Dallas Colleges: SMU Mustangs

Clemson's Chad Morris has talked to SMU about vacancy

November, 29, 2014
Clemson coach Chad Morris says he has spoken with SMU representatives about its head coaching job, but no deal has been reached.

Morris is a Texas native who attended Texas A&M and was a longtime high school coach in the Lone Star state before making the jump to college.

He was asked about media reports that he is expected to become the new coach at SMU after Clemson beat South Carolina on Saturday.

"I've spoken with them, yes. Haven't agreed to anything," Morris said.

SMU athletic director Rick Hart said in a text to the AP, the school is still working through the hiring process and has no agreement with anyone.

The Associated Press

Big 12 morning links

October, 6, 2014
Katy Perry, meet Tyler Knight.
  • After his team beat Texas 28-7, Baylor coach Art Briles complained to reporters about the way the Big 12 configured the Bears' early conference schedule. "We open up Big 12 conference play as reigning champions," Briles said. "We didn’t finish eighth last year. How do we get rewarded? We go to Iowa State and go to Austin to open up conference play." I'm not sure I understand Briles' gripe. The 2014 conference schedule was constructed Nov. 5 of last year, weeks before the Bears actually won the Big 12 title. And by the way, Oklahoma, which has been the class of the league for more than decade, will actually play three games away from Norman -- at West Virginia, at TCU and Texas in Dallas -- to start the conference season.
  • Speaking of Baylor, Bears starting defensive end Jamal Palmer will miss the remainder of the year after suffering a torn ACL against Texas, the Waco Tribune-Herald's John Werner reported. Palmer, who has been a key part of the Baylor's defense since 2012, was an honorable-mention All-Big 12 pick last year. The Bears still have enough talent and depth on the defensive line to overcome the Palmer injury. But for a team with big aspirations, it never helps to lose a veteran starter.
  • TCU coach Gary Patterson accused Oklahoma transfer quarterback Baker Mayfield of stealing signs in TCU's 37-33 win. Mayfield played under first-year TCU co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie at Texas Tech last year. "Old Baker Mayfield was on the sidelines and calling out every freaking signal we had," TCU QB Trevone Boykin told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Travis L. Brown after the game. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops sort of denied that Mayfield was stealing signs, though it sure looked like he was on the sidelines. This is the second time this season a Big 12 coach has accused an opponent of stealing signs. Kansas State's Bill Snyder accused Auburn of the same last month. There's nothing illegal about it. It happens frequently in college football. And Cumbie should have been prepared that it might happen. But it's not exactly a good look for the Sooners, either.
  • Former Texas coach Mack Brown has been contacted by representatives from SMU about the school's vacant coaching job, the Austin American-Statesman's Kirk Bohls reported. “He was approached, I was approached, but he’s not interested in coaching anywhere right now," Brown's attorney, Joe Jamail, told Bohls. "He misses it, frankly, but he loves being on ESPN." Brown would be a great fit for SMU, the same way Larry Brown has been for the SMU basketball team. Mack Brown has plenty left in the tank and the connections in the state to get players to Dallas. Brown has said he's going to wait until December before deciding whether he wants to coach again. I hope he does.
  • Mike Gundy told The Oklahoman's Kyle Fredrickson that Oklahoma State running back/receiver/returner Tyreek Hill has been better utilized as a decoy lately. Hill had only 11 offensive touches for 27 yards in the 37-20 win over Iowa State. "They're so zoned into to him," Gundy said. "When he's on the field, they're moving toward him, crowding him." The Cowboys are wise to take advantage of the mismatches that Hill's presence create elsewhere. But they also have to do better getting him touches in space. As his 97-yard kickoff return touchdown to open the second half underscored, Hill is way too electric to be used merely as a decoy.

SEC viewer's guide: Week 4

September, 20, 2014
Noon ET

Troy at No. 13 Georgia, SEC Network: Georgia is coming off a 38-35 loss at South Carolina and is looking for a resounding victory here. The last time these teams met (2007), Georgia won 44-34. This Troy team, however, is 0-3 and allowing 40 points per game while averaging only 20.7. Look for the Bulldogs to jump out early in this one.

