2010 SMU Preview – Offense
SMU WR Aldrick Robinson
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - SMU Mustang Offense
Preview 2010 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: This is a June Jones production. Did you expect anything other than a prolific passing game and a high-powered Run & Shoot offense? The Mustangs took a step in the right direction last season, Jones' second in Dallas, scoring eight more points a game than a year earlier and ranking No. 15 nationally through the air. Plus, they enjoyed the added bonus of popping the cork on Kyle Padron, the program's quarterback of the future. In his rookie year, he replaced Bo Levi Mitchell, losing just one of six starts and accounting for three times as many touchdowns as picks. In the Hawaii Bowl, he tantalized Pony fans, earning game MVP honors by throwing for 460 yards and two scores without a turnover. While his favorite target will be Aldrick Robinson, SMU needs a few more playmakers to step up. Star receiver Emmanuel Sanders is a Pittsburgh Steeler and 1,000-yard rusher Shawbrey McNeal left with a year of eligibility remaining. Darius Johnson and Darryl Fields, respectively, are young playmakers with an opportunity to pick up the slack early in their careers.
Star of the offense: Senior WR Aldrick Robinson
Passing: Kyle Padron
135-201, 1,922 yds, 10 TDs, 4 INTs
Rushing: Zach Line
49 carries, 189 yds, 7 TDs
Receiving: Aldrick Robinson
47 catches, 800 yds, 5 TDs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore QB Kyle Padron
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Darius Johnson
Best pro prospect: Robinson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Junior LT Kelvin Beachum, 2) Robinson, 3) Padron
Strength of the offense: The passing game, the receivers, converting in the red zone, experience up front
Weakness of the offense: The backs, turnovers, pass protection, converting on third downs
Projected Starter: Timmy Chang. Colt Brennan. Kyle Padron? Yup, June Jones might already have his next record-breaking gunslinger to pilot his run-and-shoot offense. The 6-4, 210-pound sophomore had an auspicious debut as a Mustang, taking over midway through his rookie year and going 135-of-201 for 1,922 yards, 10 touchdowns, and four interceptions. Beyond the cumulative numbers, he also went 5-1 as the starter and blew up Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl, earning MVP honors by throwing for 460 yards and two scores. He sets up quickly in the pocket, throws an accurate ball on the underneath routes, and has the footwork to buy extra time.
Projected Top Reserves: Although former starter Bo Levi Mitchell has decided to transfer, SMU believes it has a capable backup in 6-4, 227-pound junior J.J. McDermott, a transfer himself. A former reserve and Hal Mumme recruit at New Mexico State, he has a dozen games of FBS experience, going 67-of-111 for 676 yards, two touchdowns and six interceptions. He impressed over the spring, flashing maturity and nice touch on his passes.
Now that former backup Braden Smith has shifted to safety, 6-3, 217 true freshman Stephen Kaiser will be a step closer to getting on the field. The only quarterback Jones recruited this year, he's an accurate thrower and a player the staff feels is an absolute steal, who was overlooked by other programs.
Watch Out For … Padron to take his first big step to becoming a household name. Big numbers make big headlines, and the sophomore is in the right system to light up a box score week after week. He was preparing for lift-off toward the end of last year, and still didn't quite have a firm grasp on the system.
Strength: Depth. In the span of a year, things have changed quickly in Dallas. The Mustangs no longer have depth concerns behind center, boasting two quarterbacks they believe can run the offense and win games. Padron, in particular, could be on the verge of something really big in his first full year in the saddle.
Weakness: Experience. While there's plenty of well-deserved excitement surrounding Padron, it's not as if the kid has taken 1,000 snaps at this level. In fact, he's a little over a year removed from high school, which could still make for some awkward moments and youthful mistakes this fall.
