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2007 SMU Preview

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 14, 2007


Preview 2007 SMU Mustangs

SMU Mustangs

Preview 2007


By Richard Cirminiello

- 2007 SMU Offense Preview | 2007 SMU Defense Preview
- 2007 SMU Depth Chart | 2006 CFN SMU Preview 

With head coach Phil Bennett holding the lantern, SMU was this close in 2006 to completely emerging from the dark days of the NCAA death penalty.  After two decades of building from the foundation up and recreating the program’s image, the new and improved Mustangs came within four minutes and four points of going to a bowl game for the first time since 1984.  Their chance to showcase the program’s progress to a mass audience, instead, went to Rice, which copped the requisite seventh win on the final weekend of the regular season.

Head coach: Phil Bennett
6th year: 17-41
Returning Lettermen: 39
Lettermen Lost: 18
Ten Best SMU Players
1.
QB Justin Willis, Soph.
2. LB Reggie Carrington, Sr.
3. WR Emmanuel Sanders, Soph.
4. DE Cory Muse, Sr.
5. RB DeMyron Martin, Jr.
6. P/K Thomas Morstead, Jr.
7. LB Wilton McCray, Sr.
8. OT Ben Poynter, Sr.
9. OG Caleb Peveto, Sr.
10. S Bryce Hudman, Soph.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
7-5

Sept. 3

Texas Tech

Sept. 8

North Texas

Sept. 15

at Arkansas State

Sept. 22

at TCU

Sept. 29

UTEP

Oct. 13

at Southern Miss

Oct. 20

Tulane

Oct. 27

at Tulsa

Nov. 4

at Houston

Nov. 10

Rice

Nov. 17

UCF

Nov. 24

at Memphis

2006 Schedule
2006 Record:
6-6

9/2 at Texas Tech L 45-3
9/9 at North Texas L 24-6
9/16 S Houston St W 45-14
9/23 Arkansas State W 55-9
9/30 at Tulane W 33-28
10/7 at UTEP L 24-21
10/14 Marshall W 31-21
10/21 at East Carolina L 38-21
10/31 UAB W 22-9
11/11 Houston L 37-27
11/18 Tulsa W 34-34
11/25 at Rice L 31-27

For the Mustangs, not playing in December was a lost opportunity, but by no means was it the last one they’re going to get in the near term.  Since arriving in 2002, Bennett has been steadily steering the program toward this day, when SMU has more depth, speed and potential since the days of the Pony Express.  Not unlike Greg Schiano at Rutgers, Bennett struggled early, stayed the course and now is beginning to pay back a patient administration.  Recruiting in the Dallas-Forth Worth area, long a trouble spot, has picked up, and the program gets two rare appearances on national television this fall.           

Even better than last year’s six wins was the emergence of quarterback Justin Willis, who went from erratic redshirt freshman to the most identifiable and valuable Mustang before September had ended.  Every program looking to elevate itself needs that unique sparkplug, a role Willis will ably fill for the next three years.

Forget last year’s disappointing ending that left SMU out of the bowl picture.  The Mustangs remain right on course with the potential to be even better if a left tackle and some quality defensive linemen can be developed before September.  The non-conference schedule is demanding, but unlike recent years, every league game is winnable, putting that magical seventh victory within reach.

What to watch for on offense: Willis is a legit franchise quarterback who makes plays outside the pocket, and those around him better.  Beyond the obvious physical gifts, he possesses certain qualities and characteristics that just scream success.  Developing alongside him will be fellow sophomore Emmanuel Sanders, who ignited a pedestrian group of receivers by catching 46 passes for 605 yards and nine touchdowns.  Look out for DeMyron Martin, a 6-2, 225-pound horse, who missed most of last year after whetting everyone’s appetite in 2005.  With a passing game to keep defenses honest, he’s eyeing a monster junior year.  

What to watch for on defense: If the Mustangs fail to reach expectations, the defense will probably be the guilty party.  Replacing three starting defensive linemen and five members of the two-deep is going to take its toll, particularly on a pass defense that was 110th nationally a year ago.  End Cody Muse and linebacker Reggie Carrington are all-league types, but they won’t be enough to keep SMU from participating in a number of shootouts this year.     

The team will be far better if …the offensive line improves its pass blocking.  SMU gave up way too many sacks in 2006, which makes Willis’ 26 touchdown passes and six picks even more amazing.  He’s the headliner of this show, and any impediments to his growth represent a roadblock to the Mustangs’ postseason dreams.  

The Schedule: It's not easy. The Mustangs have the three worst Conference USA road games you can get, going to Southern Miss, Tulsa and Houston in a title-dream-killing midseason stretch of three away dates in four weeks. While North Texas and Arkansas State help ease up the non-conference slate, playing Texas Tech and going to TCU means a 2-2 start is likely. There can't be any slips in home games against Tulane, Rice and UCF if the Mustangs want to go to a bowl.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore QB Justin Willis. He has Conference USA Player of the Year written all over him. A deadly accurate short- and mid-range passer who completed 67% of his throws for 26 touchdowns and six interceptions, Willis should be even better now that he knows what he’s doing.  As long as he keeps his head on straight off the field, and doesn’t try to do too much on it, he’ll become one of the league’s signature stars.     

Best Defensive Player: Senior DE Cory Muse. A blur of a pass rusher with tremendous speed and improved strength, the second-team All-Conference USA star will now be the team’s main man up front as the only returning starter. He’ll have to deal with being double-teamed on almost every play and can’t get frustrated, but if he gets any sort of help from the rest of the line, he’ll flourish again.    

Key player to a successful season: Senior CB Jonathan Lindley. The secondary was awful throughout last season, and should have an even tougher time this year, given that the three new starters up front are unlikely to provide much of a pass rush. Lindley was the one beaten by Rice’s star receiver Jarett Dillard for the winning score to knock the Mustangs out of a bowl, and now he has to be a shutdown playmaker to improve the defense.

The season will be a success if ... the Mustangs go to their first bowl game since 1984. After getting so agonizingly close last season, not getting the first winning season since 1997 and not being a player in the West race will be a major step back for Bennett.

Key game: Oct. 27 at Tulsa. Beating UTEP in the conference opener is vital, a win at Southern Miss would be nice, and a victory over Tulane has to be a given, but West title hopes might be dashed if the Mustangs can't win at Tulsa. With a trip to Houston the following week, they'll know in a two-week stretch just where they stand.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- Punt return average: SMU 7.8 yards; Opponents 10.3 yards
- Second quarter scoring: SMU 127 – Opponents 65
- Time of possession: SMU 27:25; Opponents 32:35

 

 

Related Stories
2007 SMU Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 14, 2007
2007 SMU Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 14, 2007
2007 SMU Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 14, 2007








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