2019 SMU Football Season Preview
Sonny Dykes began to turn the SMU football program around in his first season at the helm–and the 2019 season figures to be really good, at least offensively.
2018 Record: 5-7 overall, 4-4 in AAC
Head Coach: Sonny Dykes, 2nd year, 5-8
SMU will need to replace their starting quarterback, Ben Hicks, who transferred to Arkansas in the offseason. The good news for Sonny Dykes, Texas transfer Shane Buechele will be on campus, competing for the starting gig (a competition I expect him to win versus sophomore William Brown).
Wide receiver James Proche is back to be the No. 1 target on the outside, and he’s not alone with 52-catch former West Virginia Mountaineer Reggie Roberson a nice playmaker on the inside. With speedy former Notre Damer CJ Sanders in the mix, too, along with a solid group of tight ends, the Mustangs are loaded.
The running game must improve in order to flip the script on their 2018 record. They finished dead last in the AAC with 115 yards per game – and now top rusher Braeden West is gone. Seniors Ke’Mon Freeman and Xavier Jones will carry the load and they have the talent to do so–but Dykes has to be committed to the run and establish early every game.
The offensive line has to be better and they likely will–they had four underclassmen starting for the team last season, and now with a year of experience under their belts, the time is now to improve. There’s not a lot of size, but 300-pounders Beau Morris at tackle and Alan Ali at guard are back on the left side, and 290-pound Hayden Howerton returns at center. There’s decent depth and backup options, too.
The defensive unit was decent last season, but struggled during times of need–specifically turnovers and getting off of the field on third-down. The good news however, ten of the top 11 tacklers and nine starters are back.
Senior Delontae Scott was one of the team’s leading pass rushers with 260-pound size and good quickness on the outside, and the tackles are in place with 300-pound former JUCO transfer Pono Davis and 285-pound senior Demerick Gary on the inside.
The linebacking corps needs to replace Kyran Mitchell who was the team’s playmaker a season ago–they do get Texas A&M transfer Richard Moore who will hold down the middle LB spot. Illinois transfer Patrick Nelson is on the smaller side and can play safety–but he should own the rover role within the Mustangs D.
The secondary struggled last season, but has the experience you look for to right the ship. Senior Rodney Clemons has one safety spot locked down and senior Robert Hayes has one corner spot secured–the rest will be filled in by JUCO transfers and corner Sam Westfall, who missed last year with injury.
This should be a better year than Sonny Dykes’ inaugural season in 2018–the defense is more experienced and that should translate to getting off the field on third-down. How bad were they last season? SMU allowed teams to convert 40% of the time or more in 11 of the 12 games, and failed 50% of the time or more five times including in each of the last three games.
The offense returns a lot of weapons at wideout and with Buechele likely being the team’s starting quarterback, that unit should be better as well.
The non-conference schedule features winnable games outside of TCU, and they have road games against USF, Houston and Memphis which will likely be losses as well. Outside of that, every game is winnable for the Mustangs.