5 Questions: SMU

TCU takes on SMU this Saturday in the Battle for the Iron Skillet. Who are the top players and what's the mentality on the Hilltop for this game? We go to PonyStampede.com publisher E.J. Holland to get the answers!

1. For those who haven't seen SMU play this season, how is Garrett Gilbert and the offense clicking and are they living up to expectations?

Gilbert hasn't clicked with his WR's yet
There has yet to be any type of click on offense for SMU this season. Garrett Gilbert can't seem to get in sync with his wide outs, which have been underperforming. It's a complete mess right now offensively especially after only putting up three points against Texas A&M. I talked to Gilbert earlier this week, and he said its just going to take time to get acclimated with the offense. June Jones has stated before that it takes time for quarterbacks to truly master the Run N' Shoot. But from what I've seen, there has been really no progression made since Week 1. SMU ranks 79th in total offense and in my opinion, Jones need to really consider running the offense through running back Zach Line to get Gilbert comfortable early. He makes all the throws in practice but it just doesn't translate to the field on game days. In all three games, the offense has been flat to start off the game and can never get in a rhythm. So it's safe to say that they are definitely not living up to expectations.

2. Defensively, SMU is ranked as the #120 defense in the country, what are the biggest issues the defense has faced?

It all goes back to the offense. Believe it or not, the defense hasn't been extremely bad. The biggest issue is the offense can't produce or take any time off the clock, and the defense just wears down. Against Texas A&M, the Aggies didn't score until midway through the second quarter. But the offense struggled and before you knew it the defense was just exhausted and the score read 48-3. Now, I'm not saying the defense is perfect by any means. I think the secondary certainly has its issues and will be one of the biggest keys to the game if the Ponies want to pull the upset against TCU. The secondary suffered a major blow in fall camp when they lost starting corner J.R. Richardson for the year to a torn ACL. Chris Parks has filled in but has been picked on every game and has not performed up to par. He finally had a decent game against A&M but has been hampered by a hamstring injury. Overall, the defense needs to tackle better and put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, something they have not been able to do so far this season.

3. Darius Johnson has been relatively quiet this season, what has slowed his production?

Against Baylor, Johnson had arguably the worst game of his career. He dropped a couple of key passes and lost a fumble, which resulted in a Baylor touchdown. On that play, he suffered a concussion, which kept him out for the Stephen F. Austin game. He was out of practice for basically a week and a half so he was still a little rusty in the A&M game and the chemistry with Gilbert just isn't there yet.

4. Who are the players on both sides of the ball that you could see having a big impact against the Frogs?

Hunt is a leader on the Mustangs' defense
Offensively, I believe Zach Line could have a big game. But this can only happen if Gilbert can connect on some short to intermediate passes. In the Run N' Shoot, the pass obviously sets up the run but it's important to get Line the ball early. He did rush for 120 yards against TCU last year and with rain in the forecast, grinding it out with Line may be SMU's best chance at winning.

Defensively, I'll say Margus Hunt. He had the preseason hype but was really a non-factor against Baylor. The 6-foot-8, 280-pound defensive end is a freak of nature and has too much talent to not be recording a sack a game. A back injury limited him to only be used as a field goal blocker against SFA. He ended up setting an NCAA record with his 9th blocked field goal. But again he didn't do anything from the defensive end position. He finally recorded his first sack against A&M and that may have been the turning point. I feel like SMU's best chance at getting to Pachall will be Hunt and maybe he can block a kick or two as well.

5. What is the mood like over on the Hilltop right now? Do they feel this game is a game that can turn their season around?

The mood is a little solemn. SMU knows that this is sort of a must-win game. They definitely don't want to head into conference with a 1-3 record and another blowout loss would be unacceptable. Pony fans are already questioning June Jones' offensive philosophy and Gilbert's ability to lead this team. But at the same time, it's rivalry week and parent's weekend so there is some excitement in the air.

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