SMU SCOUTING REPORT
Chad Morris has infused new life into the SMU offense. He brought his very successful playbook from Clemson, Tulsa, and Lake Travis to SMU. It didn’t disappoint against a talented Baylor D. The facts are that this is no where near the same putrid offense that only managed 6 points against the Mean Green last year.
The Morris offense is based primarily off the run. If you shut down the running game it will make it more difficult for SMU to be successful. The SMU running game uses two distinct blocking styles. They will run power plays with the pulling guard for inside running plays and the zone blocking scheme for running plays used to stretch the defense horizontally. Morris puts pressure on defenses with his pre snap movements and motions. As many of you saw last Friday against Baylor he will use the jet motion with a WR or RB and either hand it off to the skill player or Morris will go with a Zone Read off that motion. The Zone Read factor is multiplied when you have a guy like Matt Davis at QB that is really athletic. Davis ran it 24 times against Baylor. Not all of those were designed runs. I would say half of them were just break downs in pass protection. I dont expect SMU to run Davis as much this game. Morris will rely on his trio of backs to carry the load. The majority of the SMU runs are power plays to the RB.
When it comes to the SMU passing attack its all about stretching the defense vertically. As we saw last Friday night the first play that SMU ran was a 4 vertical route that allowed a big time athlete like Courtland Sutton to out run the defense down the field. If the SMU run game is clicking they are going to fake those QB runs and use play action/motion to try and take advantage of the NT LB’s. SMU could create some huge voids in the NT zone defense.
Chad Morris is a master technician. He will be able to create mismatches against NT and get his skill players open. NT has to be really sound in play recognition and fundamentals. Baylor missed a ton of tackles and made mental mistakes. The Mean Green cant afford to make those same mistakes.
SMU’s defense is led by a former Mean Green assistant coach Van Malone. It’s very similar to the Rice defense the Mean Green have faced. SMU runs a 4-2-5 defense that uses a safety/linebacker hybrid. The reason they do this is to help match-up with all these spread teams in college football. It allows SMU to use that extra safety in either run sport or pass coverage. SMU will probably run more zone coverage against North Texas than they did against Baylor. Baylor’s vertical passing game was no match for the coverage abilities of SMU secondary.
SMUs defense is coached to play down hill. They flew to the ball against Baylor and missed a lot of tackles. SMU was also over aggressive. When Baylor showed play action the SMU LBs took two steps forward and opened up voids behind them. The SMU DBs weren’t able to jam the Baylor WRs and were beat at the line of scrimage.
Baylor lit up SMU for most of the game, but you could see SMU was improved from last year. They weren’t constantly blown off the ball on the DL and they made a few plays with some aggressive play calls. The Mean Green wont be able to roll over SMU’s D, but they shouldn’t have trouble moving the ball either.
INSIDE THE MATCH-UPS
SMU PASS OFFENSE VS. NORTH TEXAS PASS DEFENSE
SMU’s pass offense is very aggressive like we mentioned earlier. They present a formidable challenge against NT, because SMU can stretch the field. The Mean Green struggled last year in defending passes down field. NT really struggled against teams that could run the ball and used play action to throw it deep. SMU has enough weapons and speed on the outside to where they should have the edge in this match-up. NT is breaking in safety James Gray, Chad Davis, and really Kishawn McClain to a certain extent. Gray and Davis are athletic, but are unknowns. We just really dont know how good they will be. Backing up Davis is Jamal Marshall. Marshall at 6’3 with track speed is a guy I would like to see matched up with Courtland Sutton. I know SMU will do everything they can to get Sutton matched up with Kenny Buyers. Buyers has struggled against the big fast WR’s. Even though SMU has a young group of receivers they still have the edge to me.
SMU RUN OFFENSE VS. NORTH TEXAS RUN DEFENSE
SMU’s run offense presents a number of challenges for the Mean Green defense. Their ability to stretch the field horizontally and be physical with you in the middle will make it tough on NT. The NT LBs in particular are going to have to be on their game. They can’t lose track of Davis on the Zone Read plays. They also have to be able to sort through all the misdirection and movement that Chad Morris is going to through at them. Its a tall task for the NT LB unit that is breaking in 2 new starters in Blake Bean and Brandon Garner. SMU’s trio of backs Line, Xavier Jones, & Braeden West all bring a different skill set. Line is a downhill runner. Jones does a lit bit of everything and is SMU’s best overall back. West is a speed back and will be used on those Jet Motions, WR sweeps, and some power running plays. The dimension of the SMU’s running game that NT may have trouble with the most is the unscheduled running plays by Matt Davis. Last week the Baylor DE’s lost contain on Davis multiple times. If you’re a Mean Green DE you must play even with Davis and not let him escape the pocket or step up. Keep him in the pocket and NT will make it very difficult on the SMU offense. With everything that SMU is able to do and the improved OL I believe they have the edge of the Mean Green in the run game.
