NCAA Football Preview - SMU Mustangs
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From The Sports Network By Gregg Xenakes, College Football Staff Writer 2003 SEASON IN REVIEW: There's not much to talk about when reviewing what the SMU Mustangs did (or did not do) on the football field in 2003. The team was winless in 12 attempts, finishing last in the Western Athletic Conference at 0-8. While they were not the only team at the Division I-A level to go without a single league victory, the Mustangs were just one of two teams out of 117 (the other being Army from Conference USA) to go without a single win the entire way. After bowing to Texas Tech in the opener (58-10), the Ponies combined to score just 22 points over the next three outings against the likes of Baylor, Oklahoma State and Nevada. Down the line there were two more games in which the Phil Bennett-led team scored in single digits, versus Boise State (45-3) and Louisiana Tech (41-6). Overall the team was last in the nation in scoring at just 11.2 ppg, putting up a grand total of just 134 points. Kicker Chris McMurtray, who thankfully returns for another season, scored nearly a third of those on field goals and extra-point tries. With just 260.7 yards per game in total offense, SMU placed last nationally in that category as well. With 131.3 ypg through the air the Ponies were 112th in the country, while graduating running back Keylon Kincade accounted for 106.7 ypg on the ground all on his own to at least keep that aspect of the offense a little more respectable. 2004 ANALYSIS: OFFENSE: First and foremost, Kincade has run out of eligibility with the Mustangs, so now the team has to find another source of offense. Senior Deron Brown returns as the starting fullback for the group, but last year he gained a meager 26 yards on 11 carries, with a long run of seven yards. Needless to say, SMU needs to get better production from the backfield. At the quarterback position, the Ponies are also looking in a new direction, with sophomore signal-caller Chris Phillips assuming the duties under center. Phillips started the last five games of 2003 as a true freshman, converting 35-of-65 attempts for 389 yards and two scores, both of those coming against Rice. Ironically, Phillips also finished second on the team in rushing with 246 yards and one touchdown, which means the unit will more than likely base its offense around the run once again. Senior wideouts Matt Rushbrook and Trey Griffin are also returning starters for the group, but for all their efforts last season they combined for just 45 catches, leading to 554 yards and three touchdowns. Rushbrook should have a more productive 2004 though, now that he has a year under his belt at the position after spending the first two-and-a- half years at SMU in the defensive secondary. Certainly a strength for the group has to be the four returning starters on the offensive line, those being Grant Eidson, Townsend Hargis, Darrin Johnson and Brad Kieschnick. DEFENSE: More than anything else, the defense for the Ponies will be what keeps them alive and hopefully from going winless once again this year. The unit brings back a total of nine starters from a year ago, with defensive tackle Allan Adami the focal point. Adami, a second-team All-WAC choice in 2003, doesn't just make plays in the trenches, rather chasing them down all over the field. Adami started all 12 games for SMU last year, making 75 tackles for the group, including 4.5 TFLs. Joining him on the front line are senior Melvin Williams and Desmond Jones, along with sophomore Justin Rogers who posted 34 tackles in his first year with the program. D.D. Lee, a senior at one linebacker spot, tied for the team lead in tackles in 2003 with a total of 100 stops, with eight of those behind the line of scrimmage. Reggie Carrington, just a sophomore, is another young athlete who is considered a returning starter for the group, and should easily improve upon his 32 tackles from 2003. Now a junior, Rolando Humphrey has played in every game since stepping onto campus in Dallas. He might be a bit undersized at defensive back, but he makes his 5-9, 170-pound frame tougher with his speed and leaping ability. At the safety spots, juniors Alvin Nnabuife and Jamey Harper do more of the dirty work, while Charles Akinyemi gets his first crack as a starter at cornerback. SPECIAL TEAMS: McMurtray, along with fellow junior Ryan Mentzel, are being penciled in as the placekicker and punter, respectively. Last season Mentzel punted a total of 76 times, resulting in an average of 38.3 ypk. More than a quarter of those punts landed inside the opponent's 20-yard line and he had a long of 71 yards to his credit, not to mention having two of them blocked. Depending on how much he is used on offense, Rushbrook could be back returning kickoffs, punts or both, but at the moment there is nothing written in stone as far as who has the inside track for those spots. OUTLOOK: The Mustangs don't have to travel far when it comes to who they play in non-conference games in 2004, hosting Texas Tech in the opener and then heading to TCU and Oklahoma State the following two weeks, but they will have far to fall if those squads put on their "A" games and run SMU into the ground. Down the line the schedule makers didn't do the Ponies any favors with road trips to Boise State, Rice and Fresno State. At least the school doesn't have to play out on the island against Hawaii this season or else it could really get ugly. Even so, getting just a win or two will be a challenge.