The football season is flying by, as we are already half way through! The good news is, the season has been, mostly, enjoyable up to this point. In honor of us being halfway through, and this week being a bye week, let’s hand out some grades to each unit.
Ben Hicks has been the quarterback we expected him to be. While there was a quarterback competition early on with Arkansas transfer Rafe Peavey, Hicks really took control of the offense. He has made big throws and has flourished in Chad Morris' system, this year. He leads the AAC in passing yards with 1,672 yards. He’s completed 130 of his 222 pass attempts for 15 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions which is good for a QBR of 139.6. To many SMU fans delight, he has lifted his sub 50% completion percentage to 58.6%. He is truly a reliable pocket passer in a conference full of great quarterbacks. Hicks has a bright future here at SMU, and will be the premier quarterback of the AAC after this year.
Running Back: A
I was teetering between an A and an A-, but chose the A because I love that all three running backs get involved and play well. This solid run game has really contributed to Hicks being able to win on play action this year. They all take turns leading the charge based on their matchups. Most recently, Xavier Jones has been the breakout back good for 467 on 76 carries. But as I stated earlier, the others shouldn’t be slept on. Ke’Mon Freeman has the biggest frame of all the backs, which is especially useful near the endzone. He has seven touchdowns which is tied for the most rushing touchdowns by a running back thus far. Braeden West has been a good change of pace back. He is the smallest of the backs, but has speedy burst that are a good change from the heavier backs in Jones and Freeman.
Wide Receiver: A
The depth here is great. SMU has 3 receivers in the top 10 in receiving yards in the AAC. Cortland Sutton, who is still posting great numbers, has drawn a lot of attention from opposing defenses. Even with all that attention, the pre-season All-American has 31 catches for 489 yards, and a league leading seven touchdown receptions. The great news is, Hicks has been able to find other receivers, that have improved significantly (most likely due to Sutton). The new statistical leader, Trey Quinn, has taken a lot of heat off of Sutton accumulating a stat line of: 54 catches for a league leading 587 yards and five touchdowns. Lastly is the youngest of the group, the sophomore, James Proche. They go to him less as he only has 18 catches, but he has been another big playmaker this season.
Offensive Line: B
I have been impressed so far. The running backs are finding holes and running wild and Hicks has had plenty of time to throw. SMU is at the top in passing yards and fifth in the conference in rushing. Although they have been inconsistent at times, allowing Hicks to be sacked eight times, they have been mostly very good. The offensive line is the key to having a great offense, and this unit has produced this season.
Defensive Line: B+
I have gone on record in saying that the defensive line had to be better. They were not very good early in the season, but then something clicked during the Arkansas State game. The pressure on the QB has significantly improved. How about leading the AAC with 21 sacks? I bet no one would have said SMU would lead in any category defensively. The defensive line is starting to set the tone and starting to force turnovers. They're led by senior Justin Lawler who is second in the AAC with six sacks. The line still has room for improvement as they could be a little more consistent, but overall this has been one of the stronger positions.
Kyran Mitchell has been a big help to this team defensively. He has the third most tackles in the AAC (trailing his fellow teammate Mikial Onu) with 28 and has three sacks to go along with his tackling prowess. Their other linebacker, Anthony Rhone, has been average with 17 tackles and 2 sacks. But, SMU lacks a good coverage linebacker. That is why I think they deserve a C+.
The secondary is led by cornerback Jordan Wyatt. He is an all-around corner that has a stat in almost every category. He currently has a stat line of 24 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 interception. In addition, he has been named AAC defensive player of the week against Stephen F. Austin. Mikial Onu is a good safety that has also made a big contribution. The rest of the secondary lacks though. They have allowed 30+ points, and let UConn get close, in three of the six games played. While SMU is 125th against the pass and needs some improvement, there have been flashes of potential in every game.
Overall Grade: B
So far, the Mustangs are looking good. They can still be a dark horse in the west, as the division appears wide open. Everyone on that side plays a tough schedule, but SMU passes the eye test as one of the better teams in the AAC. Let me know if you agree or disagree with my ratings down in the comment section, and please vote in the poll!
Is SMU a contender or pretender?
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