1.) Will the defense be able stop to the run?
The fact that SMU gave up just as many rushing touchdowns last season as Bo Levi Mitchell threw, had to of frustrated June Jones and defensive coordinator Tom Mason this off-season. Realizing that it housed more linebacker-types on the roster, SMU is switching to a 3-4 alignment this season. With an extra athlete on the field, the hope is that the Mustangs can use their team speed to cause more plays. Will the linebackers be able to handle reading the run and stepping up?
2.) Will Bo Levi Mitchell cut down on his mistakes?
A nation high 23 interceptions will not be tolerated again for sophomore Bo Levi Mitchell. If he can make a quantum leap from 2008 and make the most of a talented receiving corps, the rest of the team is likely to follow his lead.
"This offense isn't just 1..2..3 and your guy is going to be ten yards down the field. This has to a lot with both the receiver and the quarterback making a read," stated Mitchell to PonyStampede.com. "A receiver might go out and read "Cover 2" and I might read "Cover 4" and if throw the ball where I think he is going to be, it's going to be an interception every time. Now that we have had some time together, we should be on the same page."
Hopefully this statement by Mitchell is correct. With the Mustang defense, the offense has to not miss any opportunities.
3.) Will the defense be able to stop the pass?
Let's face it. As bad as the Mustang's run defense was last year, the passing defense wasn't much better. They to were in the nation's bottom in many passing categories. In Conference USA, the Mustangs were last in interceptions and near the bottom in touchdowns yielded, a sure-fire recipe for disaster. The encouraging news is that everyone returns in the secondary, lending hope that they'll be better prepared to make stops and prevent big plays.
4.) Will Shawnbrey McNeal see the field in 2009?
According to PonyStampede.com sources, the coaching staff is confident that the Miami transfer will be able to make an impact this season. While June Jones' offense doesn't need Top 20 rushing attack behind it, it does need more than 41 yards a game. Junior Chris Butler carried the ball 33 times for 174 yards, a healthy average of more than five yards a pop. At 5-10 and 216 yards, he's a physical, north-south runner, who almost never gets taken down for minus yards. That said, he isn't the big threat player maker like McNeal. McNeal, who could be a game-changer, needs to be deemed eligible this year. Otherwise, the rushing attack could be in trouble again.
5.) Which newcomer, freshman or juco player, will help the most?
SMU could have a face lift from many various newcomers this season, but which one will make the most impact? Marquis Frazier, a first-year transfer from Navarro (Tex.) Junior College is 6-4 and 281 pounds. He has the size to help the defensive line right away. That said, he missed the 2008 season and spring practices and could be a little rusty when the season begins.
Junior college cornerback Sterling Moore has looked good in voluntary workouts, but is still learning the SMU defensive schemes and is playing against the second-team offense.
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