Duncanville DT Terrance Newman
Photo via Gordon DeLoach, TexasHSFootball.com

 
Prior to his SMU coaching digs, head coach Chad Morris was a high school head coach in Texas for 16 seasons, compiling a 169–38 record and nabbing two consecutive titles with an undefeated Lake Travis team. Inheriting a 1-11 Mustangs program in 2014 was a challenge not many coaches wanted to take head on. That said, Morris was able to double the win total in 2015 and lead the team to five victories last season– the team’s most in three years.

Key Losses
DL Nick Horton, DL Deon Green, DL Zelt Minor, DB Horace Richardson, DB Darrion Milliness

The Mustangs tied for ninth nationally with 18 interceptions, up from 10 the previous season, and added eight fumble recoveries. The secondary void will need filling; the unit loses defensive back Horace Richardson (team-high six interceptions and eight pass deflections) and Darrion Milliness (five interceptions and four pass deflections).

SMU must replace three of its starting defensive linemen from 2016 — six starters overall.

Key Returners
QB Ben Hicks, WR Courtland Sutton, WR James Proche, WR Trey Quinn, RB Braeden West

The Mustangs ranked No. 55 in total offense last year, benefitting from newcomer quarterback Ben Hicks performing well in place of injured Matt Davis during the first game of the season; the freshman finished with 2,930 yards for 19 touchdowns. His 15 interceptions was a sore spot, but accuracy (55.5) was a benefit for the spread offense. Hicks will get challenged for the starting job by transfers Rafe Peavey (Arkansas) and D.J. Gillens (Wisconsin) — potential motivation for improvement during his sophomore efforts.

Whoever is crowned the 2017 quarterback will be privileged with throwing to one of the most talented receiving corps. the Mustangs have ever fielded. Lead receiver Courtland Sutton is an expected 2018 potential first-round pick, and opted out of the draft in the hopes of his first collegiate bowl appearance.

Sutton grabbed 76 passes for 1,246 yards and 10 touchdowns, becoming the first SMU receiver to receive first team all-conference honors since Cole Beasley did it in 2011. The junior will be accompanied by James Proche and transfer Trey Quinn. Additionally, running back Braeden West rushed for 1,036 yards as a sophomore, including five 100-plus yard outings in his last seven games.

Verdict

After a statement victory against Houston that sent the Cougars on a tailspin they couldn’t quite escape from, the Mustangs dropped three-of-five games and were rendered bowl ineligible. Their 75-31 shellacking administered by Navy was an ugly way to finish the season, but improvements on the offensive side of the ball could be the necessary boost to a 6+ win season. The defense definitely must take a step forward after ranking 103rd nationally a year ago.
 

Prediction: 6-6

 

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