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2013 Pre-Season Preview: SMU Mustangs

2012 Record: 7-6 (5-3 in C-USA; 5-2 home; 1-4 away)

Head Coach: June Jones (Sixth year, 31-34; 107-75 overall NCAA)

Last Bowl Game: 2012 Hawaii Bowl: defeated Fresno State 43-10

Stadium: Gerald J. Ford Stadium, University Park, Texas (capacity: 32,000)

Notable alumni: Don Meredith, Eric Dickerson, Doak Walker

Schedule:

2013 Schedule Link 

Big Games: 9/21 at Texas A&M, 9/28 at TCU, 10/5 vs. Rutgers

 

2012 Overview:

Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking: 76th out of 124 teams

2012 Statistics Link

Pro: Held a 33-37 time of possession advantage

Con: Had 3,059 yards of passing offense, but gave up 3,616 yards through the air

 

Personnel:

Phil Steele’s returning starters: offense: six; defense: three

Players to watch: QB Garrett Gilbert, WRs Jeremy Johnson and Der’rikk Thompson, RB Traylon Shead, OL Ben Gottschalk, DE Beau Barnes, LBs Randall Joyner Kevin Pope, Stephon Sanders and Robert Seals, CBs Kenneth Acker and Chris Parks

 

Insider’s view with Sam Erwin SMU sportswriter at PonyPride.com:

CFBZ: In last year’s postseason, SMU rolled over Fresno State 43-10 in the Hawaii Bowl. How much has changed heading into in 2013? 

Sam Erwin: In the months following the big win over Fresno State a lot has changed for the Mustangs. The biggest thing, like with most teams, is roster turnover. The SMU defense was hit the hardest and will have some big holes to fill.

Defensive end Margus Hunt, who was selected in the third round of the draft, is the most notable name missing. The Mustangs will also be without starting linebackers Ja’Gared Davis and Taylor Reed who were the leaders not only on defense but for the whole team.

You also can’t overlook the losses the team had on offense where they lost three starters on the line, running back Zach Line who now holds many rushing records at SMU, and leading wide receiver Darius Johnson.

Even with those losses it’s hard to argue against the fact that the Mustangs are headed in a very good direction and are on the upswing. Replacing all of those players who graduated is a group of young players who have been on campus for a few years waiting for their turn.

Not only are the young players just as good if not better athletes than the departing seniors but they have a chip on their shoulder due to the doubt that they can perform up to the level of the seniors. It should be an interesting season watching a lot of good players develop and get a chance to prove themselves.

 

CFBZ: Zach Line put up impressive yardage in the last three seasons with the Mustangs. Who is in the wings to replace him and what should we expect in the running game?

Sam Erwin: The SMU coaching staff did a phenomenal job in the 2013 recruiting class to make sure that they were prepared for the departure of Zach Line and as good as he was in his time at SMU they should be in good shape.

Replacing Line will be former University of Texas running back Traylon Shead who spent time at Navarro J.C. in Texas before transferring to SMU. Shead went through spring practices with SMU and showed great speed, quickness, hands, and, most importantly, the ability to block.

Not only is Shead a little bigger than Line but he has more agility and speed which should enable him to gain big yardage in the Mustangs' system. As much as people talk about how June Jones' offense is pass happy it has been the running game that has been the most successful and the Mustangs have relied on it in the past to win games.

I doubt that will be any different in 2013 and there is a real possibility that it could become even more dangerous.

 

CFBZ: SMU has one of the hardest non-conference schedules in the country. Do you see it as a positive or a negative?

Sam Erwin: It’s easy to look at this from both sides. The Mustangs start the season by hosting Texas Tech in Dallas. They then host Montana State before going on the road for games at Texas A&M and TCU.

If SMU can get through that stretch with a 2-2 record then it will mean that they pulled a major upset against a team. Just from a mental standpoint, that is a tough way to start your first season in a new conference.

On the other hand those games get the SMU name out there and make it a more recognizable brand. If they do manage to win one or two of the games against Texas Tech, Texas A&M and TCU then they will be right in the spotlight heading into conference play.

For me personally, it’s more of a negative this season. SMU will need a learning curve to get the young players up to speed and you would ideally like them to have an easier schedule to do that again. They can prove me wrong though if they win a few.

 

CFBZ: June Jones made a splash this spring when SMU announced the hire of legendary Hal Mumme who is known for his “Air Raid” offense. How much influence will he have on the offense this season?

Sam Erwin: Mumme will have a ton of influence on what SMU will be doing on offensive this season, more than many people expected. This spring he was very hands on in his work with the offense and even ran the offensive portion of practice at times.

Both June Jones and Mumme say that the others offense influenced their own so in reality there isn’t too much of a difference between the offensive philosophy of the two coaches.

I expect the Mustangs to have more than a few new formations on offense and a lot of new plays to go with them. Early indications point to a more up-tempo offense than what SMU has had the past few seasons.

All in all, Mumme seamlessly stepped onto the Hilltop and the players took to him immediately. Early indications are that the joining of Jones and Mumme, along with the mixture of the two famous offenses, will work out very well.

 

Bottom Line:

A lot of the Mustangs success depends on the play of QB Garrett Gilbert. The heir-apparent to Colt McCoy at Texas transferred to SMU and was inconsistent in Jones’s Run and Shoot offense last season. As he enters his senior year, the new wrinkle of Hal Mumme’s Air Raid style will be introduced, which could take his play in one of two ways. Unfortunately, Gilbert doesn’t have NFL-caliber receivers. If Gilbert struggles again, a lot will fall to Traylon Shead and Zach Line’s younger brother, Prescott, to carry the team with the ground game.

SMU’s tough schedule will put a lot of pressure on the team early. A win against Texas Tech, A&M or TCU will give the Mustangs a huge lift; losses in those games get them to conference play likely at 1-3. This team may not have five conference wins in it to get back to bowl play.

The defensive was an Achilles Heel last year, not able to keep the Mustangs consistently ahead in the score. The line may be the weakest component this season. The linebacking corps and secondary have some experience and young talent.

If the Mustangs get out of nonconference play at 2-2, they can take solace in the fact that the only AAC opponent NOT on their schedule is conference favorite Louisville. Three wins at home against Temple, UConn, UCF or Rutgers would be a big accomplishment.  That said, there are too many question marks to expect that type of result at this point.

Predicted record: 4-8.

 

Previous 2013 Pre-Season Previews:

ACC- Virginia
Big Ten- Northwestern
The American- HoustonMemphisRutgersTempleUCFUSF
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