3:30 p.m. ET

No. 6 Texas A&M at SMU, ABC/ESPN2: The Aggies come in at 3-0 and they’ve been rolling so far this season. SMU has been a mess, 0-2 and with a new coach: June Jones resigned last week; Tom Mason is serving as the interim head coach and is making his debut. Perhaps the Mustangs are fired up and have a renewed energy, but even if they do, the Aggies are in position for a convincing victory. These teams' past three meetings, dating to 2011, have resulted in a 35.3-point average margin of victory for A&M.

[+] EnlargeWill Muschamp, Nick Saban
Gary W. Green/Getty ImagesNick Saban and Alabama own a three-game winning streak over Florida. The teams haven't played since 2011, Will Muschamp's first season.
Florida at No. 3 Alabama, CBS: Few are likely giving the Gators much of a shot here because they were pushed to their limits by Kentucky. How well they operate their no-huddle, up-tempo offense will go a long way in determining how well they fare. Meanwhile, eyes continue to focus on the Alabama quarterback situation with Blake Sims and Jacob Coker, and it will be worth watching to see what develops. The Crimson Tide own a three-game winning streak over Florida.

4 p.m. ET

Indiana at No. 18 Missouri, SEC Network: The Tigers are quietly getting it done and look to close out their nonconference schedule 4-0. If they do, it would be the eighth 4-0 start under Gary Pinkel and seventh in nine seasons. Maty Mauk is coming off a four-touchdown-pass performance and Shane Ray is coming off a two-sack, four-tackles-for-loss performance.

7 p.m. ET

Northern Illinois at Arkansas, ESPNU: A victory would give the Razorbacks as many wins this season (three) as they had in all of 2013. That would be a big step forward for Bret Bielema's crew. Northern Illinois is a quality road team, having won 17 in a row in opponents' home stadiums, including one at Northwestern on Sept. 6. Arkansas brings in a second-best-in-the-nation 362 rushing yards per game.

Mississippi State at No. 8 LSU, ESPN: Saturday nights in Death Valley are always fun -- typically for the Tigers. They're 43-2 under Les Miles in Saturday night games at Tiger Stadium. This is a big "prove-it" game for Mississippi State, a team that's 3-0 and trying to take a big step into SEC West contention. Last year's meeting between these two was competitive until a 28-point fourth quarter by LSU.

7:30 p.m. ET

No. 14 South Carolina at Vanderbilt, SEC Network: The Gamecocks got a huge win versus Georgia and are looking to go to 2-1 in league play with a victory here. South Carolina jumped out to a big lead over Vandy the last time these teams met and it's likely to happen again if the Commodores don't get on track quickly. They've struggled mightily out of the gate and had to rally to beat UMass last week. Patton Robinette will start at QB; will coach Derek Mason stick with him this time?

Examining SMU candidates: Spavital, Beaty

September, 19, 2014
Texas A&M travels to SMU for a nonconference clash on Saturday, which will be the Mustangs’ first game under interim head coach Tom Mason after June Jones resigned from the post on Sept. 8.

Last week, Chris Low took a look at possible candidates that SMU might consider as it searches for its next head coach. Two potential candidates are on the Aggies’ staff: offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital and receivers coach/recruiting coordinator David Beaty.

While it’s unclear if either Beaty or Spavital would have interest in the job (or how much interest SMU has in either of them) and there's a long way to go in the coaching search, let’s look at each of their coaching backgrounds and what kind of fit they could potentially be.

David Beaty

Experience: Beaty is in his third year as the Aggies’ receivers coach and second as their recruiting coordinator. He also spent time at Rice as an offensive coordinator (under Todd Graham) and receivers coach and at Kansas as a co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach. His roots are in Dallas high schools, though -- he got his coaching start in Garland, Texas, at Naaman Forest High School and coached at four different high schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

Pros/cons: Beaty has a reputation as a stellar recruiter. Ask the high school coaches in the Dallas area and they’ll tell you he’s one of the most respected around and he’s a big reason the Aggies have had significant success getting top-flight players out of that fertile area. Having experience at Rice, a private school that plays in a Group of 5 conference, would help at a place like SMU, which falls in that category. The one thing Beaty doesn’t have is extensive experience as a coordinator, though he does have some.

