau, who had a big offseason conditioning program and followed that up with a big spring game. It's now a real battle for every rep at the three-back spot with Rau, transfer Raymond Epps and Ryan Becker. When Mitchell Kaufman returns to the position, there's now real depth at the position. With Epps being the grad transfer and also a little more physically imposing, we expect him to get the start, but both Rau and Becker continue to get bigger and that will allow SMU to use more two tight end sets, helping in the run game.
LT1: Chad Pursley
LT2: Kadarius Smith
Expect Chad Pursley to get the start here. That's been the expectation, but of course, Pursley needs to be healthy to do that. The good thing for SMU is Kadarius Smith emerged this spring as a real option at left tackle before the freshmen arrive in the fall.
LG1: Nick Natour
LG2: Braylon Hyder
At guard, Nick Natour slid inside with Smith's emergence this spring at left tackle, providing SMU the depth to get an experienced player in there and to shore up that position with Braylon Hyder out, who Rex Printz continues to battle for time.
C1: Evan Brown
C2: Harrison Barton
RG1: Jacob Todora
RG2: Jerry Saena
Jerry Saena was out for the SMU spring game and there were questions whether he was going to come back in the first place. With Saena recovering from a knee injury, Todora got plenty of time at right guard and is making a push for playing time there and at right tackle. Todora will see the field somehow, it's just a matter of where.
RT1: Bryce Wilds
RT2: Braxton Webb
It's tough to nail this one down for sure, but Bryce Wilds continues to get opportunities to start at right tackle. Can he make a big enough push to fend off Todora and Braxton Webb? That remains to be seen. After his performance at times last year, he's still a little off of where he wants to be, but can he make a big enough jump to keep the job is a huge question for SMU.