By Zach Walker
SMU Mustangs vs Arkansas State Red Wolves
Saturday – August 31 – 6:00 p.m.
Centennial Bank Stadium – Jonesboro, AR
As long as I’ve been cognitive, I’ve never experienced an offseason coming from the Hilltop. The Mustangs have absolutely rerouted the NCAA’s transfer portal system to flow through Dallas. The Mustangs landed 16 players, as of two weeks before the start of the season. They picked up players from all over the country: Boston College, Alabama, Auburn, Florida Atlantic, Nebraska, and perhaps the most highly anticipated Texas. The Mustangs had an objectively okay season in 2018, but that being a season ago, and with the arrival of a brand new quarterback, there really isn’t a whole list of reasons to try and roll the eyes into the back of your head to look backwards, it’s something the fans of this program spend WAY too much time doing, it’s time to look forward because the immediate future is bright.
Though it might not feel like it yet, as we all microwave ourselves sitting on 75, football is BACK! And the Mustangs will be in Jonesboro, Arkansas to open the season. Make no bones about it, this is a big game, because if the Mustangs go out and s*** the bed, that would be a major derailment of what appears to be a loaded season.
This new quarterback, Shane Buechele comes in with all of that “Played at Texas” that’ll excite and entice, but remember Will Brown saw solid game action a season ago, and won’t likely vacate that starting role for anybody, and that dynamic must have people expecting the best product on the field come Saturday, because whoever won that starting job must have WON that job. The best part about whomever is starting at Arkansas State is the loaded pantry of weapons the Mustangs have to offer. The familiar faces are a plenty, with both Xavier Jones and Ke’Mon Freemon returning to lockdown the backfield. On the outside, Reggie Roberson will have that deep threat on lock, and I still believe I haven’t seen better hands than that which are attached to James Proche, and seeing the talent at wide receiver in just my time covering SMU, that’s seriously a claim I stand behind. Myron Gailliard and Ryan Becker round out the returning pass catchers, but an addition through the portal should see viable snaps. Kedrick James coming in from Alabama should at least be able to spread some of that ‘woven into their fabric’ winning culture that Alabama just has about them, and should get increased looks whenever Ryan Becker needs to come off the field or in multiple tight end sets.
The offensive line is something the Mustangs have a pretty solid idea about going into this first game. Jaylon Thomas, who started the back half of the 2018 season at right tackle will move to left to start the season. Alan Ali will be at left guard and Hayden Howerton will be at center, but the two have the ability to flip positions with each other if the coaches want to see how that’ll look in game action. Kadarius Smith will play at right guard, while junior college transfer Cobe Bryant (awesome) will start as the big tower on the right side of the line.
On defense, the Mustangs have some solid seasoned players allover. Upfront, Delontae Scott, Pono Davis, Demerick Gary, and Turner Coxe all return from a season ago. Richard Moore as the MIKE linebacker returns and looks to top his 2018 where he had 92 tackles and five sacks. Some of the best news is that Rodney Clemons is to return, looking to piggy-back off of a pretty damn good 2018 season but they could have an excellent addition in the defensive backfield. If not for Buechele at quarterback, safety Cam’ron Jones would bring possibly the most promise coming in through the portal. Jones earned himself a four-star recruit status playing high school in Mansfield and along with other players on his Nebraska team, he got injured in 2018 and he elected to transfer back closer to home, and I love the addition to the secondary.
This is a BIG season for Sonny Dykes and the Mustangs, and realistically, it’ll be on Shane Buechele to throw this team to its maximum potential.
The Mustangs need to jump on top of the Red Wolves early to help put some fuel through the system. This isn’t some kind of joke team the Mustangs are opening up against, and I know they are thinking about the hate-game that follows the next week versus North Texas, but these Red Wolves won some games last season, and scored a touchdown against Alabama. Sure, they lost, but I bet that touchdown tasted great!
Arkansas State 28