Analysis: SMU hasn’t recruited its own area well and Beaty would fix that in a hurry. He would be a good fit and would be able to utilize his strong relationships with the local coaches.

Jake Spavital

Experience: Spavital is in his second year as the quarterbacks coach at Texas A&M and his first as the sole offensive coordinator for the Aggies. He’s young (29) but has stops at Tulsa (2008), Houston (2009), Oklahoma State (2010) and West Virginia (2011-12), though the first three were as a graduate assistant or quality control coach. He was the quarterbacks coach at West Virginia.

Pros/cons: He has worked with great college quarterbacks (Case Keenum, Brandon Weeden, Geno Smith, Johnny Manziel) and has worked under highly-regarded offensive minds (Gus Malzahn, Dana Holgorsen, Kevin Sumlin) and has worked with and maintains a strong relationship with Kliff Kingsbury. He’s highly thought of and the early returns on the job he’s doing as A&M’s offensive coordinator are good. The primary drawback is his youth and inexperience -- he has only been A&M’s offensive coordinator for four games.

Analysis: Sumlin himself said Spavital “no doubt” has qualities of a future head coach but it might serve him best to gain more experience. Texas A&M is on the rise and if the offense continues to roll like it has, other opportunities will come. If Spavital were to end up at SMU, he would likely be able to get the offense on track quickly. He doesn’t have the recruiting reputation that Beaty does but Spavital is considered a good recruiter.
ESPN 60 shooting guard Matt McQuaid committed to SMU on Monday. The Class of 2015 prospect was seriously courted by Alabama, Creighton, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M and Wichita State, among others.

SMU basketball is a hot ticket in Dallas

March, 5, 2014
DALLAS -- There’s wasn’t any red carpet leading into Moody Coliseum on Wednesday night, but there should have been one.

There was president George W. Bush, a pitching wedge away from the library that bears his name, cheering from the front row with his wife, Laura, and daughter Jenna. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was there, too. So was Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, standing with quarterback Tony Romo and tight end Jason Witten on the baseline, soaking in the crowd.

That’s what Larry Brown, an A-lister himself, has done for the Southern Methodist Mustangs. His basketball team and its renovated arena have become a main attraction in Dallas.

SMU didn’t beat its fifth ranked opponent on Wednesday, falling 84-71 to Louisville. The fact that Brown was clearly disappointed about it to the point where he didn’t want to talk about how far his program has come or any big picture thoughts on the season shows where this program is headed.

“You see why they’re a championship team,” Brown said.

Brown blamed himself for SMU’s second-half struggles, though the real culprit was Louisville guard Russ Smith, who made just about everything he put up in the second half.

“Coaches are supposed to help kids handle adversity and I didn’t do a very good job of that,” Brown said.

But Brown’s done a terrific job of making SMU relevant again.

And Moody Coliseum was rocking on Wednesday. The students were especially rowdy, bouncing up and down and providing a plenty of decibels.

It was just a few years ago that Moody was a place you could go and carry on a pleasant conversation during the game while watching basketball. If you wanted to chat on Wednesday, you had to yell at the person beside you.

That’s how winning buildings are supposed to sound.

The smartest thing SMU did was take seats out. They put suites up at the top of the facility. But rather than have a 10,000-seat venue that might not get full consistently, SMU has people right up against the court. It’s loud and it’s crowded. Wednesday was the seventh sellout of the season.

Most fans wore white “Moody Magic” T-shirts provided by the school. And they acted as another defender, trying desperately to stop Smith with their words. For the first time at home all season, it didn’t work.

The fact that the loss gnawed enough at Brown that he wasn’t in any mood to talk big picture was telling. But he made it a point to share his appreciation for the fans.

“The crowd was phenomenal,” Brown said. “I’m so thankful that we’re in an environment where people are so supportive. We want to give more and we have to do a better job to see that happens.”

