Week 1 Breakdown - SMU at Texas A&M
SMU QB Kyle Padron & Texas A&M WR Ryan Swope
SMU QB Kyle Padron & Texas A&M WR Ryan Swope
Posted Jun 17, 2011

Looking ahead at the Early Matchups - Week 1: SMU at Texas A&M

Preview 2011

Week 1 - SMU at Texas A&M

- 2010 SMU Preview | 2010 SMU Offense
- 2010 SMU Defense | 2010 SMU Depth Chart
- SMU Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006

- 2011 Texas A&M Preview | 2011 Texas A&M Offense
- 2011 Texas A&M Defense | 2011 Texas A&M Depth Chart
- Texas A&M Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006


Offense: The run-and-shoot will continue to be SMU's preferred mode of transportation, though the program is hoping to operate it more efficiently this fall. The 2010 squad had no problem moving the ball, but putting up points on a consistent basis was another story. The Mustangs were 33rd nationally in total offense, but just 74th in scoring, a divide that could be explained by turnovers. The offense had way too many of them. Hope for a revival, however, comes from the return of all but one starter. SMU retains the services of prolific QB Kyle Padron, league-leading rusher Zach Line, and all of its linemen. If the attack can simply fine-tune some of the details and iron out a few wrinkles, it has the firepower and experience to finally reach head coach and architect June Jones' expectations.

Without any attention outside—or even inside—Dallas, coordinator Tom Mason continues to do a fantastic job with the Mustang defense. A switch to a 3-4 alignment in 2009 put another quality athlete on the field, allowing the team to attack with more speed and frequency. While SMU didn't produce nearly as many takeaways as two years ago, it did rank second only to UCF in the conference in total defense and scoring D. Mason retains most of that group, including six of the eight Mustangs who earned at least All-Conference USA honorable mention. Ends Taylor Thompson and Margus Hunt, linebackers Ja'Gared Davis and Taylor Reed, and FS Chris Banjo all believe their careers won't stop on the Hilltop. More than anything else, Mason wants more big plays, like turnovers and sacks, than his kids produced in 2010. If that happens, SMU will have a fighting chance of improving its lackluster efficiency on third downs and in the red zone.

Best Offensive Player: Junior RB Zach Line. You know you're a talented running back when you can upstage a June Jones passing game. Line came out of nowhere in 2010, succeeding Shawnbrey McNeal and winning the Conference USA rushing title with 1,494 yards and 10 touchdowns on 244 carries. The perfect power complement to the team's precision passing game, he's a 6-1, 230-pound beast in short yardage and a versatile runner who can exploit the wide lanes in opposing defenses.

Best Defensive Player: Junior LB Ja'Gared Davis. The hybrid of the Mustang defense, he's shown a devastating ability to stop the run and harass the quarterback. One of the team's best combinations of size, speed, and intensity, he rose to the All-Conference USA first team as a sophomore, making 90 tackles, and a team-best 16 stops for loss and nine sacks. The coaches will line him up in different spots, confusing offenses and putting him in a position to wreak as much havoc he possibly can on the other guys.

Texas A&M

Offense: Only in the Big 12 could an offense averaged 442 yards and 32 points per game and still be mediocre. No, the attack wasn't a disappointment last year, but it was inconsistent and it had to rely on some major in-season changes. There was a quarterback switch, star RB Christine Michael got hurt, and the line needed about half the season before it all came together. Now the numbers should be off the charts as Ryan Tannehill has the quarterback job all to himself and gets a loaded receiving corps to throw to. Jeff Fuller, Ryan Swope, and Uzoma Nwachukwu form a tremendous pass catching trio, while the combination of a healthy Michael and 1,133-yard rusher Cyrus Gray forms a potentially devastating tandem in the backfield. The question will be the line, which is full of veterans, size, and options, but needs the young tackles need to keep improving. The pass protection has to be night-and-day better than it was in 2010.

Defense: It worked. The Aggie defense that struggled so much and was a disaster in so many ways got a lot better in a big hurry as former Air Force defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter changed things up to a 3-4, got the D to be more aggressive, and helped the run defense make a massive improvement. Butkus winner Von Miller is gone from the outside, but there are plenty of fast, athletic pass rushers ready to take his place at the Joker position; the star spot in the linebacking corps. The front three is very big and very good against the run, the linebackers are deep and can move, and the secondary can fly and is loaded with good veterans. This won't be the Big 12's best defense, but it'll be close.

Best offensive player: Senior WR Jeff Fuller. There's no arguing if you think running backs Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray might be better than Fuller, but the 6-4, 215-pound wide receiver is the consistent star who led the team with 14.8 yards per grab and caught 12 of the team's 28 touchdown passes. He's big, is great at getting deep, and has the talent to be an ideal No. 1 receiver.

Best defensive player: Sophomore DE/LB Damontre Moore. Call this going out on a limb for a slew of reasons. The sophomore was dominant at times this spring and looked more than ready to build on his 5.5 sack season in place of Von Miller at the Joker position, but he has to get past a pot possession arrest in early June. Assuming all is fine, he could match Miller's 10.5 sack total and could be the Big 12's newest star.