#90 SMU Football 2017 Preview

SMU Mustangs
Overall Rank: #90
#9 American
SMU took a nice step forward in 2016 as they jumped from two wins to five wins under the direction of second year head coach Chad Morris. The Mustangs picked up a signature victory over Houston as they dominated the Cougars by a score of 38-16. That performance was a glimpse of the potential of the SMU program under Coach Morris and if they can find a top flight quarterback they could become a real problem for opposing teams in the American Athletic Conference.
2016 Record: 5-7, 3-5
2016 Bowl: None
Coach: Chad Morris (7-17 at SMU, 7-17 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Joe Craddock
Defensive Coordinator: Van Malone
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Braeden West, RB, 1,036 yards
Passing: Ben Hicks, QB, 2,930 yards
Receiving: Courtland Sutton, WR, 1,246 yards
Tackles: Kyran Mitchell, LB, 67
Sacks: Justin Lawler, DE, 6.0
Interceptions: Jordan Wyatt, DB, 4
Other Key Returnees: DL Demerick Gary, LB RC Cox, FS Rodney Clemons, LB Anthony Rhone, C Evan Brown, OL Braylon Hyder, OL Nick Katour, RB Nick James, OL Jerry Saena, DL Mason Gentry
Key Losses: DB Horace Richardson, DB Darrion Millines, DL Jarvis Pruitt, DL Deon Green, DE Zelt Minor
In year three under coach Morris the offensive side of the ball should take a nice step forward as the Mustangs return eight starters on that side of the ball. Ben Hicks is back at quarterback and should be able to come out on top of the quarterback competition this fall. Hicks threw for just under 3,000 yards as a freshman but threw 15 interceptions and that can’t be repeated in 2017. Courtland Sutton and James Proche will anchor the wide receiving corps in 2017. Sutton is matchup problem for most teams and will be looking to build upon his 1,246 receiving yard season from last year. The offensive line brings back three starters led by Evan Brown, who should help SMU end its struggles as far as not having players taken in the NFL Draft is concerned.
It was the overall inability to stop the run for the Mustangs that led to the defense having issues. For example, SMU allowed Navy to run for over 500 enroute to surrendering 75 points to the Midshipmen. The Mustangs don’t have to be super elite defensively in order to contend in the American Athletic Conference, but they do have to hold their own at the line of scrimmage if they are going to move forward as a program. Justin Lawler is back at defensive end and he did a nice job of getting to the quarterback last year with six sacks and will be relied upon heavily to get that number closer to 10 in 2017. Kyran Mitchell and Jordan Wyatt are two solid playmakers at linebacker and cornerback, respectively. They will have to help cause more turnovers to give the offensive side of the ball shorter fields to work with this season.
The Bottom Line:
With four of the first five games at home it is going to be crucial for the Mustangs to start fast since the schedule difficulty increases starting with the October 7th game at Houston. There is plenty of front line talent on both sides of the ball for the SMU to be a threat to go to a bowl game moving forward, but now it is going to be a matter of this team staying healthy and growing in confidence within themselves when playing quality competition. Bottom line, if the Mustangs can be sitting at five wins heading into the Tulsa game on October 27th, then they will be in fantastic position to make it to a bowl game in 2017. However, if they still have issues with interceptions then all bets are off and another 5-7 type of season is in the cards for SMU.
Projected Bowl: None
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 163.3 (81st in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 264.0 (34, 5)
Total Offense: 427.3 (55, 7)
Scoring Offense: 27.7 (71, 8)
Rushing Defense: 210.5 (97, 11)
Pass Defense: 242.5 (80,7)
Total Defense: 453.0 (103, 10)
Scoring Defense: 36.3 (111, 12)
Turnover Margin: 0.17 (47, 5)
Sacks: 2.42 (37, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 2.17 (73, 6)


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