The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU Juniors Jaisan Avery and Kayla Spears paint together during Curlchella hosted by SMU Fro, Dallas Texas, Wednesday April 17, 2024 (©2024/Mikaila Neverson/SMU).
SMU Fro's Curlchella recap
Mikaila Neverson, News Editor • April 23, 2024
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In Wake of Draft, SMU Now Tasked With Replacing Key Players

After+five+SMU+football+players+were+given+the+chance+to+play+professional+football%2C+the+program+looks+to+fill+their+shoes.+Photo+credit%3A+Zach+Fiedler
After five SMU football players were given the chance to play professional football, the program looks to fill their shoes. Photo credit: Zach Fiedler

It wasn’t the coronation that James Proche and SMU football expected on Saturday. To be fair, it wasn’t the draft that anybody could have seen coming just a couple months ago.

Late into the afternoon, with the 201st pick of the draft, one of SMU’s most prolific wide receivers went off the board, finally. The waiting game for Proche might have taken longer than expected, even promoting multiple tweets from teammates and those inside the program that openly mused why the wide receiver’s stock had fallen throughout the day.

But in the end, it is the same result for the program — a result that it has prepared for since a loss in the Boca Raton Bowl in late December. Replacing 111 catches and 1,225 yards of receiving has been the task at hand for SMU for months now. With Proche moving on, the answers to exactly how the offense will make up for the record-setting receiver are still up in the air. Canceled spring practices have not helped in this regard either.

New offensive coordinator Garrett Riley has been tight lipped on exactly how he sees his options in front of him. The obvious replacement is Reggie Roberson Jr., who moonlighted occasionally as SMU’s top receiving threat on a handful of occasions last year. Roberson’s campaign was cut short by a foot injury he sustained in Houston towards the end of the season, but he still finished with 803 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Head coach Sonny Dykes indicated after the first spring practice that it was a natural step for him to take the reins.

“Reggie was kind of our home run threat last year and James [Proche] was our consistent guy. Now Reggie will have to wear the consistent guy hat along with the home run threat hat,” Dykes said. “It is good for him. That is what great receivers do. They may be a big play guy but they are also a third and medium and fourth and five.”

But Roberson alone will not be able to carry the load for an offensive that averages over 300 passing yards a contest and throws the ball nearly 38 times a game. Those numbers might even be outdated with Riley wanting to implement a faster style of play, so the supporting cast will be ever important. SMU certainly believes it has the pieces to pick up where it left off, but they are untested.

Keke Burns, Rashee Rice and Calvin Wiggins are the younger receivers currently waiting for their chance. The three of them combined have 26 catches and one touchdown. Tyler Page, the elder statesman now, and Austin Upshaw have also been in the mix to take on a more defining role, but they too have limited time in the spotlight. Page has hauled in 26 receptions on his own in three years, and Upshaw is transitioning from the quarterback position. As for which one of these players will step up to fill the number two role, however, is still a long way off as the evaluation process has been stymied by the virus.

Among the other names to drop onto NFL rosters on Saturday, via free agency, were Xavier Jones, Ryan Becker, Rodney Clemons and Delontae Scott. All four respective Mustangs announced in the hours after the draft they would sign contracts. In replacing their production, SMU will have to follow a similar script.

https://twitter.com/The_XavierJones/status/1254203980571455489

At the running back spot, perhaps the most intriguing of position battles heading into the fall, Jones’ 25 touchdowns, that led the nation, will be missed. In the current running backs room, headed by the newly appointed Ra’Shaad Samples, sits TJ McDaniels and Ulysses Bentley IV. Outside of a breakout game against Texas State in week three of the season for McDaniels, the group lacks experience. Tyler Lavine and TaMerik Williams have also turned heads, according to Samples, but it is certainly a position with something to prove.

With many question marks, even as SMU feels confident the answers are in the locker room, 2020 will be a season that the coaching staff relies on its proven entities to build on a 10-win year. The continuity at the quarterback position in Shane Buechele, who was recently tabbed as a top 10 quarterback to watch by CBS Sports, and at head coaching will likely be its greatest strength.

For now, though, the coaching staff is content with what it has. The questions on the outside will likely remain until week one, but that is nothing new for a program that is accustomed to having people doubt.

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