The SMU Mustangs are coming into the 2017 season looking to take the next leap under head coach Chad Morris. A five-win season got the fan base optimistic about the future and this season should be successful with the Mustangs sights set on a bowl bid. The offense should be very dynamic and led by four-star sophomore QB Ben Hicks, and pre-season All Conference candidate Xavier Jones, but it will be the defense that determines how far the team will go.
Here’s a look at each position unit and how I think they will fare this season.
Quarterback: Ben Hicks comes in firmly entrenched as the starting QB this season. There were major depth issues after Matt Davis went down for the season after week one, and Hicks started out bad, with just a 1:7 touchdown to interception ratio in his first three starts. He bounced back in a big way to finish his last seven games with a 17:8 turnaround. The added depth of DJ Gillins and Rafe Peavey (Wisconsin and Arkansas transfers), means the future looks bright and depth is solid.
Running back: Braeden West had over 1,000 yards on the ground last year, but Xavier Jones will be the number one back heading into camp and I think is a strong candidate for a first or second team all conference nod. Also in the mix will be Jordan Carmouche making this a very dangerous unit that will be able to put teams away in the fourth quarter.
Receivers: The good news for SMU fans is that Courtland Sutton passed on NFL riches to come back for another season. The first team All-AAC receiver should have no problem eclipsing his numbers from last year (72 catches, 1,246 yards, 10 touchdowns). Xavier Castille and James Proche should be really good complements to Sutton and it wouldn’t surprise me if one of those two also reached the 1,000 yard mark. Starting tight end Jeremiah Gaines fills a small void, but graduate transfer Raymond Epps should step in nicely. The big surprise will be newcomer Trey Quinn Jr, an LSU transfer who was a Rivals.com top 10 wide receiver.
Offensive Line: The O-line will be led by Chad Pursley, who missed all of last season a few days before the season opener but had nine starts in 2015. A strong running game should be even better this year and could possibly average over 170 yards per game on the ground. Bryce Wilds stands at a huge 6’7” 305 pounds, and the right tackle played in every game last season. He will be a key force in paving the way for the running game.
What to expect this season?
This offense has the potential to reach staggering heights in the AAC. A sophomore quarterback who should throw for over 3,000 yards, a touchdown dynamo at running back who might reach 1,500 yards, and an excellent receiving corps that should cause a lot of matchup problems all year long. This offense should definitely not be underestimated once conference play ramps up.