2003 College Football Preview's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  SMU Mustangs

The Lowdown
Coach: Phil Bennett (2nd year, 3-9)
2002 record: 3-9
WAC finish: T-6th
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 182.3 ypg
(3rd in WAC, 39th in nation)
Pass: 159.3 ypg (9th, 98th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 159.4 ypg (3rd, 63rd)
Pass: 244.3 ypg (6th, 97th)
Projected Starters
Offense (6 returning starters in bold)
WR  Daniel Francis  So. 
WR  21  Chris Cunningham  Sr. 
LT  60  Eric Neal  Jr. 
LG   62   Brad Kieschnick   So.  
C   69   Steve Reindl   Sr.  
RG   70   Townsend Hargis   Jr.  
RT   75   Sterling Harris   Sr.  
TE  49  Trent Hrncir  Sr. 
QB   13   Richard Bartel   So.  
TB   32   Keylon Kincade   Sr.  
FB  20  Derron Brown  Jr. 
Defense (7)
DE   90   Melvin Williams   Jr.  
NG  68  Randy Denman  Fr. 
DT   14   Allan Adami   Jr.  
DE   30   D. Ieremia-Stansbury   So.  
SLB   46   Brian Bischoff   Sr.  
MLB  35  D.D. Lee  Jr. 
WLB   38   D.D. Johnson   Sr.  
CB   3   Jonas Rutledge   Sr.  
CB  26  Rolando Humphrey  So. 
SS   6   Rico Harris   Jr.  
FS  16  Jamey Harper  So. 
Special Teams
31  Chris McMurtray  So. 
41  Ryan Mentzel  So. 
KR  Jonas Rutledge  Sr. 
PR  Jonas Rutledge  Sr. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  at Texas Tech 
Sept. 13  at Baylor 
Sept. 20  Oklahoma State 
Sept. 27  at Nevada 
Oct. 4  UTEP 
Oct. 11  at San Jose State 
Oct. 18  Boise State 
Oct. 25  at Tulsa 
Nov. 1  Fresno State 
Nov. 8  at Louisiana Tech 
Nov. 15  Rice 
Nov. 29  TCU 
Phil Bennett admits that his first season as the head coach at SMU didn't go quite as smoothly as he had hoped.

"It wasn't an ideal first year," Bennett said of a 3-9 season that started off unexpectedly with seven straight losses. "But we finished the season off on a high note [winning three of their last five games], and I think we had a very good offseason. I think we put the foundation in place. Now we have to start building on it."

With 13 starters back, the Mustangs should be improved in 2003. One big reason for that is the team actually has two experienced quarterbacks. Sophomore Richard Bartel returns after going 3-2 in a starting role. Another sophomore, Tate Wallis, started the first seven games and should benefit from an extra year of experience.

Compare that to last fall when both were thrust into the starting lineup as freshmen after the two quarterbacks who were expected to compete for the job, David Page and Kelan Luker, quit football before the season to pursue business interests.

Page went to work for Ernst & Young, while Luker, a bass player for a band called Submerged, moved to Orlando after the group received a recording contract.

Then toss in the fact that standout wide receiver Chris Cunningham also was lost for the season when he broke his foot in preseason camp, and it's easy to understand why SMU's passing game also could have been called "Submerged.'' SMU finished a dreadful 106th in the nation in passing efficiency and finished with just 11 touchdown passes.


Bartel returns after completing 60.1 percent of his passes for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns. By comparison, the Ponies threw just three touchdown passes in the first seven games of a 3-9 campaign.

Bartel and Wallis will both benefit from last year's tough introduction to college football. With two experienced quarterbacks, plus Cunningham, Bennett vows to open up things more on offense this season.

"With our inexperience at quarterback last year, we had a problem with consistency," Bennett said. "We had some limitations, so we really focused on running the ball."

SMU's running attack should be one of the best in the WAC. Senior Keylon Kincade earned second team all-conference honors and was a workhorse last season for the Mustangs, rushing a school-record 327 times for 1,279 yards and seven touchdowns.


Seven starters return from a unit that allowed the fewest first downs in the WAC (218), but was prone to giving up the big play. The defensive line returns three starters, including tackle Allan Adami, an all-conference candidate. Adami had 13.5 tackles for a loss. Bennett is expecting big things from ends Don Ieremia-Stansbury and Melvin Williams, who combined to start 12 games last season.

The Mustangs lose three-time All-WAC pick Vic Viloria at middle linebacker, but Bennett still believes his veteran linebackers have the makings of a good unit. Both outside linebackers, senior Brian Bischoff, who has 28 career starts, and D.D. Johnson, return. Junior D.D. Lee started the final two games last season when Viloria was injured and did an excellent job stuffing the run.

The Mustangs lose one of the WAC's best in cornerback Kevin Garrett but return a number of players with extensive experience in the secondary. Leading the way is senior cornerback Jonas Rutledge, a first team All-WAC pick in 2001 who has 27 pass breakups over the last two seasons.


Sophomore Ryan Mentzel, who averaged 38.2 yards, is back at punter. Classmate Chris McMurtray returns at kicker, but highly touted freshman Ryan Wolcott also will get a strong look.

Rutledge is one of the nation's top kickoff returners. He has seven returns of 50 yards or more over the past two seasons.


The Mustangs hope Bartel not only stays healthy, but can also avoid the dreaded sophomore jinx. With Cunningham's return, SMU should have a much better passing attack and a more balanced offense than a year ago. The defense was stingy at times but prone to breakdowns and big plays. And special teams must improve greatly from a year ago.

The schedule is tough, but if the Mustangs can survive the first half of their season they could have the momentum to finish in the upper half of the WAC.

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