North Texas Daily

Behind enemy lines: an inside look at SMU

Behind enemy lines: an inside look at SMU

North Texas sophomore quarterback Mason Fine (6) throws the ball downfield as he is being hit by a defender in the Mean Green's 59-14 win against Lamar University. Nathan Roberts

Behind enemy lines: an inside look at SMU
September 07
15:33 2017

Editor’s note: Before Saturday night’s rivalry game between North Texas and SMU, the North Texas Daily went behind enemy lines with Nikki Chavanelle, publisher of SMU Rivals.com and Olivia Pitten and Jacob Prothro, Sports Editor and Sports Writer at SMU’s The Daily Campus to get an inside scoop on the Mustangs.

Here are some highlights from Chavanelle (NC), Pitten (OP) and Prothro (JP).

1) Who is SMU’s most important player and why?

NC: SMU has a lot of offensive weapons, but the make-or-break factor for SMU is going to be quarterback play all season long. SMU’s run game was really effective against Stephen F. Austin University while the Lumberjacks shut down the Mustang receivers, but that’s not going to be the situation every game. If Ben Hicks can connect with Courtland Sutton, Trey Quinn, James Proche and all the other offensive weapons –that’s going to be the difference maker.

OP: On a team of 85 players, success is a team effort. It’s hard to name just one guy as the most important. On SMU’s team, the quarterback, Ben Hicks, is an integral key player to completing successful plays. Courtland Sutton has been an obvious standout in the previous seasons. His decision to return to play, instead of the NFL Draft, was a significant decision and we’re all anxious to see his performance on the field this year.

JP: Courtland Sutton is probably SMU’s most important player. He’s a tall receiver that has game-breaking speed and athleticism. He is projected to be a first round pick and is on several preseason All-American lists. He can make plays on offense that nobody else can, and is generally a mismatch for every defense SMU faces. If Hicks can get him the ball often, then the passing game is usually stout and running lanes open up for speedy Braeden West and Xavier Jones as the defense starts to back off the line to play the pass.

2) What is SMU’s biggest weakness?

NC: Unfortunately, SMU’s biggest weakness is their pass defense. While the defensive line had a very solid game against SFA, the Mustangs’ linebackers are still untested for the most part and the secondary is very young, starting three sophomores. The Mustangs gave up nine yards per reception against the Lumberjacks and it’s worrisome to think about what could happen when SMU plays teams with more firepower than Jake Blumrick.

OP: SMU’s offense and defense are looking incredibly strong this year. After the missed extra point last week, I think special teams is the area they could always improve on.

JP: Judging by last week, it’s special teams. SFA was able to return two kickoffs past the 50, and our kicker missed an extra point. Against an offense like North Texas’, you can’t give them good field position to start a drive.

North Texas senior running back Jeffery Wilson (3) attempts to stiff arm sophomore Caleb Abrom (13). Wilson finished the game with 176 yards on 12 carries. Colin Mitchell

3) Have the Mustangs finally solidified their quarterback position?

NC: Ben Hicks is SMU’s starter and will remain the starter unless he makes some really bad mistakes. Hicks has the best grasp of the Mustangs’ offense and he has the most game experience. He’s not as mobile as D.J. Gillins or as accurate as Rafe Peavey but the team and the coaching staff is fully behind him. Not to mention that he has the most chemistry with the starting receivers.

OP: Although all three quarterbacks got playing time in the game against SFA, Ben Hicks will remain the starting quarterback against North Texas.

JP: To put it simply, no. Ben Hicks will get the start against North Texas, but he looked inconsistent against Stephen F. Austin. He finished 9-19 for 112 yards and two TD’s but lacked the touch that you’d expect. He also threw a pass that should’ve been intercepted, but James Proche was able to make a fantastic catch to save him. Behind him are D.J. Gillins and Rafe Peavey. Gillins didn’t look great throwing the football, but is an elite scrambler. Peavey looked solid, completing all three of his passes and extending plays with his legs. At this point, it’s Hicks job to lose, but the gap is closing.

4) What are the keys to the game for SMU?

NC: All SMU needs to do to win the game against the Mean Green is stay sharp on offense and not make mistakes. If Hicks can complete passes and the offensive line can hold up and protect him (like they did really well against SFA) then they should be able to put enough points on the board to counter the Mean Green run game and hopefully, the defensive line can get after Fine and cause some disruption.

OP: For SMU, key components to success on the field include running the ball effectively, controlling the line on both sides and dominating control of the ball. With the inconsistencies present in SMU’s QB spot, it’s imperative the offensive line remains strong and their running game develops.

JP: SMU has to get their running game going to take pressure off of their QB. With the way Hicks played last week, you don’t want him throwing the ball more than 30 times. Defensively they need to stop the pass and force the Mean Green to run the ball into their big defensive line.

5) Game prediction 

NC: SMU wins 34-20. I think the Mustangs are going to get off to a hot start and never look back. The Mean Green have the run game to answer with a few scores, but SMU’s receivers are all hungry for a bounce back game after being shut down last week.

OP: SMU wins 35-21. After SMU’s powerful presence and overall dominance last week, I think SMU will handle North Texas.

JP: SMU wins 45-31. The Mustangs just have too many weapons on offense for North Texas to contain, and that should prove to be the difference.

Featured Image: North Texas sophomore quarterback Mason Fine (6) throws the ball downfield as he is being hit by a defender in the Mean Green’s 59-14 win against Lamar University. Nathan Roberts

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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