By Zach Walker
It’s close, we can all feel it in the air like a Phil Collins song. Football is back, and that means dusting off shelved jerseys and prepping for the season long onslaught of screaming, finger foods, and freshly fetched beer. For me, I’m still acclimating to college football, and it’s all about short memory. Schools must forget about the players who have left and begin to ready to fight with new starters. On offense, the SMU Mustangs are replacing the most important position, quarterback, and on defense, five positions need addressing.
Along the offensive line, three of the five starters are returning, including Taylor Lasecki, who is on the preseason watch list for the Rimington trophy, which is awarded to the nation’s top center. Both of the running backs, are returning, K.C. Nlemchi and Prescott Line. And as Run and Shoot, one back, shotgun offense, whichever back is on the field on any given play, they must do everything a back can do, and that’s block, catch out of the backfield, and make the yards on the ground. The receiving corps is only slightly different from a season ago, but replacing Jeremy Johnson’s 108 receptions isn’t going to be easy. Darius Joseph and Der’rikk Thompson are the incumbents, but there’s also Deion Sanders Jr. to also watch for. But eyes gravitate to the quarterback, and it’s a new season, and a new day one starter. Neal Burcham isn’t fresh out of the box, he got work in three games last season, losing his only two career starts. But with an entire offseason under his belt, preparing as the starter, there’s a great chance of success. But Burcham isn’t what Garrett Gilbert was, and that’s a runner. Gilbert’s four or fifth option in a given play was take off and gain chunks of yards, but that wasn’t Burcham’s style during his three games.
The good news is, that the defense will return five starters along the front-seven. The big three down linemen: Darrian Wright, Zach Wood, and big, bad Beau Barnes are a very excellent group of players who need to get into the backfield more often. And helping to do that, is linebacker Stephon Sanders, a talent-filled bullet, that shoots around the field and is always in on the play, and the now Senior, is going to have to lead the group linebackers, which is replacing the team’s top two tacklers, Randall Joyner and Kevin Pope. Jonathan Yenga and Robert Seals are going to need to continue to grow into solid linebackers for this defense. Now for the not good news, the secondary has been wiped clean. They lost Jay Scott, Chris Parks, and Kenneth Acker, and need replacements. Hayden Greenbauer played in only six games has season and is the most seasoned vet in that group, and even if the group of defensive backs grow into a stellar group, the first game is at Baylor, who averaged about 65 points through the first half of their season last year, and if time is needed to grow, they better grow like trouble and not like luck.
An urgent message: GO TO THESE GAMES! This team should be watched, because it’s going to be a very entertaining year. Coach June Jones is going to have these boys playing their asses off, and if you look at the number of players that SMU has put into the NFL since coach Jones saddled this pony, there’s a good chance that some of these players will translate into the NFL. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday, especially when fall rolls around and it starts to get brisk, and ideal football weather, and just the perfect time of the year.
|Date of game||Opponent|
|August 31st||At Baylor Bears|
|September 6th||At North Texas Mean Green|
|September 20th||Vs Texas A&M Aggies|
|September 27th||Vs TCU Horned Frogs|
|October 4th||At East Carolina Pirates|
|October 18th||Vs Cincinnati Bearcats|
|October 25th||Vs Memphis Tigers|
|November 8th||At Tulsa Golden Hurricane|
|November 15th||Vs USF Bulls|
|November 22nd||At UCF Knights|
|November 28th||Vs Houston Cougars|
|December 6th||At Connecticut Huskies|
I hate to ever say that there are guaranteed losses, but SMU just isn’t on the same level as Baylor or Texas A&M. North Texas won their bowl game last season, and are quite formidable. The Battle for the Iron Skillet game versus TCU, is always an interesting game, and it’s never easy looking at a rivalry game on paper and make a prediction. After TCU, is AAC conference play, by then predictions are always wrong, so that’s where I’ll stop, and obviously, will have weekly predictions for each game, with much more accuracy. But as I sit, I don’t have to squint to see an eight win season, with a chance at nine games.