Pac 12

2010 NCAA Football Preview: Southern Methodist Mustangs

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Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.

2009 Season Breakdown

2009 final record (overall, conference): 8-5, 6-2
Bowl Game: Hawaii Bowl (W 45-10 vs. Nevada)
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'): NR, NR
Conference finish: 2nd Conference USA West Division
Offensive rank: 51
Defensive rank: 84

2009 Individual Statistical Leaders

Rushing: Shawnbrey McNeal, 1,188 yards, 12 TD
Passing: Kyle Padron, 1,922 yards, 10 TD, 4 INT; Bo Levi Mitchell, 1,725 yards, 12 TD, 10 INT
Receiving: Emmanuel Sanders, 1,339 yards, 7 TD
Tackles: Chase Kennemer, 135 total tackles
Sacks: Taylor Thompson, 5.5 sacks (4 solo, 3 assisted)
Interceptions: Rock Dennis, 5 interceptions (1 touchdown)

2010 Season Outlook

Schedule
(* denotes conference game)

Key Matchups

September 5 @ Texas Tech: June Jones begins his third season at the helm with a Friday night matchup against high-scoring Texas Tech. The Red Raiders ranked second in the nation in passing offense last season. The Mustangs ranked 15th. Tech will be on upset alert in this one, especially if the SMU offense continues its development under Jones and the secondary can hold its own against the onslaught of the Tech passing attack.

September 24 vs. TCU: Boy what a shakeup this would be. An SMU win wouldn't have any impact on either the Mountain West or Conference USA, but imagine the confidence a win here would give the Mustangs as they begin the bulk of their conference schedule. TCU posted the sixth ranked passing defense last season, and, while they have lost both starting corners from a year ago (both safeties return), the Horned Frogs will create quite an obstacle for Kyle Padron and the passing game. (Note: The Mustangs managed just 14 points against TCU in 2009.)

October 23 vs. Houston: This may be the matchup that ultimately decides who represents the West in the C-USA Championship. That is, of course, assuming SMU has the season they expect in Jones' third year with the team. To win this one, though, SMU will have to put up more than the 15 points they managed in last year's contest, and, similar to the Texas Tech matchup, the secondary needs to contain Case Keenum and the passing game.

November 26 @ East Carolina: The Pirates are rebuilding, but many still expect them to represent the East Division in the conference title game. Either way, this one could prove vital to SMU's quest to oust Houston as West Division champs.

Preseason Rankings (will not officially be released until August)

AP: N/A

Coaches': N/A

Key Losses

Shawnbrey McNeal, RB; Emmanuel Sanders, WR; Mitch Enright, C; Chase Kennemer, LB; Bryan McCann, CB; Rock Dennis, S

Key Returning Players

Kyle Padron, QB; Aldrick Robinson, WR; Kelvin Beachum, OT; Taylor Thompson, DE; Pete Fleps, LB; Chris Banjo, S

Offensive Overview

Kyle Padron ended his freshman season on 460 yards passing, two touchdowns and no picks. He took over for Bo Levi Mitchell after Mitchell was knocked out of the Houston game with a shoulder injury and never relinquished the starting spot. After taking over as the starter, Padron went 4-1 to close out the regular season and led the Mustangs to their blowout of Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl, accumulating the stat line mentioned above in the process. Padron appears primed to excel in Jones' run-and-shoot offense in his first full season as the starter.

Shawnbrey McNeal left SMU a year earlier than he had to, leaving a lot of fans shocked and some questioning his decision. Say what you will about the move, but with his mother ill, he left to "improve his family's financial situation." His departure leaves Zach Line as the projected starter in the backfield. While he isn't the elusive type of runner like McNeal, who transferred to SMU from Miami, Line was effective in the short yardage, scoring seven touchdowns on 49 carries. Bryce Lunday and Chris Butler could also see time, but many are excited about true freshman Darryl Fields' arrival on campus.

At wide receiver, Aldrick Robinson will be the featured pass-catcher following the loss of Emmanuel Sanders to the NFL. Terrance Wilkerson and Cole Beasley also return with big things expected of sophomore Darius Johnson. The four wide receivers will make up the core of SMU's run-and-shoot passing game. Four starters return on the offensive line including Kelvin Beachum who will begin his third season as the starting left tackle in the fall. J.T. Brooks will get the start at right tackle with Josh LeRibeus and Kelly Turner taking the guard spots. Blake McJunkin will be the new center, although Bryce Tennison will see plenty of time at guard and center.