Don't sleep on TCU-SMU Iron Skillet rivalry

September, 25, 2013
The rivalry was born in 1915, and a skillet came into the mix 30 years later. It was either a friendly gesture between two student councils or a trophy bred of a tailgate argument over frying frog legs -- that second tale is more than a little dubious -- but regardless, fine cast iron cookware isn’t the only thing on the line

[+] EnlargeIron Skillet
AP Photo/John F. RhodesTCU has owned its rivalry over SMU lately, but the Mustangs did pull an upset in 2011.
This year’s edition of the Battle for the Iron Skillet between TCU and SMU might not garner much national attention, considering both teams are 1-2. But don’t overlook the fact this rivalry game has been has been sneaky important -- and a tad strange -- in the past two seasons.

TCU is 10-2 under Gary Patterson in this Metroplex showdown. The second of those two losses came in 2011, in rather crazy circumstances.

That loss ended TCU’s 22-game home win streak, but it wasn’t easy. The No. 20-ranked Horned Frogs rallied with a 23-point fourth quarter to force overtime but still lost 40-33. That game marked only the second time in its post-Death Penalty history that SMU had defeated a ranked team.

The week after that game, Patterson -- angry both about how SMU coaches and players treated his team and how the game was officiated -- went on a tirade (and probably a deserved one) that added some fire to the rivalry.

"Don't look for any help coming from us ever again," Patterson said. "SMU got a lot of help from us over the last three or four years. They are not going to get any help about a game or a conference; they are going to get no help from Gary Patterson. Don't ask me about anything. We've bent over backwards to help them because that's what I believe in."

Patterson and June Jones have reportedly mended fences since then, but his speech did underscore just how much beating TCU has meant to SMU.

The other time the Ponies bested Patterson and TCU? That was in 2005, when SMU knocked off the No. 22 Frogs one week after their upset win over Oklahoma in Norman. It was the lone blemish in TCU’s 11-1 year, and the win was hailed as SMU’s most important victory since resuming football in 1989. The 2011 win is still considered one of the milestones of Jones’ tenure in Dallas.

The last five times TCU wins, however, haven’t been all that close. Those victories over the Mustangs have come by an average margin of three touchdowns.

The closest game of those five occurred last season. TCU came in with a 12-game win streak -- the Frogs hadn’t lost since that 2011 overtime stumble -- and held onto it with a 24-16 win in a heavy rainstorm.

That ended up being Casey Pachall’s final start of the season before being arrested the following week and suspended. TCU picked off Garrett Gilbert five times, including the first two interceptions of Jason Verrett’s career.

This time around, Pachall is injured and the Frogs are only worried about getting a win, no matter the score, after early-season losses to LSU and Texas Tech. SMU would love nothing more than to go back to Fort Worth and steal another win like in 2011.

The rivalry that realignment couldn’t kill will continue into 2017, even though they’re no longer Southwest Conference and WAC foes. The two schools will keep trading home-and-aways for the next five years because they still consider the tradition important.

They’ve been playing this game for more than 90 years. Considering how close the last two years have been, and how desperate both teams are to avoid 1-3, we could be in for another classic on Saturday.

Unfamiliar foes: SMU

June, 24, 2013
Our series taking a team-by-team look at the marquee nonconference faces the Big East will see in the fall continues today with SMU, which once again has one of the more ambitious pre-league slates.

To read previous entries, click here.

Offensive opponent to watch: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M. Ever hear of this guy? In case you haven't, he goes by the nickname Johnny Football. He won the Heisman Trophy last season as a redshirt freshman. He's been spotted seemingly everywhere and been hanging out with everyone in the offseason since. He hosts the Mustangs on Sept. 21, one week after facing two-time defending national champion Alabama, a team whose only loss last season came at the hands of … Manziel and the Aggies. Last year he led the Aggies to a 48-3 win at SMU, accounting for 418 total yards and six scores in three quarters while notching his first career win. All he did after was finish with 5,116 total yards and 47 touchdowns on the season while completing 68 percent of his passes.

Defensive opponent to watch: Devante Fields, DE, TCU. Field is banned from the season's first two games "due to a violation of university and team policy," meaning the SMU game on Sept. 28 will be his second game back. If he learns from the punishment, SMU and others need to watch out. The Horned Frogs' highest-rated recruit from 2012 burst onto the scene as a true freshman last fall, winning Big 12 defensive player of the year honors. He had four tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and two hurries in a 24-16 win at SMU last season, and he finished the year with 53 total tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, one pick, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles.

