#66 Southern Methodist Football 2014 Preview

Southern Methodist Mustangs

Overall Rank: #66
American Athletic Conference Rank: #5

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June Jones will be entering his sixth season in Dallas.  He has really made the Mustangs relevant again.  Their 2013 was a bit of a disappointment, but he has the Mustangs on the up and up overall.  After his first season where he went 1-11, he is approaching a .500 record at the school.  His run-and-shoot offense that was so effective during his years at Hawaii has transitioned well with SMU.  They are consistently among the top teams in the country at throwing the ball all over the field.  Can projected starter Neal Burcham pick up where Garrett Gilbert left off?

2013 Record: (5-7, 4-4)
2013 Bowl: None
Coach: June Jones (36-41, 112-82 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Dan Morrison
Defensive Coordinator: Tom Mason

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Prescott Line, RB, 332 yards
Passing: Neal Burcham, QB, 556 yards
Receiving: Darius Joseph, WR, 808 yards
Tackles: Stephon Sanders, LB, 86
Sacks: Johnathan Yenga, LB, 6.0
Interceptions: Three tied at 1

Other Key Returnees: WR Der’ikk Thompson, S Hayden Greenbauer, RB/LB Nick Pope

Key Losses: QB Garrett Gilbert, LB Randall Joyner, WR Jeremy Johnson

Jones has proven over the course of his career that his offense can work at the college level.  He likes to spread out a defense and make their secondary work all game long.  He had the luxury of a talent in Garrett Gilbert, a transfer from Texas, last season to run it from the field.  Though Burcham comes in with limited playing experience, he has played at least a little so he has a good sense of how the system works.  Plus, he has been in the program for a year learning behind Gilbert.  There is a bit of a void with leading receiver Jeremy Johnson gone, but they return two of their top four leading receivers and infuse some talented speedy freshmen from the outside.  Burcham’s advancement will be key, but this air attack should still be the team’s calling card.

Anything relating to rushing could use some improvement this coming season.  Poor offensive rushing numbers are a by-product of the offense that they run, but it is important to establish enough of run threat so the Mustangs can close out games.  It will be interesting to see who starts behind the quarterback in week one as Kevin Pope was listed ahead of leading rusher Prescott Line after spring practices.  Pope, a two-way player, may provide a spark if the depth chart holds.  The Mustang defense needs to be better all-around in 2014, but more than anything they have got to hold opponents from scoring.  They gave up 33 points per game, which put them at the bottom of the conference by a healthy margin.  

The Bottom Line:
Despite their losing record in 2013, SMU is poised to finish with more wins than losses this year.  Yes, they must change their quarterback, but there should be enough speed and talent on the outside to keep the engine running on the run-and-shoot.  Kevin Pope contributing on offense will be something to monitor to see if that makes a big difference in the Mustangs’ all-around offensive output.  However, all this being said, it is possible for SMU to lose a couple of breaks and end up sub-.500 again.  Replacing 11 starters is not easy.  There is enough experience on this roster to believe they will challenge for a top-3 finish in the American.

Projected Bowl: Birmingham Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 93.8 (117th in nation, 8th in conference)
Passing Offense: 341.4 (8, 1)
Total Offense: 435.2 (41, 4)
Scoring Offense: 26.8 (76, 5)
Rushing Defense: 140.8 (31, 8)
Pass Defense: 271.8 (113, 8)
Total Defense: 412.6 (72, 7)
Scoring Defense: 33.3 (99, 10)
Turnover Margin: -0.6 (105, 8)
Sacks: 2.33 (68, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 3.17 (104, 8)


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