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2009 SMU Preview - Offense
SMU WR Aldrick Robinson
SMU WR Aldrick Robinson
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 16, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - SMU Mustang Offense

SMU Mustangs

Preview 2009 - Offense


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

What you need to know: Just like he’s done throughout his coaching career, second-year head coach June Jones aims to spread the field with four or five receivers, peppering defenses with short and intermediate strikes. After using last year as one big learning process, the Mustangs are much better prepared to fulfill their leader’s wishes. Jones bit the bullet by giving the ball to true freshman Bo Levi Mitchell, which should start paying larger dividends in 2009. He made plenty of mistakes, but also made huge strides, while developing chemistry with the dynamic receiving duo of Aldrick Robinson and Emmanuel Sanders. Don’t expect Hawaii circa 2007 quite yet. Then again, don’t count on SMU circa 2008 either. With most of the main ingredients back, the Mustangs will better last season’s 21 points and 314 yards a game.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Bo Levi Mitchell
236-410, 2,855 yds, 24 TD, 23 INT
Rushing: Chris Butler
33 carries, 174 yds
Receiving: Emmanuel Sanders
67 catches, 958 yds, 9 TD

Star of the offense: Senior WR Emmanuel Sanders
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore QB Bo Levi Mitchell
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LT Kelvin Beachum
Best pro prospect: Junior WR Aldrick Robinson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Sanders, 2) Robinson, 3) C Mitch Enright
Strength of the offense: Passing Game, Receivers
Weakness of the offense: Line, Running Game

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: You just knew that when June Jones was hired, nothing would ever be the same at SMU. Bo Levi Mitchell, for example. Recruited out of Katy (Tex.) High School specifically to run this offense, the wide-eyed 6-1, 201-pounder was given the ball as a true freshman and thrown into the deep end of the pool. He responded predictably, making plenty of mistakes and getting light years better as the season progressed. In the end, he finished 236-of-410 for 2,865 yards, 24 touchdowns, and a nation’s-high 23 interceptions. Most important, he lived to tell about it, growing markedly since that baptism under fire.    

Projected Top Reserves: Logan Turner is no longer with the program, clearing a path for redshirt freshman Braden Smith to be this year’s backup. Despite being just 5-11 and 194 pounds, he has good zip on his passes and usually puts the ball where only his guy can grab it. He’s also a coach’s son and played in a high school system that threw the ball liberally. Experience aside, he’s a nice fit for the Mustangs.

Junior J.J. McDermott brings a much-needed veteran feel to the depth chart. Formerly a backup at New Mexico State, he has 12 games of FBS experience, going 67-of-111 for 676 yards, two touchdowns and six interceptions. The biggest of the Mustang quarterbacks at 6-4 and 223 pounds, he throws with somewhat of a sidearm motion.

Watch Out For… a different Mitchell. Last season, he was operating on pure guts and instincts. This year, you can expect to see a more polished passer, who spent part of the offseason working on his throwing motion, cleaning up his footwork, and becoming a better student of the run-and-shoot.
Strength: The system. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. No, Mitchell and Smith wouldn’t be ideal fits at many schools, but the great thing about Jones’ offense is that it can take marginal prospects and transform them into gunslingers. With a full year now behind them, both quarterbacks are closer to being quality hurlers in the run-and-shoot.
Weakness: Turnovers. Crisp decision-making is an integral component for success in this offense. And Mitchell still has a lot of learning to do. He certainly made progress in 2008, yet still made too mistakes and led the country in interceptions. The picks will decline, but he’ll gift-wrap a bunch of presents for opposing defensive backs.
Outlook: Mitchell will be better, but how much? The answer will parallel the program’s trend as well. He has the luxury of an outstanding receiving corps, a terrific mentor, and a full season as the starter. The touchdowns will go up and the picks will decline, setting the stage for even better results in 2010.
Rating: 5.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: At a feeble 41 yards a game, the Mustangs were last nationally in rushing. That was partly by the design of the offense and partly from awful execution. The leading returning rusher is also the leading candidate to be the starter. 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. He only had five catches for 14 yards, which could impact his playing time if he’s not more available in the passing game.   

