Southern Methodist Mustangs 2013 College Football Preview
2012 Overall Record: 7-6 (5-3)
Gerald R. Ford Stadium
The SMU Mustangs enter the 2013 season coming off another winning season under coach June Jones. The Mustangs left off last year with a bang as they disposed of a favored Fresno State team 43-10 in the Sheraton Hawaii bowl. Unfortunately for SMU, they will have to rely on a youth movement this season, with many key contributors from last year’s team graduating.
OFFENSE: The Mustangs return quarterback Garrett Gilbert and will look to him to provide leadership and sustained strong play under center this season. Gilbert was up and down last year, throwing for 2,932 yards through the air and 15 touchdowns, but routinely making mistakes at key moments. Gilbert got little protection from his line last year and that problem should remain as the Mustangs only return two starters on that unit. With the departure of Zach Line and his 1,200 plus yards rushing, the Mustangs will turn to Rishaad Whitley for the bulk of the carries. If Whitley struggles to produce, the SMU staff will look quickly at Texas transfer Traylon Snead, who hopes to live up to the potential he showed coming out of high school. Arguably the biggest hole will need to be filled at the receiver slot, where SMU must replace Darius Johnson and his 787 yards and 5 touchdowns. Keep an eye on sophomore Darius Joseph -- the youngest of the SMU receiving corps should be tossed into first team action this season.
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DEFENSE: SMU should have a few pieces in place that will serve as the foundation of its defense. The entire secondary returns and will hope to equal or better their record-tying eight interceptions returned for TD’s last season. Up front, the catalysts for a lot of those interception opportunities will have to be replaced as the Mustangs lost their top three offensive lineman to graduation and the NFL draft. Without Marcus Hunt and his eight sacks from last season, the Mustangs will turn to a bunch of youngsters and have had high praise this offseason for Zach Wood -- the only lineman with a certain starting role as of now.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Mustangs return both punter and kicker in Mike Loftus and Chase Hover. Hover was consistent last year and will likely be relied on more this season as the Mustang offense gets comfortable. Another special teamer to keep an eye on is Kenneth Acker, a top punt returner in the league last year.
OUTLOOK: SMU has had some very successful years recently under June Jones and while there is no doubt that they will reload fairly quickly and be a player in the AAC long term, there are too many key losses this year to overcome. I like the Mustangs to get a more mature Garrett Gilbert, but Gilbert will not have the weapons he needs to engage in the shootouts that will be needed to win games in this league. I put the Mustangs ceiling at six wins but think they fall just shy of bowl eligibility.