BY: Richard W, Humphrey
UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – There’s an old saying that the two most important sports in Texas are football and spring football. This past Saturday, there was a spring football game at Ford Stadium for the first time since 2007. Former head coach June Jones eschewed the practice, but new head coach Chad Morris utilized the game to garner support for the program.
There was an estimated crowd of 5,000 in attendance on a perfect day weather-wise. The game rules were modified considerably as was the scoring. The defense for example could earn two points for a sack or a tackle for a loss, while the offense could earn two points for a run of 15 yards or more or a completed pass of at least 20 yards.
Morris said about the offense, “We simplified things and built from the ground up.”
At the key positions, incumbent Matt Davis is the apparent number one quarterback. He took the field first with Prescott Line as his running back. Freshman Ben Hicks a mid-term high school graduate that enrolled at SMU this spring is the second team quarterback. Davis completed 8-13 with no interceptions for 134 yard and two touchdowns. Hicks was 3-9 with no interceptions for 47 yards and one touchdown.
Line led the running backs by gaining 69 yards on nine carries. His longest run was 25 yards and he scored one touchdown. Daniel Gresham had the most carries – 10 – gaining only 14 yards, which included one carry for a six yard loss. Darrel Colbert netted 24 yards on eight carries, and Darius Durall netted six yards on nine carries.
Courtland Sutton, a redshirt freshman from Brenham, had the biggest day among the receivers. The 6′-4″, 215 wide out caught six passes for 124 yards and three touchdowns. Anthony Buffini and Shelby Walker each caught three passes.
The defense looked well ahead of the offense, certainly a good sign for one of the most porous defensive teams in the country last fall. Kyran Mitchell led with seven unassisted tackles including a sack.
Morris did note though about the defense, “We’re a long way from being where we want to be.”
The offense was ragged with way too many procedure penalties, but the offense improved over the course of the game.
Morris hasn’t officially named anyone as the starting quarterback or running back. Even if he had done so, he noted before the game, “Nobody’s signing along term contracts on starting.”
For sure though, the excitement over the new coach and the future of SMU football was evident. Morris spoke about the high school football coaches that came to watch practices.
“The reception of high school coaches, we knew it was going to be big, but I didn’t think it would be this big.” He estimated that about 1,000 high school coaches came to look at the program during the course of the 14 spring training practices. “We’ve had as many as 250 to 300 a day come out to practice, and a lot of them stay after to talk football. It’s been fun. It’s been unbelievable.” He’s confident that it will pay off in recruiting.
A number of recruits attended the game Saturday, including four-star prospects Frisco offensive tackle Jack Anderson and Plano East linebacker Anthony Hines.
Three former Mustang players currently in the NFL – Richard Crawford (Chargers), Sterling Moore (Buccaneers) and Kelvin Beachum (Steelers) were also in attendance. Head basketball coach Larry Brown took the field and the microphone to thank the fans in attendance and to urge their support of the football team. He was also presented a framed jersey of the latest All-American player that he coached – Nic Moore.
“There’s so much energy right now,” Morris said. “Just the participation, the donations; people want to be a part of a winner and we’ve got to put a product on the field to make people feel excited about. And if we do that, there will be more and more of them coming out.”
Through 14 practices, we’ve actually gotten better, a LOT better,” Morris said. “I’m excited about the guys we’ve got. These guys are going to five us everything they’ve got. They’ll play hard. We’re going to coach them hard.”
As for how successful the team can be this fall, Morris said about a bowl game, “There is no reason that can’t happen.”
For sure the energy was felt Saturday just being there. It’s a new day in SMU football.