2008 CFN SMU Preview
SMU QB Justin Willis
SMU QB Justin Willis
Posted May 20, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - SMU Mustangs

SMU Mustangs

Preview 2008

By Richard Cirminiello

- 2008 CFN SMU Preview | 2008 SMU Offense
- 2008 SMU Defense | 2008 SMU Depth Chart
2007 CFN SMU Preview
| 2006 CFN SMU Preview

Head coach: June Jones
1st year at SMU
10th year overall: 76-41
Returning Lettermen
Off. 15, Def. 22, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 17
Ten Best SMU Players
QB Justin Willis, Jr.
2. WR Emmanuel Sanders, Jr.
3. P/K Thomas Morstead, Sr.
4. CB Bryan McCann, Jr.
5. LB Will Bonilla, Sr.
6. RB DeMyron Martin, Sr.
7. C Mitch Enright, Jr.
8. DE Youri Yenga, Soph.
9. FS Tyler Jones, Soph.
10. WR Aldrick Robinson, Soph.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record:

Aug. 29 at Rice
Sept. 6 Texas State
Sept. 13 at Texas Tech
Sept. 20 TCU
Sept. 27 at Tulane
Oct. 4 at UCF
Oct. 11 Tulsa
Oct. 18 Houston
Oct. 25 at Navy
Nov. 8 Memphis
Nov. 15 at UTEP
Nov. 29 Southern Miss

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record:

Sept. 3 Texas Tech L 49-9
Sept. 8
North Texas W 45-31
Sept. 15 at Ark St L 45-28
Sept. 22 at TCU L 21-7
Sept. 29
UTEP L 48-45 OT
Oct. 13 at So Miss L 28-7
Oct. 20
Tulane L 41-34 OT
Oct. 27 at Tulsa L 29-23
Nov. 4 at Houston L 38-28
Nov. 10
Rice L 43-42
Nov. 17 UCF L 49-20
Nov. 24 at Memphis L 55-52 3OT

The firing of Phil Bennett and eventual hiring of June Jones on the Hilltop creates a change of culture for Mustang players. Not only will they be adapting to new playbooks and terminology on both sides of the ball, but they’ll also have to get used to a lot more media attention.

With Jones comes the high-powered run-and-shoot and a sudden increase in attention at a school that hasn’t produced this many football headlines since getting hit with the NCAA death penalty two decades ago. SMU needs a system, or a blueprint, of how to rebuild a program, which is exactly what Jones can deliver. He’s got the track record and the community support to begin turning around a program that’s been mired in almost a quarter-century of ineptitude.

There’s a rare air of excitement surrounding the program that’s directly related to the arrival of Jones. He brings a positive attitude, a history of success, and a fancy offense to a school that’s pining for good news. While the defense remains a liability, the offense will eventually get to a point where it keeps the Mustangs competitive in those league games that were blowouts a year ago. In lieu of a miracle, SMU will win a few more games than it did in 2007.

What to watch for on offense: An 80-20 run-pass mix. No, the personnel doesn’t yet fit what Jones wants to do in Dallas, but that won’t stop him from going up top with the same frequency he did at Hawaii. The Mustangs have spent the past six months trying to digest a completely new playbook and language. While there were strides in April, and more to come in August, growing pains will be inevitable when the season kicks off with a trip to Rice.

What to watch for on defense
: Speed off the edge. Lacking the size and strength up front to move blockers off the line, new coordinator Tom Mason plans to use the Mustangs’ speed to disrupt opponents. If SMU has any chance to improve on last year’s dismal results, it’ll be up to sophomore ends Youri Yenga, Anthony Sowe, and Jordan Johnson to blow past tackles and create havoc before plays have a chance to develop.

This team will be far better if
…the defense makes a key stop every once in a while. The Mustangs aren’t quite ready to be the Hawaii offense, scoring 40 points a game, so it’s up to the defense to pitch in and pull its weight. SMU yielded at least 41 points seven times a year ago, which, if repeated, will destroy any hope for a winning season.

The Schedule: The
offense might need a few games to get tuned up, and it'll get it in early shootouts at Rice and at Texas Tech along with a true warm-up against Texas State. Two off weeks in November should help the Mustangs stay fresh for big games against Southern Miss and UTEP, while the two projected West favorites, Tulsa and Houston, have to travel to Dallas. On the down side, along with facing the Golden Eagles, SMU has to play UCF from the East. Getting TCU and Navy in the midst of the conference schedule will be tough.

Best Offensive Player: Junior QB Justin Willis. While technically Willis hasn’t even been named the starter, few doubt he’ll be behind center when the Mustangs travel to Rice on Aug. 29. He’s the physical and emotional leader of the program, leading SMU in passing and rushing a year ago. If a spring suspension helped get his priorities in order, he has a chance to flourish in the new run-and-shoot attack.

Best Defensive Player: Junior CB Bryan McCann. On one of the nation’s worst defenses, McCann stands out as the one player capable of continuing his career at the NFL level. A versatile athlete who can play safety or cornerback, he’s an outstanding athlete and a sure-tackler in space. Although he’s headed to becoming one of Conference USA’s premier corners, playing for SMU means he’ll have to be extra special to attract publicity.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Justin Willis. While it would help if the Mustang D was a bit stingier, the defense won’t be the cause of any wins this season. Winning games will be the direct result of the new offense, which means Willis has to maintain his focus on and off the field. If for some reason, the program’s best player isn’t on the field, SMU has little chance of surprising people in 2008. It needs Willis to be Willis for all 12 games.

The season will be a success if ... SMU wins five games, or four more than a year ago. Sure, the first bowl game in a quarter-century would be unreal, but this is more of a table-setting season for a school that’ll be much more competitive in 2008. June Jones wants to use this first season to install his system, learn his personnel, and begin the slow process of building momentum in Dallas. If those are achieved and the Mustangs go 5-7, label it a victory for the program.

Key game: Aug. 29 at Rice. The new staff wants to get the word out to Lone Star recruits that something big is brewing at SMU. What better way to convey that message than by pounding Rice in the opener on national television? If the Mustangs come out fast on a Friday night, the buzz surrounding the program will grow exponentially.

2007 Fun Stats:
- Average passing yards per game: Opponents 301.4 yards – SMU 252.1 yards
- Third down conversions: Opponents 96 of 178 (54%) – SMU 77 of 181 (43%)
- Rushing TDs: Opponents 31 – SMU 15