Defensive Overview

The switch to the 3-4 defense helped and the Mustangs produced 17 interceptions and recovered 11 fumbles in '09. Still, this unit enters the season with questions up front and in the secondary. Taylor Thompson is expected to again excel at the defensive end position with Marquis Frazier shoring up the other end position. The question mark is in the middle where Aaron Davis, a 265 pound tackle, is expected to get the start. Mike O'Guin is a 321 pound freshman who saw action in the spring and could eventually take hold of the nose tackle spot as the anchor of the line.

In the linebackers corps, Pete Fleps and Youri Yenga will return as the veterans of the group. Taylor Reed was the starter in just one game as a freshman in 2009, but managed the fifth most tackles on the team. Ja'Gared Davis was the starter in five games as a freshman last season, finishing with 51 tackles, two sacks, three passes defended and two forced fumbles. With Fleps and Yenga providing veteran leadership, Reed and Davis will provide exceptional and very promising young talent that bodes well for the future of this defense.

With matchups against Texas Tech and Houston this season, the pass defense will go through a fantastic test. They lose two starters from last season in cornerback Bryan McCann and safety Rock Davis. The duo combined to lead the secondary with nine combined interceptions (McCann, 4; Davis, 5) Keivon Gamble was expected to compete for McCann's spot, but was declared academically ineligible for the upcoming season. Bennie Thomas is now expected to team up with Sterling Moore, who led the team in pass breakups with 11 in 2009. Ryan Smith enters the fall as the replacement for Davis with Chris Banjo considered the top defensive back in the unit. Jay Scott will compete with Smith for time at strong safety.

Special Teams Overview

Matt Szymanski will resume his role as the team's punter and kicker. He averaged 41.9 yards per punt and went 11 for 13 in field goals. He even hit 47 of his 48 extra point attempts last season. Emmanuel Sanders and Bryan McCann handled punt returns and kick returns, respectively, last season. Replacing the now former Mustangs will be a challenge this team carries into the fall. Margus Hunt, who will compete for time at defensive end, was a unique weapon for the Mustangs on special teams in 2009. The 6'8 Hunt blocked an astounding seven punts or kicks in 2009.

Head Coach: June Jones

A practitioner of the run-and-shoot offense, June Jones' offenses have been among the most productive in the entire country. He has produced some of the most prolific passers in FBS history with former Hawaii quarterback Timmy Chang (2000-2004) the current leader in career passing yards and Colt Brennan (2004-2007) fourth in the same category. Brennan is second in FBS history with 131 career touchdown passes and Chang is fourth with 117. Padron is expected to emerge as the next beneficiary of Jones' offensive system.

Arriving at SMU in 2008, Jones brought the Mustangs back to the bowl season in 2009 for the first time since 1984 (third bowl-eligible season: '97, '06). He guided the Mustangs from a 1-11 record in 2008 to an 8-5 record in 2009, the best turnaround in the nation. It marked the second time that a Jones-led team finished as the nation's most improved team (1999, Hawaii).

Top 2011 Draft Prospects

Jake Locker, QB; Cody Habben, OT; Mason Foster, LB; Nate Williams, S

Season Prediction

2nd Conference USA West

The Mustangs enter the season with high hopes, and well they should. In Jones' second season SMU saw a turnaround from 1-11 to 8-5 and capped it off with a 45-10 Hawaii Bowl victory over Nevada. It's safe to say that the Mustangs will at some point in the very near future find themselves in the Conference USA title game, but with Case Keenum and Houston the heavy favorite to represent the West in the championship game, it's not so easy saying that it will come in the upcoming season.

Nonetheless, don't be too surprised if SMU ruins Keenum's senior season by taking the West. It may have sounded farfetched just a couple of seasons ago with SMU stuck in mediocrity or just flat-out awful, but with Jones' offense and things moving in the right direction on defense, SMU appears poised to make the trip to the bowl season an annual outing.- Danny Hobrock

Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.

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