Photo courtesy EJ Holland/247Sports

CEDAR HILL, Texas — Don’t look at Cedar Hill’s Shabazz Dotson like a three-star athlete. Or like the No. 56 rated defensive tackle in the nation ready to become a SMU Mustang.

Look at him like a massive 6-foot-3 and 271-pound athlete ready to either clog running lanes and tear through American Athletic Conference quarterbacks after Friday’s commitment to Southern Methodist University.

The impact of Doton’s appearance in the Division I level of college football, however, may run deeper than meets the eye. It also extends passed the nine other institutions — one from the Big Ten, two from the AAC and three from Big 12 — that may miss his ability to stop drives if he signs an National Letter of Intent to become a Mustang on Feb. 7.

According to 2017 information taken from NCAA’s statistical database, SMU ranked below the top-30 teams in terms of yards allowed, yards per play allowed, and yards per game. That doesn’t bode well for the approaching 2018 season, especially since three of the 12 teams in the conference ranked in the top 20 offensively. Four more fell into the NCAA’s top 50.

The Memphis (No. 4), University of Central Florida (No. 5), SMU (No. 15), Navy (No. 39), and Houston (No. 40) are in the top 40 teams. Tulsa (No. 44) and UConn (No. 50) round out the top 50.

Pine Tree’s Gary Wiley (above) recently committed to SMU and joined Dotson on the Mustang defense. Photo courtesy Rob Graham/

Dotson’s size, speed, and skill could help SMU match its 2017 offensive standing next season. It could also give new Head Coach Sonny Dykes a stable foundation to build his defense with other prized recruits like three-star Corsicana outside linebacker Trevor Denbow, three-star Odessa Permian outside linebacker Preston Ellison, three-star Pine Tree outside linebacker Gary Wiley, two-star Dickinson corner back Terry Keys, and two-star Duncanville defensive tackle Terrance Newman.

Though low in the NCAA rankings, SMU’s defensive line might have been it’s strongest unit. That group accounted for 22 of the Mustangs’ 30 sacks last season season. Starting defensive tackle and graduating senior Justin Lawler earned a team-leading 9 1/2 sacks.

The pass rushing abilities of Dotson and others could also help SMU’s second-most successful unit — a cornerback group led by soon-to-be senior Jordan Wyatt, who played at an elite level before he was hampered by a recurring shoulder injury. Per Pro Football Focus, Arkansas State had just a 17.6 passer rating when targeting Wyatt on Sept. 23.


Marcus Matthews-Marion is the managing editor of TexasHSFootball, covering prep football throughout the Lone Star State and collegiate and professional football throughout the country. Follow him on Twitter, @TheMJMatthews, and read more of his content here.

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