Weak and strong: SMU

June, 10, 2013
Our series looking at the strongest and weakest positions on each team across the league continues today with SMU.

Strongest position: Defensive back.

Not only do the Mustangs return all their starters at defensive back, they have got plenty of talent behind those starters to form the best position on the field. Depth is so good, in fact, that top cornerback Kenneth Acker spent the spring taking reps at receiver to expand his repertoire. Acker should be one of the top receivers in the league in 2013, as he goes into his third year as the starter. Acker led the Mustangs last year with 15 passes defended and 12 pass breakups, while grabbing three interceptions. Chris Parks also is back at cornerback, and feeling much better after playing through a knee injury through a part of last season. Starting safety Jay Scott also returns, giving the Mustangs three senior starters in the secondary -- guys with a wealth of experience that should really take the lead on this defense. As for the other safety position, Shakiel Randolph returns after starting six games last year and being named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team.

Weakest position: Defensive line.

SMU is in rebuilding mode at positions across the field, as several spots have to replace key starters. But the position hit the hardest is the defensive line, which returns zero starters from a year ago. The biggest loss, of course, is defensive end Margus Hunt, a second-round NFL pick of the Cincinnati Bengals. He takes with him a team-leading eight sacks and a major pass-rush presence that is a huge priority for the Mustangs to replace. End Kevin Grenier also is gone, and so is the underrated Torlan Pittman, who manned the inside spot. Between the three of them, the Mustangs lose 92 tackles -- including 18.5 for loss. Coach June Jones believes he has some talented players ready to fill in. Darrian Wright will take over the nose tackle spot from Pittman. Zach Wood seems certain to start at one end spot; Beau Barnes and Andy McCleneghen are still competing for the other starting end job. Jones also is high on two youngsters -- true freshman Zelt Minor and redshirt freshman Elie Nabushosi. But while there may be talent, this group takes a hit in experience and size as well. How the Mustangs handle those two factors will go a long way in determining how they do in Year 1 in the AAC.

For more on the series, click here.

Most important game: SMU Mustangs

May, 24, 2013
Next up is SMU, one of the more intriguing of the conference newcomers in 2013.

To see previous entries, click here.


Most important game: Oct. 5 versus Rutgers

Why: SMU has a very challenging nonconference slate. The Mustangs open their season Friday, Aug. 30 against Texas Tech and new coach Kliff Kingsbury. Two games later they travel to College Station, Texas, where they will face either an Aggie team coming off the high of beating defending national Alabama for the second year in a row or an Aggie team hungry after suffering a tough loss to the nation's best. One week later, they travel to TCU.

Like we said, very challenging. At least they avoid conference favorite Louisville in Year 1 of a new league.

So that brings us to Oct. 5, with the nonconference slate in the rearview mirror. SMU has a home contest against a Rutgers team that has a lot of unknown parts heading into Kyle Flood's second year as head coach. The first month of the season should test the Mustangs physically and mentally, and if they respond the way most good teams should, they will be ready for their Big East debut against the Scarlet Knights, one of four defending champions.

SMU's offense should be fascinating to watch with Hal Mumme joining head coach June Jones to tutor Garrett Gilbert. Rutgers is breaking in three new starters in the secondary. A bye follows the Rutgers game, and then come games against Memphis and Temple, two programs widely expected to finish at or near the bottom of the conference in 2013.

You look at the tough first month and what it could spell for SMU moving forward, and you look at games against the Tigers and Owls soon afterward, and you cannot help but think of what a win over Rutgers could do for this program in its first game in the Big East. A 3-0 start going into Cincinnati on Nov. 9? UConn awaits after that. A 4-1 start in conference play is very much possible, not to mention the chance of winning one or more of the aforementioned tough early-season games against its Texas brethren.

The possibilities could be there for a strong Big East debut for the Mustangs. But a lot of that only looks realistic if they can beat Rutgers on Oct. 5.
Watch list season means we're one step closer to the actual college football season. The latest watch list to be released is for the Rimington Trophy, which is given each year to the best center in the nation.