SMU OFFENSIVE LINE VS. NORTH TEXAS DEFENSIVE LINE
SMU’s zone blocking runs will especially do damage against the Mean Green. NT really struggled against zone running teams last year. Just look at Southern Miss who was averaging 95 yards a game coming in their game with NT last year. Southern Miss was able to go for over 200 yards. Part of the problem was NT wasn’t able to get any penetration. The interior of the Mean Green DL just wasn’t big enough and NT had trouble setting the edge. Both of those things are paramount for NT being able to stop SMU Saturday. The Mean Green must get better play from their interior DLinmen – Orr, Young, Wallace, and Tauaalo. The DE’s and OLB’s must be able to set edge. Roberts, Dilonga, Combs, Johnson. If the Mean Green defense is able to keep the SMU running game in check it should lead to a pretty good pass rush being released by NT. DE’s Combs, Polk, Roberts, and Johnson are all pass rushing specialists. Again the key is to suffocate Davis, not to provide him with escape routes. I think the Mean Green DL is improved enough to where they have the slight edge against SMU. Kevin Patrick is a great DL coach and got a lot out of his unit last year. A unit that was short on depth and talent. Patrick has more weapons to unleash this year and it should be fun to watch Saturday.
EDGE: Slight North Texas
NORTH TEXAS PASS OFFENSE VS. SMU PASS DEFENSE
SMU struggled last week to stay with and in front of the Baylor WRs. The North Texas WRs don’t quite present the same challenges that Baylor presented SMU. In fact there are a lot of unknows when it comes to the North Texas WR group. Carlos Harris will be the focal point for SMU, but there are other guys who can hurt SMU. Tee Goree and Turner Smiley are not household names, and SMU doesn’t know what challenges those 2 guys present, but they will be able to get open against the SMU corners. Those 2 guys aren’t the only upgrades to the NT passing attack. Darvin Kidsy is better and newcomer Thaddeous Thompson adds a threat as an outside receiver. Add all that along with a guy that SMU has no answer for in TE Marcus Smith and North Texas should have the edge in the passing game. NT’s WR/TE’s should be able to get open against SMU. They should be able to find the voids. QB Andrew McNulty should be able to work the underneath to intermediate routes all day long.
EDGE: Slight North Texas
NORTH TEXAS RUN OFFENSE VS. SMU RUN DEFENSE
North Texas is loaded at the RB position. Jeffery Wilson is a secret that will be unleashed on Saturday. He may not be a secret to Mean Green fans, but SMU isnt looking out for him. Wilson is a dynamic runner that is poor mans Adrian Peterson. Jimmerson is back and has big play ability. Willy Ivory is a speedster and look out for Andrew Tucker to get some touches. NTs running game has the ability to wear down SMU. Especially with the new up-tempo factor that NT is using. Dont discount McNulty’s abilty to hit SMU with a few runs. Offensive Coordinator Mike Canales is very willing to use a zone read, or the inverted zone read play. North Texas is much like SMU where the running game is the key to the offense being successful. I give the Mean Green the edge here. Wilson should have a big day.
EDGE: North Texas
NORTH TEXAS OFFENSIVE LINE VS. SMU DEFENSIVE LINE
One of the biggest unknown factors in this game is how the Mean Green OL will fair against the SMU DL. Like most of you know NT is replacing 4 starters on the OL, but they have the QB of OL back in Kaydon Kirby. Kirby should help tremendously in making calls at the line of scrimmage. The issue with NTs offensive line will be their pass blocking ability. I believe the right side of the line with Thompson and Miles will struggle with SMU’s pass rush. Wouldn’t be surprised to see SMU blitz off this side either. I give SMU the slight edge here. Primarily because we dont know a whole lot about NT’s ability with the revamped OL.
EDGE: Slight SMU
SMU SPECIAL TEAMS VS. NORTH TEXAS SPECIAL TEAMS
This is one area that North Texas should dominate. North Texas has a great kicker in Trevor Moore. They have 2 good punters in Blake Macek, and Eric Keena. NT also has a dynamic return guy in Darvin Kidsy. Kidsy can turn the field over in a hurry. One area that gets over looked is NT’s ability to block kicks. Blocked kicks and big returns lead to a short field for a Mean Green offense that will welcome it.
EDGE: North Texas
5 KEY PERSONNEL MATCH-UPS
NT C Kaydon Kirby vs SMU NT Mason Gentry
NT TE Marcus Smith vs SMU STAR Shakiel Randolph
NT CB Chad Davis vs SMU WR Courtland Sutton
NT LB Fred Scott/Courtney Finney vs SMU RB Xavier Jones
NT QB Andrew McNulty vs SMU QB Matt Davis
STARS DO MATTER
Average rating of SMU Starters = 2.72 Stars
Average rating of NT Starters = 2.18 Stars
NT D Starters – 2.5 Stars vs. SMU OFF Starters – 2.9 Stars
NT OFF Starters – 1.8 Stars vs. SMU D Starters – 2.5 Stars
GAME PLAN FOR VICTORY
How SMU will Win
SMU will win if they get off to a quick start and force North Texas and their new up-tempo offense into early 3 and outs. If SMU is able to control the game with their misdirection and running offense its going to be hard for NT to stop them. It will also put a lot of pressure on the Mean Greens offense. NT doesn’t want pressure on their offense. Its not an offense built to win a shootout.
How North Texas will Win
North Texas will win if they are able to establish the running game early. Everything this new up-tempo offense wants to do begins and ends with running the football. A successful running game will allow NT to get the passing game going. SMU has a young defense that wants to play down hill. The running game will slow them down and open up the play action. North Texas also has to win the battle on the line of scrimmage against SMU OL. If the NT DL is able to penetrate the gaps and control the middle of the field it will greatly hinder the SMU offense.