Outlook: Padron was brilliant in the Hawaii Bowl, carving up Nevada with all of the precision of a surgeon. Now he gets a full season to show the nation that he's no one-hit wonder. If he basically soaks up as much of Jones' knowledge as possible, he has the right system and supporting cast to put up huge numbers and make headlines outside the league.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Projected Starter: SMU took an unexpected hit in the running game when Shawnbrey McNeal left early for a shot at the NFL. Yes, the Mustangs are a pass-first team, but McNeal, an undrafted signee of the San Diego Chargers, provided welcomed balance by rushing for 1,188 yards and 12 scores. Looking to pick up some of the slack will be 6-1, 235-pound sophomore Zach Line, who lettered in his first year on campus. He was effective in short yardage, carrying 49 times for 189 yards and seven touchdowns, but doesn't have McNeal's wiggle or ability to pick up yards outside the tackles.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Chris Butler is the veteran of the unit and the most knowledgeable about the system. He's played a lot football for the Mustangs, earning a couple of letters and showing an ability to do the little things well, like pass protect. At 5-10 and 215 yards, he's a north-south runner, who rarely goes down on first contact.
For a different look, the staff could turn to 5-8, 185-pound junior Bryce Lunday , the jackrabbit of the group. A more exciting breakaway threat than Line or Butler, he can be used in traditional ways or split out wide to catch passes. When given space to make plays, he can be a dangerous playmaker.
Watch Out For … true freshman Darryl Fields . Although he's yet to step foot on campus, he has the desirable blend of size and speed to become the answer to SMU's concerns at running back right away. A Big 12 talent playing in Conference USA, his potential will reach the surface before too long.
Strength: Power backs. No, there isn't a holdover with McNeal's playmaking skill set, but Line and Butler are a couple of north-south runners, who can move the pile and pick up the blitz to keep the quarterback safe.
Weakness: A proven feature runner. No, a true workhorse isn't required for this attack, but those 20 or so carries McNeal logged a year ago were an underrated aspect of the offense's success. He'll be missed, and an adequate replacement does not appear to be on the roster at this time.
Outlook: While short yardage will be in the reliable hands of Line and Butler, SMU no longer has a back capable of keeping defenses on their heels on first or second down. Fields, however, could change the situation once he gets comfortable in the system, a development that bears watching in the months ahead.
Unit Rating: 4.5
Projected Starters: Yes, losing Emmanuel Sanders to the NFL is a bitter pill, but the Mustangs do return last year's other three top pass-catchers. Taking over as the go-to guy will be 5-10, 178-pound senior Aldrick Robinson , who could be joining his former teammate in the NFL in 2011. One of the fastest players June Jones has ever coached, he's especially explosive in the first 10 yards, getting into his cuts before the defenders can even get set. Dangerous after the catch, he made 47 receptions for 800 yards and five touchdowns, a level of production he's capable of dwarfing this season. Remember, he caught nine of Kyle Padron's passes for 176 yards in the bowl game, a harbinger of things to come.
Joining Robinson in the starting lineup is 5-10, 183-pound junior Terrance Wilkerson , a converted quarterback who has really started to become comfortable at his new position. He was third on the team a year ago, catching 42 passes for 527 yards and four touchdowns. A sure-handed receiver, who will go over the middle of the field to make plays, his best days as a Mustang are still ahead of him.
Junior Cole Beasley is not flashy, but has just made plays for the offense over the past two seasons. After catching 42 passes in his debut, he had 40 receptions for 493 yards and a pair of scores to finish No. 4 on the team. A former high school running back, he has the quickness and elevation to play a lot bigger than his 5-9, 180-pound frame out of the slot.
The newcomer of the starting unit is expected to be 5-10, 178-pound sophomore Darius Johnson , who burned his redshirt and caught 11 balls for 104 yards and a score. While a collarbone injury and demotion impacted his production, he's shown enough to earn the confidence of the staff and the quarterbacks. He has the speed, explosiveness, and big-play ability to be one of the Mustangs' breakout offensive performers of the year.
Projected Top Reserves: In the slot, junior Bradley Haynes represents a very different option than Beasley. Although he's played sparingly over the last two seasons, catching only 20 balls, he has the 6-3, 222-pound frame to shield off defenders on short routes and handle the pounding these receivers often must endure in this offense.
Another physical target in the slot will be provided by 6-4, 242-pound senior Pat Fleming , a three-time letterwinner, who's done a little bit of everything for this program. A tight end when he first arrived, he played linebacker in 2008 and 2009, making a total of 16 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss. His physicality will be a nice change of pace to an otherwise finesse group of receivers.