The Big East has four players on the 44-man list, which is led by nine SEC players and five each from the Pac-12 and the Mountain West Conference.

Houston's Bryce Redman, Rutgers' Betim Bujari, SMU's Taylor Lasecki, USF's Austin Reiter make up the Big East contingent.

The Rimington Trophy committee uses the AFCA, Walter Camp, Sporting News and FWAA All-American teams to determine a winner. The winner will be honored Jan. 11, 2014 at the Rimington Trophy Presentation banquet at the Rocco Theater in Lincoln, Neb.

Former Louisville center Mario Benavides was one of six finalists for the award last season.

SMU Mustangs spring wrap

May, 2, 2013
SMU Mustangs

2012 record: 7-6

2012 conference record: 5-3, C-USA West

Returning starters: Offense: 6; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Garrett Gilbert, WR Der'rikk Thompson, DB Kenneth Acker, LB Randall Joyner

Key losses

RB Zach Line, WR Darius Johnson, DE Margus Hunt, LB Ja’Gared Davis

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Line (1,278 yards, 13 TDs)

Passing: Gilbert* (268-of-506 for 2,932 yards, 15 TDs, 15 INTs)

Receiving: Jeremy Johnson* (679 yards, 3 TDs)

Tackles: Taylor Reed (97)

Sacks: Hunt (eight)

Interceptions: Acker*, Joyner* Reed (three each)

Spring answers

1. Garrett Gilbert looks sharp. Coach June Jones said after spring practice wrapped up that he was pleased with the way Garrett looked and improved in the biggest area of all -- accuracy. Gilbert only completed 53 percent of his passes last year but has a better grasp of the offense now and more chemistry with his receivers. It probably helps that he had Hal Mumme working with him, too.

2. Traylon Shead steps up. The Mustangs lost their best offensive player in Zach Line, but Shead stole the show this spring as he worked his way up to the first team. Jones called the Texas transfer “the real deal,” and is confident the running game will be just fine with Line gone.

3. Linebacker depth. Reed and Davis are gone, but there is depth at this position and some veterans returning to the starting lineup, too, in Joyner and Kevin Pope. Jones said Joyner had a great camp, and so did Lincoln Richard. Rishaad Wimbley moved over from running back as well.

Fall questions

1. Pass-rush specialist. Defensive end Margus Hunt proved just how special a talent he is this past weekend, when he was drafted in the second round. So how do the Mustangs go about replacing him and their other starting end, Kevin Grenier? Finding another pass-rush specialist takes on even greater importance now that the team is moving to a new league.

2. Offensive line depth. The Mustangs have to replace three starters and are going to be much more inexperienced at this position. Though Jones feels confident with his starting five, depth still has to be built in the fall. True freshmen may have to be relied on this season.

3. Receiver rotation. Jeremy Johnson and Thompson are back, along with Keenan Holman but otherwise, there are some young faces that are going to find themselves getting much more playing time. Line was also a big part of the pass game. Can Shead fill that role now?

What to watch: SMU spring game

April, 19, 2013
The Mustangs will have an open practice at 9 a.m. Saturday at Pettus Practice Field, with many current and former players signing autographs afterward. There will be an NFL Punt, Pass and Kick competition afterward for kids ages 6 through eighth grade.

The Mustangs are intriguing, first and foremost, because they brought Hal Mumme aboard as their assistant head coach and passing game coordinator. Pairing the Air Raid curator with head coach June Jones and his run 'n' shoot pedigree is a fascinating experiment in and of itself.

Kenneth Acker, who is coming off a second-team All-Conference USA season in the secondary, is another experiment this spring, with the staff splitting the cornerback wide to catch some passes with the offense.

Defensively, the Mustangs are replacing a bulk of their production from last season, with Margus Hunt, Ja'Gared Davis and Taylor Reed all gone. Kevin Pope and Robert Seals must step up at linebacker.

SMU's Shead wants to prove doubters wrong

April, 18, 2013
Traylon Shead arrived at Texas back in 2010 with great expectations already attached to him as one of the most highly touted recruits in the country.

