The SMU Mustangs will be making the move up to the Big East in 2013, but the transition won’t be easy for head coach June Jones and company. One of the strengths of the team in 2012, their defensive front, becomes their most glaring hole this spring as they try to figure out how to replace five starters up front before next fall.
Last season, the Mustangs were the No. 1 team in Conference USA against the run. They were led by linebackers Ja’Gared Davis and Taylor Reed who combined for 174 tackles, 25.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks in 2012 earning Davis first-team All-Conference USA honors and honorable mention for Reed. They are both gone along with three other key contributors in the front seven from last season.
Jones will turn to Kevin Pope and Robert Seals to step up this spring and become the new leaders of the defense. Pope, a senior, played in all 13 games last season but made a minimal impact with tackles on defense but did recover three fumbles, forced another and blocked a kick. Seals saw minimal playing time during his redshirt freshman season in 2012, making just three tackles with a quarterback hurry in eight games played.
SMU will need to find some fresh faces to step up this spring as they won’t have a great deal of experience to lean on as they change conferences next fall. The move to the Big East will be a step up in competition for the Mustangs from their time with C-USA. Jones will have to put his faith in some untested players, however, to get SMU through this transition.
Will the new blood rise to the challenge and lead the Mustangs to a competitive finish in year one in the Big East?