This Friday night, the Mustangs will face one of their toughest opponents in No. 16 TCU. Even better, the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2! Last year’s Q&A with Jamie went so well that we decided to ask him questions about TCU this season. If you would like to see my answers to his Q&A, you can go to SB Nation’s TCU page, Frogs O’ War or click here.
Without further ado, here are some questions I thought were important to ask.
Nick Armstrong: Let’s start with the easy question. Kenny Hill is out and Shawn Robinson is in? I know we are only one game in, but can you describe the differences between the two QB’s and who you would have preferred run your team if Hill was an option?
Jamie Plunkett: Shawn Robinson is bigger than Kenny Hill, and he has a significantly stronger arm. We’ve already seen it in a small sample size, but the offense seems much more wide open with Robinson at the helm than it ever did with Kenny. Sonny Cumbie seems comfortable letting Robinson push the ball downfield a bit more, and he showed a good ability to keep his eyes downfield in week one. People will like to draw comparisons between Robinson and Hill because they’re both mobile quarterbacks, but realistically, that’s kind of where the similarities end.
The second half of that question is a tough one. Obviously, Kenny’s leadership was key to last year’s 11-win season, but it does seem like Robinson is the more skilled of the two quarterbacks. It’s also hard to compare a senior vs. a sophomore, because there’s just so much more experience. The good news is that Hill is back as a student assistant as he finishes his degree, so he’s actually coaching Robinson, helping him mentally prepare, etc. So for 2018, I’d say Robinson would get the nod over Hill, but it’s really a question of talent vs. experience, and which one folks prefer.
NA: Alright, elephant in the room. SMU has Sonny Dykes as their head coach. He was on staff at TCU last season. What do you like about Dykes and do you think this was a good hire for SMU?
JP: Dykes was only with the Frogs for one season, as an offensive analyst, so we really have a small sample size to work with. That being said, he seemed to have a good effect on Sonny Cumbie. He’s a great offensive mind, and his voice being in the room was a plus.
I know he wasn’t the “sexy” pick for SMU, but I do think it was a good hire. He’s old enough now (48), to where he may actually stick around for a while and keep building the program, and he’s got a decent track record as a head coach. He struggled a bit at Cal, but what he did to turn Louisiana Tech around can’t be ignored.
That being said, SMU seems to be in that space now where they’re a good “launch pad” for coaches looking to move into P5 roles. It’s a tough spot to be in as a program, because it means you’re improving, but coaches don’t see you as a long-term landing spot. One good period of stability could change that, though.
NA: Who are the key offensive skill players that SMU fans should look out for?
JP: Jalen Reagor is a speedy, elite receiver, but the talent definitely doesn’t stop there. KaVontae Turpin (yes, he’s still around) is still as talented as ever, and young receiver Derius Davis looks primed to be the next in that line. In the backfield TCU has three great backs, Darius Anderson, Sewo Olonilua, and JUCO transfer Emari Demercado. SMU will probably see a lot of Olonilua and Demercado on Friday, as Anderson continues to work his way back from injury. All three have good speed, but Olonilua and Demercado are also a bit bigger, and aren’t afraid to level a tackler.
NA: Who are the key defensive skill players that SMU fans should look out for?
JP: Ben Banogu is the big name along the defensive line. He’s the preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, and has a relentless motor. Garrett Wallow looks like the next great TCU linebacker, and safety Innis Gaines hits people so hard they go back in time.
NA: Do you have any worries regarding depth at certain positions? If so, which could be the most concerning?
JP: Losing Michael Onyemaobi (DB) for the season definitely hurts the depth a bit in the secondary, but TCU still has loads of talent at corner and safety. The biggest question right now, on either side of the ball, is defensive tackle. Ross Blacklock went down with a season-ending injury in fall camp, and while the Frogs still have his partner-in-crime Corey Bethley, it seems as if a rotation of guys will be the solution for now. Terrell Cooper and George Ellis III are the two main guys to keep an eye on there, but they’re both young and inexperienced.
NA: What is your prediction?
JP: These two programs are simply in different places right now, and TCU should win this game handily. If they get caught looking ahead to Ohio State, SMU could make it close, but Patterson is an expert at keeping guys focused. TCU 56, SMU 17.
I want to thank Jamie again for spending the time to answer some questions and find out who we need to look out for in the game.