But Shead never really got his career going with the Longhorns. After two seasons, he decided to transfer. His stat line when he left? Empty.

Shead landed at Navarro Junior College and vowed to himself that he would prove all his doubters wrong when he got his next shot in Division I.

Now here he is, with his next shot.

[+] EnlargeTraylon Shead
Photo/SMU AthleticsSMU running back Traylon Shead embraces the high expectations.
Shead arrived at SMU in January with great expectations, deja vu for a player already used to the pressure. With Zach Line gone, all eyes have turned to Shead as the next great running back for the Ponies. He has spent the spring learning the system and preparing himself for his moment in the spotlight come August.

"Because I have high expectations here, the biggest transition is to come in and try to have a big impact because, to live up to those expectations," Shead said in a recent phone interview. "That means I have to work a lot harder, study the playbook and be a good student.

"Being compared to Zach, it’s an honor. But also there’s a lot of pressure. If you don’t live up to it, you have a lot of criticism. In the back of my mind, this is my last go around in D-I and I really need to buckle down and prove all those doubters wrong and prove to everybody who gave me a chance that they gave the opportunity to the right person."

The comparisons between Line and Shead are easy to make. Both are bigger backs with deceptive speed. (Line is 6-foot-1, 230 pounds; Shead is 6-2, 225 pounds). Both excel at catching passes out of the backfield. Both are also good blockers. Shead, however, comes into SMU with much bigger expectations. Line was recruited to SMU as a linebacker. Shead was a Parade All-American.

Things just did not work out for him at Texas. When asked for his reasons behind transferring, Shead mentioned wanting to be closer to his daughter, Aniya, who turns 2 next month. Dallas is much closer to his hometown of Cayuga, Texas, than Austin. Shead saw that Line was about to end his SMU career so he had it in his mind that he wanted to play for the Mustangs after spending a year in junior college.

What a year it was. Shead ran for 1,194 yards and 17 touchdowns for Navarro in 2012. He signed with SMU in December and has been taking first-team reps for the past several weeks of spring practice, alternating with Prescott Line -- Zach's brother. Aniya and her mom -- Shead's girlfriend -- stay with Shead in Dallas for a majority of the week.

When asked for how he looks back on what happened at Texas, Shead said, "I take it as a learning experience but I appreciate the coaches for giving me the opportunity to come there and to leave in such a good way. Just not being able to play much there, I have a lot of doubters here and there. That’s my mentality since I was at Navarro, to get back to D-I and I appreciate SMU for giving me the opportunity. Now that I’m here, it’s time to prove those doubters wrong and prove I can play at D-I even though I came from a small school in East Texas. That and going home and seeing my daughter, are the two biggest factors that motivate me."

Shead says he feels as if he has picked up the offense well this spring, but has plenty more work to do in the offseason. He wants to work on his pad level, stamina and footwork, all while trying to pattern his game after Falcons running back Steven Jackson.

"Seeing how big of an impact he had in college and in the NFL -- that’s what I’m trying to work toward," Shead said. "He has speed and power, and he’s also a big back. We’re similar in size so that’s what I’m trying to get my game level to."

Off-the-radar spring: SMU

April, 4, 2013
Colleague Ryan McGee takes a look at five off-the-radar teams during this spring, and a Big East newcomer cracks the list.

SMU begins Year 1 in a new conference under sixth-year head coach June Jones, who made a big-name addition to his staff two weeks ago.

McGee says Hal Mumme is the reason to watch, with the former Division II McMurry (Texas) head coach coming aboard to be the Mustangs' assistant head coach and passing game coordinator. The addition of Mumme, the proprietor of the Air Raid offense, places him with a boss in Jones who is considered a founding father of the Run 'n' Shoot offense. Three of the top seven signal callers in career passing yards per game were coached by either Mumme or Jones, making for an intriguing dynamic in Dallas.

"This might not work at all," a fellow Big East offensive coordinator told McGee. "But if it does, the results might be scary. If anything, this is one of those experiments where coaches all over the country will be pulling film just to see what these two come up with together."

To read the full story about all five off-the-radar teams to watch this spring, click here.