Let’s Discuss Chad Morris’ SMU

We beat this team 43-6.

It was cathartic to put such a beat down on a team after getting so frustrated against Texas in what was an Opportunity Game.

Texas was down, and UNT was coming off its greatest year in a decade. As Greg had posited, there would be no greater time to beat Texas. Alas, that game was an offensive faceplant and the defense looked exhausted trying to do everything 1.

SMU was reeling at the tail end of the June Jones’s tenure. He didn’t want to be there, he most definitely didn’t want to recruit. The Ponies got bombed the first month of the season.

For us, it was light in an otherwise very dim season. The offensive woes are well-documented and the causes thereof are well-speculated.

So what kind of Pony team will we see on Saturday? Well one coached by Chad Morris, he of offensive fame.

Chad Morris surprised and delighted everyone in University Park and the college football-watching nation by leading his Ponies to 21 points in 21 minutes, obliterating last year’s opening anemic pace.

He comes from Clemson, and beyond that, from the ranks of Texas High School including following up Art Briles at Stephenville. He learned a bit from Gus Malzahn.

His offense isn’t air-raid, and it isn’t Oregon. It’s supposed to be both.

The linked article above from Ian Boyd does a great job explaining the basic tenets of the offense. Greg also summed up the essentials for you.

For our purposes, we’ll take a quick look at some of the success SMU had doing some of those things against Baylor. This isn’t comprehensive or intended to be so, just enough to get a quick idea of how they’ll play and where we’ll be vulnerable.

Deep Ball

SMU opened up the new era … by letting the offensive machine that is Baylor go down and score in a handful of plays. Then they started with a bomb to Cortland Sutton from Matt Davis.

Sutton finished with 82 yards and two touchdowns on four catches. Both his TDs were of the deep ball variety.

Even though the entirety of the offense is based on the inside run and the deep passes are there to keep us honest, it is this that scares me the most. North Texas was vulnerable to the long stuff on MGN-favorite Kenny Buyers’ side in 2014. James Jones was our best cover corner last season and he’s gone. Instead we have the much talked about Jamal Marshall.

Marshall is fast, big and hyped. He will also be on the bench to start. Chad Davis will start with Marshall getting snaps in his stead or when we go Nickel. More likely is that Zac Whitfield will get some time depending on his fitness. James Gray and Kishawn McClain will have safety duties and will have to live up to 2013’s safety duo of Trice & Lee. They got big hits, INTs, and forced fumbles. If they can play at at least 80% of that level we should be okay. And really, that’s all we are looking for. Okay-ness.

Simply put, the big plays are most dangerous because they don’t allow our defense a crabs to make plays. It’s difficult for me to even write because the concept is so obvious don’t allow the other team to score on one play

The more plays an offense runs, the more you’ll get an opportunity to mess something up. At least that’s the idea. You don’t necessarily want teams to run 15-play TD drives but you get the idea. If they score, you make sure they go deep into their bag of tricks.

Dive

First, let me apologize for the quality of the gif. I began writing this on my iMac and continued later on my MacBook Air which doesn’t have the source video and is way less powerful.2 So I had to use the web stuff.

The above is an inside zone and not the power run stuff Greg mentioned in his Breakdown. but the idea is the same. This is what the entire thing is based on conceptually. SMU will option off this dive, they’ll screen off this, they’ll throw deep off this. If we stop the dive run with our base defense we can defend the constraint stuff just fine. It’s when they start getting 4-5 yards every time that and we start walking up the safeties that we’ll get burned by the other stuff.

I imagine our worst case scenario beginning with a 50-yard TD play to begin the game for Davis and Sutton. Then we go three-and-out and they follow that up with a 13-play drive where they work us with runs and play-action. They then control the game the rest of the way.

Improv

Finally the X-factor. Matt Davis made tons of extra plays with his legs agains Baylor early. He extended drives, and avoided losses. He turned would-be sacks into big gains by getting outside of containment and throwing strikes.

The above example doesn’t show the catch down the field but that’s the least important part. Davis will be the threat we thought Dajon Williams was going to be for us last season. I don’t have to tell you about the impact mobility at the QB position has had in modern college football. Matt Davis will make some plays outside of the pocket on improv plays but also on designed runs and options off the power and inside reads.

To stop this, I’m hoping the defensive line gets enough penetration to blow up run plays early, so the linebackers don’t have to feel like they need to cheat up to make plays. If they are cheating up then our defense will get opened up for play-action, QB keepers on the option stuff and jet sweeps.

The other, less obvious thing is tackling on the edge. Our Defensive Coordinator Chris Cosh runs a version of 4-3 with Quarters coverage. Our corners will be imperative in stopping the run game on the edges. We already know Kenny Buyers can tackle but can the other guys?

Summary

SMU’s offense is run by a canny play-caller that has coached every different kind of offense in the last 20 years. He knows his stuff and has learned from the best the college game has to offer. There is a reason he was highly sought-after.


  1. the defense scored a TD. 
  2. Yes, I do realize how this all sounds.