Projected Top Reserves: A more exciting option out of the backfield is 5-8, 182-pound sophomore Bryce Lunday, who’ll do a little bit of everything for the offense. Much more of a breakaway threat than Butler, he’ll take handoffs, split out wide, and catch passes as a traditional receiver. In space, he can be very dangerous.

The X factor is junior Shawnbrey McNeal, a local kid who spent his first two seasons at Miami. He sat out the spring to rehab a knee injury and hit the books, but will be hard to keep off the field if granted an NCAA waiver that allows him to play right away. A 5-10, 190-pound burner, he never quite found his groove with the Hurricanes, getting just 33 career carries for 152 yards and three touchdowns.

Watch Out For… McNeal. It’s not often that a back of McNeal’s caliber makes his way to Dallas unless he has a start on his helmet. He’s a Big 12 talent playing in a league of Conference USA defenses. Advantage Mustangs. Of course, before doing his rendition of the Pony Express, he’ll have to get healthy and get right academically.
Strength: Diversity. Butler is a no-nonsense pile-driver. Lunday is a jack-of-all-trades. McNeal is the home run hitter. Together, they form a nice blend of different skill set, provided they’re able to get enough touches throughout the year.
Weakness: Receiving skills. In this offense, carrying the ball 20 times a game is not in the job description. Soft, reliable hands, however, is non-negotiable. The Mustang backs were non-factors in the passing game a year ago, catching the ball just 27 times for a mere 150 yards. They’ve got to do a better job in this area in 2009.
Outlook: Generally speaking, not too much is expected from this unit. If the backs pass protect and catch a few passes, they’ve earned their free ride. However, a little more production wouldn’t be such a bad thing, especially as a change-of-pace. The way SMU spreads out the field, the lanes should be wide enough to spring the occasional big play. The progress of McNeal, who could be a game-changer, bears watching.  
Rating: 4

Receivers

Projected Starters: If you’re going to install the run-and-shoot, you better have some quality receivers. Check. It didn’t take June Jones long to piece together a capable corps of pass-catchers. Of course, it helped inheriting senior Emmanuel Sanders and junior Aldrick Robinson. Sanders was making plays before the program went pass-happy, bringing 187 career receptions and 22 touchdowns into this final season. He peaked a year ago, making a team-high 67 catches for 958 yards and nine scores in an All-Conference USA campaign. A chiseled 5-11, 180-pounder, he has a tremendous work ethic and the acceleration to pick up extra yards after the catch and get behind the secondary.

Robinson was the revelation of this group in 2008. After making 10 catches as a freshman, he erupted for 59 receptions for 1,047 yards and 11 touchdowns. Already an exceptional all-around athlete, he’s on the verge of becoming an exceptional wide receiver. Described by Jones as one of the fastest players he’s ever coached, the 5-10, 176-pounder is particularly explosive in the first 10 yards, often getting into his cuts before the defender is ready. Basically, he’s a future NFL receiver going against Conference USA corners.

Sophomore Cole Beasley seized an opportunity in his first season, finishing third on the team with 42 receptions for 366 yards and three scores. Jones has had success in the past with these types of players, former high school backs who get converted into slot receivers. Because of his quickness and tremendous vertical ability, he’ll play bigger than his 5-9, 174-pound frame.

Rounding out the Mustangs’ four-wide sets is 5-10, 175-pound sophomore Terrance Wilkerson, who caught 24 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns in his debut. Another former quarterback who’s now catching passes at SMU, he’s still learning the many nuances of the position. When he breaks containment, he has good open-field quickness.

Projected Top Reserves: The most experienced—and intriguing—of the reserves is 5-11, 197-pound senior Justin Willis, the former starting quarterback in 2006 and 2007. It’s a good thing he’s a solid all-around athlete because it’s allowed to remain relevant to the program, even after Bo Levi Mitchell came aboard. As a reserve in the slot a year ago, he chipped in with 14 catches for 143 yards and a touchdown.

Sophomore Bradley Haynes came on very strong toward the end of his first year, which he hopes to carry into the 2009 season. Although he had just 16 grabs for 198 yards and two touchdowns, all but two of those catches came in the final three games. At 6-3 and 209 pounds, he has the size and strength to handle the pounding endured by the receivers in this offense.

Once the seal is broken on redshirt freshman E.J. Drewery, the Mustangs are interested to see what he can produce. On size alone, the 6-5, 219-pounder is going to cause problems, especially on jump balls. He’s also very agile, which could result in some highlight-reel plays.

