|John F. Rhodes / Associated Press|
|Quarterback Garrett Gilbert could benefit from the tutelage of his wise coaches this fall.|
Coach June Jones has turned around SMU's football fortunes since being hired after the 2007 season. He has guided the Mustangs to four consecutive bowls, the longest such streak in school history. SMU has had eight players drafted during Jones' tenure -- the school had only two selections in the preceding eight drafts.
The Mustangs are not loaded with prospects this season, but they do have a handful of guys who could become draftable depending upon what they do on the field this fall. SMU has joined the American Athletic Conference after eight seasons in Conference USA. Line play is a concern on both sides of the ball. If the Mustangs get to their fifth bowl in a row, Jones will have done his best coaching job during his SMU tenure.
Top senior prospects
CB Kenneth Acker: Acker (6-foot-0, 195 pounds) has started 26 consecutive games for the Mustangs, and had three picks and 12 pass breakups last season. He doesn't have great speed, but he is quick, elusive and seems likely to see time as a wide receiver this fall. He has good size, but SMU's scheme doesn't call for much press coverage, so he hasn't shown that much physical play. Acker is from Portland, Ore., and attended the same high school (Grant) as his coach, June Jones.
SS Jay Scott: Scott (6-1, 210) was a full-time starter for the first time last fall and responded with a solid season that included 76 tackles, an interception and 10 pass breakups. Scott has good size and has been a physical presence against the run. However, his coverage ability is the question.
WR Jeremy Johnson: Johnson (6-0, 179) should be one of the leading receivers in the AAC this fall. He was a first-time starter last season and had a team-leading 67 receptions for 679 yards and three TDs. Johnson has good speed, but he hasn't shown he can be a deep threat. He has been more of a possession receiver, thanks to his route-running ability. He needs to get stronger and show he can get deep and/or run away from people.
QB Garrett Gilbert: Nothing Gilbert (6-4, 223) has done to date in his college career -- which began at Texas -- would lead anyone to think he has an NFL shot. But Gilbert does have the needed physical tools, and the arrival of Hal Mumme as SMU's quarterbacks coach could have a positive impact on Gilbert's future. SMU expects to add a few more vertical passes to the offense, which fits nicely with Gilbert's skill set. He threw 15 TD passes and also 15 picks last season. But 10 of those interceptions came in the first five games, and he tossed only two picks in the final six games.
RB Traylon Shead: He was a highly touted recruit in 2010 out of tiny Cayuga (Texas) High, where he set a state high school record for career touchdowns (141) and was second all time in rushing yards (10,291). He signed with Texas in February of 2010, redshirted that fall, then played sparingly in 2011. He transferred to Navarro College last season, then signed with SMU and went through spring drills this year. He's a big guy (6-2, 230) with good (though not great) speed who will get ample opportunities this season to live up to his high school hype.
C Taylor Lasecki: He started all 13 games as a redshirt freshman last season. Lasecki (6-3, 296) is one of only two returning starters on the line. He's a strong guy who gets some movement in run-blocking, but his pass protection needs improvement.
Three must-see games of 2013
Aug. 30 vs. Texas Tech: Acker and Scott get to show off immediately. The Red Raiders should throw the ball all over the place, putting a ton of pressure on SMU's secondary. Tech's secondary has been rebuilt, which could mean big games for Gilbert and Johnson.
Sept. 21 at Texas A&M: How will SMU's defense, specifically the secondary, hold up against Johnny Manziel and A&M's prolific passing attack? Texas A&M's defensive front is a concern, so this will be a game in which Shead could make an impact -- assuming Lasecki and the offensive line can open some holes.
Nov. 29 at Houston: This is another game in which SMU's secondary will be in the spotlight. Acker vs. Houston WR Deontay Greenberry should be fun to watch.