Watch Out For … Johnson to gradually become the next most exciting thing to Robinson in the receiving corps. Last season was a learning process on so many levels, but now that it's behind him, he's ready to turn all of his playmaking skills into on-field production. If he remains focused, he could take the first big step toward being the go-to guy in 2011.
Strength: First-line experience. It wasn't that long ago that the Mustangs were putting out APBs for the right fit at wide receiver. Not anymore. With three starters and three of last year's top pass-catchers back, SMU now has a nice collection of players, who know where they belong and how they fit into the attack.
Weakness: Drops. As well as the receivers played a year ago, they still had a tendency to drop passes at the least opportune time. Particularly with a young quarterback at the controls, it's imperative that they collectively focus a little better, look everything into their hands, and help improve the passer's accuracy rating.
Outlook: Robinson will step up and adequately replace Sanders. Who supplants Robinson's production? In order for this offense to hum, SMU needs multiple playmakers on the outside and in the slot. Wilkerson and Beasley will be just fine, but Johnson has the talent to really transform this unit.
Unit Rating: 7
Projected Starters: The Mustangs lose just one starter up front, but it's a key one, long-time C Mitch Enright. In his place will be 6-2, 280-pound junior Blake McJunkin , who has earned a letter in each of the last two seasons, starting 10 games in 2008 and one in 2009. A heady player, who will not be unnerved by this promotion, he should make a smooth transition to becoming a full-timer.
The unchallenged star of this group is 6-3, 298-pound junior Kelvin Beachum , entering his third season as the starting left tackle. He really began to blossom up to expectations last fall, honing his technique, adding much-needed muscle, and earning a spot on the All-Conference USA second team. A budding star in pass protection, he has the balance, footwork, and work ethic to someday take his game to the NFL.
Over at right tackle, 6-5, 303-pound junior J.T. Brooks is working his way back form knee surgery and planning on being the starter for a second straight season. He's done a solid job of staying in shape and trimming unnecessary weight, now needing to improve his overall technique and making sure that the knee doesn't become an issue during the season.
One of the unit's biggest surprises of 2009 was the play of massive junior Josh LeRibeus at left guard. At 6-2 and 363 pounds, he won't do much damage at the second level, but in tight spaces, he showed a knack for destroying his man, especially on straight-ahead running plays. A starter in all 13 games, he was a key reason why the Mustangs more than doubled their ground production versus 2008.
Although it's tenuous, the edge at right guard now belongs to 6-1, 308-pound junior Kelly Turner , a two-time letterwinner with three starts last season. Like a smaller LeRibeus, he's not a notable athlete, but is strong at the point of attack and plays with enough leverage to drive block defenders when he doesn't have to chase them down.
Projected Top Reserves: Versatile junior Bryce Tennison is going to be the team's veteran off the bench. The 6-3, 285-pounder can play some guard, starting 19 games there the last two seasons, but will be McJunkin's backup at center heading into the summer. As blockers go, he's a nice all-around athlete, with unexpected foot speed. More of a finesse guy than a mauler, he's always looking to improve his strength, especially in the upper body.
SMU's top tackle off the bench could be 6-7, 290-pound true freshman Darryl Jackson . No doubt, he's a project, but then again so was Beachum a couple of years back. The staff is hoping for similar results, turning a well-sized athlete into the type of blocker, who can seal off the edge with his long arms and light feet.
Watch Out For … the unit's health. The Mustangs struggled to field teams in the spring, largely because of the banged-up line. With depth being a continuing concern, any lost time from the starters is going to test the overall effectiveness of the offensive line.
Strength: The left side. With Beachum on his way to becoming one of Conference USA's best blockers and LeRibeus getting better all the time, SMU is set on the left side. If McJunkin adapts to his promotion, as expected, the Mustangs will be well on their way to calling this unit an asset.
Weakness: Depth. Tennison is the exception on a second unit rife with inexperience. In fact, coming out of spring, true and redshirt freshmen littered the B team, which is going to be a concern throughout the year.
Outlook: While not a dominant unit, the Mustangs continue to head in the right direction up front, piecing together an experienced and capable unit, with an emerging star in Beachum. The key will be to keep progressing and stay healthy because behind the starters is a sea of wide-eyes and unproven players.
Unit Rating: 5
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