With Sonny Dykes taking over for Chad Morris, who departed for Arkansas, the program is at a crossroads. Will the program continue its ascension up the ranks of the American Athletic Conference or will it take a step back. When Coach Morris took over the Mustangs job in 2015, the cupboards were bare, but Dykes gets back into the coaching ranks with more talent to work with than his predecessor.
The offense still has firepower. Sure the Mustangs will have to replace the dynamic duo of Courtland Sutton and Trey Quinn at wide receiver, but starting quarterback Ben Hicks will have options at the position with James Proche’ returning and Armanii Glaspie, CJ Sanders and Reggie Roberson transferring into the program from TCU, Notre Dame, and West Virginia respectively. All three will benefit from having a quarterback in Hicks that has grown tremendously over the past three years in Dallas. Not only did Hicks improve his completion percentage from 2015, passed for 639 more yards and decreased his interceptions. Dykes has success in playing to a quarterback’s strength — at Cal, Davis Webb passed for 4,200 yards and was drafted in the third round. It might not be as high, but if Hicks can continue to improve, his could find his name being called in next years draft.
It may take time for Hicks to develop chemistry with his new receivers so early on, it would be advantageous for Dykes and his offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee to rely on the run game to set the tone. Dykes has a wealth of riches at running back with all three major contributors in 2017 returning. Xavier Jones is the lead back and led the team in rushing with 1,159 yards and nine touchdowns, but his backups, Braeden West (753 yards, two touchdowns) and Ke’Mon Freeman (571, 11 touchdowns) bring just as much to the table.
Defensively, there is nowhere to go but up. After ranking in the lower third in every statistical category defensive coordinator Kevin Kane has to hope the experience returning to that side of the ball learned from its mistakes. Defensive backs Jordan Wyatt and Mikial Onu are the most talented on the defense and hope that Texas A&M transfer linebacker Richard Moore can bring some of that SEC toughness to a team that was exposed on the ground and through the air against any team with a pulse last season.
After winning seven games last season, the win total for the Mustangs may decrease to get the team where Dykes and his staff need it to be. Last season the Mustangs’ were 6-1 at home last season; unfortunately, SMU will have to travel to Denton, New Orleans, Tulsa, and Storrs if it wants those wins in 2018.