SMU Mustangs Preview 2022: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the SMU season with what you need to know and keys to the season.
SMU Mustangs Preview
Head Coach: Rhett Lashlee, 0-0, 1st year at SMU
2021 Preview: Overall: 8-4, Conference: 4-4
Keys To The Season
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
SMU Top 10 Players | SMU Schedule
SMU Mustangs Preview 2022
Let’s put it this way.
If Rhett Lashlee was named the bright young new head coach of the TCU Horned Frogs instead of the bright young new head coach of the SMU Mustangs, would it seem the least bit shocking?
Former SMU head coach Sonny Dykes took over the TCU gig, and the 39-year-old Lashlee will take the leap from interesting offensive coordinator to first time head man.
He was the SMU OC in 2018 and 2019 before being plucked away by Miami, and now it’s his job to take the program up another level.
Things have been fine at SMU, but there’s been a hard ceiling on how high it’s been able to get over the last few years. The winning seasons have been nice, but the Mustangs finished sixth in the AAC last year and fifth the year before in the division-less format.
And yes, the focus will be on Lashlee and the staff growing into the job as the AAC reboots next year without Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF – and adds a slew of fine-not-amazing programs to Moneyball its way to replace the stars – but this team should be good enough to be in the mix in 2022, too.
The biggest games are at home, the experience is there, and the expectations will be set at bowl-not-AAC-title level. This team should be good enough to exceed that.
Lashlee might just be the catalyst to turn SMU into the AAC’s power program going forward – at least that’s the hope.
SMU Mustangs Preview 2022: Offense
It’s a Rhett Lashlee-coached team. It’s going to throw the ball – he’s a former SMU offensive coordinator under Sonny Dykes – and it’s going to crank up the production.
The offense is loaded with experienced parts, good skill guys, and the line to make it all work from the No. 1 AAC attack last year.
It led the league with 466 yards and 38 points per game, but it couldn’t rise up and come through down the stretch of a rough second half of the season.
Lashlee and offensive coordinator Casey Woods have their veteran quarterback to make it all go. Former Oklahoma transfer Tanner Mordecai threw for over 3,600 yards and 39 touchdowns with 12 picks in an All-AAC season, and Preston Stone is a rising talent who’ll get every shot at the gig.
The receivers are there to make it all rock, even with Danny Gray, Reggie Roberson, and TE Grant Calcaterra – three of the team’s top four targets – done.
Leading receiver Rashee Rice – 64 catches with nine scores – is back – he’s the No. 1 guy – and the corps landed a few great parts with All-Conference USA target Jake Bailey from Rice, Beau Corrales from North Carolina, and Kelvontay Dixon from Texas.
The running game should be like it was last year. It might not blast away for a gazillion yards per game, but as long as it’s averaging around 4.6 yards per carry again, it’ll be doing its job.
Longtime all-around factor Ulysses Bentley is off to Ole Miss, but former North Texas transfer Tre Siggers is back after averaging five yards per pop with nine scores, and with a team-high 727 yards.
TJ McDaniel is back after suffering an injury, and ready to roll is Alabama transfer Camar Wheaton. The talent is there from Wheaton and the rest of the backs to do the job.
The SMU line will play around with the veteran parts – four starters are expected back from the end of last year – but Alan Ali is off to TCU and the depth will have to come from the transfer portal. Overall, the group that was the best in the AAC in pass protection should be fine once the staff comes up with the right starting five.
SMU Mustangs Preview 2022: Defense
If the Mustangs could get any more consistency out of the defense, and if it could somehow step up against the better teams, this could and should be a ten-win team.
The Mustangs allowed 415 yards and 28 points per game, doing a nice job against the run but having lots and lots of problem against the better passing games, giving up 200 yards or more against everyone but Navy.
The front three should be the early strength. Leading pass rusher DeVere Levelston is back at one end after coming up with 6.5 sacks, Elijah Chatman is an all-star who can get into the backfield from the other side, and it all works around 324-pound Terrance Newman – a big presence in the interior who has to hold up.
The outside linebackers will be factors again, too. Turner Coxe has been a solid four-year producer, and Jimmy Phillips was second on the team with 60 tackles.
Isaac Slade-Matautia was a good three-year tackler at Oregon State and should bring the size and thump again in the middle of the Mustang linebacking corps. The transfer portal is bringing in a ton of help for the depth, at the very least.
Now the secondary has to do its part. The corners will be figured out in fall camp, but there are options to play around with. The safeties can hit, and new to the mix is ULM veteran Nick Roberts, a good tackler who’ll find the field in some way.