Watch Out For… Sanders to make occasional cameos on defense this fall. How much does SMU respect the athleticism of No. 17? It plans to use him at times at cornerback, hoping he can plug a hole or two in that leaky Mustang secondary.  
Strength: The tandem. By themselves, Robinson and Sanders would be dangerous. Together, however, they’re virtually impossible to corral because they destroy any chance for doubling one player. Overall, the athleticism and speed of the starters is tremendous.  
Weakness: Consistency. From top to bottom, this is still a fairly youthful corps that relies on a number of underclassmen. Besides reducing the number of drops, Jones needs the kids to begin doing the smaller things better, like running tighter routes and blocking downfield.
Outlook: Everyone is back and a year older, which is promising news for the passing attack. Not only are Sanders and Robinson all-stars and legitimate next-level players, but all of the young kids should be better prepared to contribute as secondary options this season. 
Rating: 7.5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: The SMU offensive line remains a serious work-in-progress that’s littered with freshmen and sophomores. The one exception is senior C Mitch Enright, a third-year starter and member of the 2008 Rimington Trophy Watch List. After missing much of last year with a hand injury, his return gives a big lift to the interior. While only 6-1 and 275 pounds, he has the head and the footwork to excel in pass protection and earn all-conference honors for the first time.

The budding star of the line is 6-3, 271-pound sophomore Kelvin Beachum, a 12-game starter last season at left tackle. June Jones compares his balance, feet, and work ethic to former Atlanta Falcon Bob Whitfield, a first-round selection in 1992. He has tremendous upside potential, especially in pass protection, which should begin bubbling to the surface this fall.

The favorite to handle right tackle is 6-5, 312-pound sophomore J.T. Brooks. While he saw enough action to earn a letter in his first year, this qualifies as a major step up in responsibility. He’s got the requisite size to be a tackle at this level, but needed to chop weight when he arrived, and must maintain his conditioning in this fast-paced offense.

Back at right guard is 6-2, 276-pound sophomore Bryce Tennison, who started 10games at the position a year ago. By linemen standards, he’s a terrific all-around athlete with surprising straight-line speed. More of a finesse guy than a mauler, he’s continuously looking to improve his strength, especially in the upper body.

Rounding out the unit at left guard will be 6-3, 330-pound sophomore Josh LeRibeus, the biggest and most physical of the linemen. He played in 10 games in his first year, earning starts against Texas State and Memphis. He brings a certain attitude and physicality to a front wall that sorely needs it. A lack of conditioning is the one thing that could affect his spot in the rotation.

Projected Top Reserves: When Enright was shelved last fall, 6-1, 263-pound sophomore Blake McJunkin stepped into the lineup for the final 10 games and played very well for a rookie. Already a heady player, he regains the top job as soon as the incumbent runs out of eligibility.

The other reserve who lettered a year ago was 6-3, 293-pound sophomore Kelly Turner, LeRibeus’ insurance policy at left guard. After losing the battle for the starting job in the summer, he ended up appearing in nine games, mostly on special teams.

Watch Out For… progress. Not only were the linemen very young last year, but they were also learning a completely new offense and blocking scheme. With a full year to get bigger in the weight room and smarter in the film room, the unit won’t look as lost as it did at times in 2008.
Strength: Athleticism. While not very, as a whole, the Mustang linemen are quick off the snap and above the curve athletically. Jones made it clear when he arrived that the line had to be in shape to block in this offense, and most of the members have heeded his advice.
Weakness: Inexperience. Yeah, they’re a year older and better prepared, but this remains one of the nation’s youngest offensive lines, featuring a whopping nine underclassmen on the two-deep. That’ll pay off in 2010 and 2011, but right now, it’s going to equal a level of inconsistency that impacts the entire offense.
Outlook: While headed in the right direction, the young Mustangs are still far from their final destination. The offensive line is going to be improved versus 2008, but by how much? The key will be to reduce the number of sacks and hurries allowed, so Bo Levi Mitchell has enough time to set in the pocket and go through his progressions.
Rating: 4.5
 
  


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2009 SMU Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 16, 2009
2009 CFN SMU Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 16, 2009
2009 SMU Preview – Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 16, 2009








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