SMU coach June Jones has been around a while. His coaching career began in 1983, including a three-season stint as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, and he has been a college head coach since 1999.
When he says he's impressed with a player, it might be smart to listen. So what does he say about new SMU tailback Traylon Shead, a junior college transfer? He says Shead is "maybe the best running back that I've had play the position."
Shead (6-feet-2, 230 pounds) signed with Texas out of high school in 2010. He was a consensus top-15 running back nationally out of tiny Cayuga (Texas) High, where he set a state high school record for career TDs (141) and was second all-time in state history in rushing yards (10,291).
He signed with Texas in February 2010, redshirted that fall, then played sparingly in 2011 (five games, no carries). He transferred to Navarro College last season, where he rushed for 1,194 yards and 17 touchdowns.
He signed with SMU in December and went through spring drills this year, where he wowed Jones and his staff with his quickness and all-around ability. Shead has good size, and though he's not a burner, he can turn the corner and he can make guys miss. His receiving ability, something Jones likes in his backs, is good, too.
SMU relied heavily on running back Zach Line the past three seasons. Line lacked speed but was a tough inside runner who piled up 3,996 yards and 40 rushing TDs for the Mustangs from 2010-12. He also had 63 percent of SMU's rushing attempts in that span (729 of the team's 1,159 carries).
Shead will be the Mustangs' workhorse, as well, and he's ready for the job.
"I think we can shock the nation," Shead told The Dallas Morning News. "We just have so much talent on both sides of the ball, and it's all coming together. We'll definitely shock some people."
The AAC, SMU's new league, lacks established runners, and Shead and Louisville tailback Michael Dyer, a transfer from Auburn, will be in the spotlight this fall.