On Saturday, the Southern Methodist Mustangs (3-0, 0-0) will face off against No. 25 ranked Memphis Tigers (1-0, 0-0) at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas, Texas. Due to a rash of COVID-19 cases, nearly a month has elapsed since the Tigers dismantled Arkansas State on Sept. 5.
While the Tigers will hope to find their footing early, the Mustangs have been operating like a well-oiled machine through three games. Quarterback Shane Buechele leads the high-octane SMU offense, while linebacker Richard McBryde serves as the defensive catalyst.
With playmakers on both sides of the ball, the Mustangs are primed to garner national attention with a Saturday win. Let’s examine eight players of note from SMU.
SMU football prospects to watch against Memphis
QB Shane Buechele
The Texas transfer started all 13 games for the Mustangs last season, completing 307 of his 490 pass attempts for 3,929 yards and 34 touchdowns. Buechele’s average passing yards per game (302.2) and touchdown total ranked first in the American Athletic Conference. His banner season yielded a plethora of accolades, including first-team All-AAC honors.
No longer an unknown, Buechele entered the 2020 season with high expectations. The 6-foot-1, 207-pound signal-caller landed on the Davey O’Brien, Maxwell, and Manning Award watch lists, Phil Steele’s first-team All-AAC preseason list, and the Reese’s Senior Bowl Top 250.
Buechele has completed 64 of 94 pass attempts for 852 yards, seven touchdowns, and two interceptions thus far.
Built similarly to Baker Mayfield, Buechele is a quick mental processor with a decent arm and commendable pocket awareness. By the end of the 2019 season, Buechele demonstrated a quicker release and the ability to eliminate and isolate as he scanned the field.
RB Ulysses Bentley IV
Bentley was limited to just eight offensive touches for 66 scrimmage yards behind Xavier Jones and Ke’Mon Freeman before ultimately redshirting. However, the redshirt freshman has asserted himself quite nicely in his first season in the spotlight.
The 5-foot-10, 184-pound runner is currently the nation’s leader in rushing yards (380) and tied for most touchdowns on the ground (7), averaging a cool 10.6 yards per attempt. Over the past two weeks, the Houston native has rushed for 331 yards and five touchdowns on 25 attempts.
Regarded as a three-star recruit coming out of C.E. King High School by Rivals.com and 247sports.com, Bentley is becoming a household name earlier than many anticipated. Bentley lacks prototypical size for the position, but boasts blistering speed, advanced vision, decisiveness in space, and skinny ability through creases.
Saturday presents another opportune spot for Bentley to entrench himself among college football’s premier ascending talents.
WR Reggie Roberson Jr.
Before catapulting to the elite tier of collegiate pass-catchers, Roberson began his career toiling at the bottom of West Virginia’s depth chart. Primarily serving as depth, Roberson caught six passes for 30 yards and a touchdown for the Mountaineers.
The six-foot, 200-pound pass-catcher took his talents to SMU in 2018, where he appeared in ten games (seven starts). He finished with 52 receptions for 802 yards and six touchdowns and added 206 yards and a touchdown as a kick returner. He was named to Phil Steele’s first-team All-AAC team.
Although he battled through an injury much of last season, Roberson participated in eight games. The junior wideout amassed 43 receptions for 803 yards and six touchdowns — including a career-high 250 receiving yards and three touchdowns against Temple.
Roberson entered his senior season in the spotlight. His preseason buzz included being named to the Biletnikoff Award and Maxwell Award watch lists, Phil Steele’s first-team All-AAC preseason list, and the Reese’s Senior Bowl Top 250.
Roberson ranks tenth in the nation after three games in receptions (17) and 14th in yards (231). He has also yielded three touchdowns.
Roberson is a well-rounded pass target with the skill set to work all three levels of the field. A pure route salesman, Roberson tells a story with his patterns to keep defenders guessing. The DeSoto native plays bigger than his size would indicate, and he boasts the explosive traits to elevate and outmuscle defenders for the football.
WR Rashee Rice
Despite playing behind James Proche and Reggie Roberson Jr. in 2019, Rice flashed intriguing potential in his limited opportunities. In ten games (two starts), the North Richland Hills native reeled in 25 receptions for 403 yards and a touchdown — a sample size that suggested a sophomore breakout was imminent.
Rice has used his productive freshman campaign as a springboard toward college football stardom. Through three games, the 6-foot-1, 189-pound pass-catcher currently ranks 21st in receptions (13) and 12th in receiving yards (240). Rice eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark each of the first two weeks and has established a rapport with Buechele.
Rice is a lanky wide receiver who has the tools to line up inside or outside and the route running prowess to create separation regularly. Specifically, the sophomore is tremendously smooth in and out of breaks and uses nuanced subtleties to manipulate defensive backs. Rice’s innate body control and ability to win in contested-catch situations makes him a threatening option on the perimeter or in the slot.
The Mustangs have another budding star in Rashee Rice.
TE Kylen Granson
After sitting out the 2018 season due to NCAA transfer rules, Granson burst onto the scene for the Mustangs last season. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound tight end reeled in 43 receptions for 721 yards and nine touchdowns, earning second-team All-AAC honors.
The rangy tight has evolved into one of the nation’s more overlooked players at his position. Granson, who fits the mold of the modern-day move tight end, can line up all over formations and capitalize on mismatches.
Granson is also a relatively savvy route runner that knows how to find the soft spots in zone and will go up and attack the catch-point down the seam. Granson’s vertical element and ‘above the rim’ style of play makes him an immensely quarterback-friendly pass target.
If the Tigers apply pressure early, Granson should thrive as Buechele’s security blanket.
DT Elijah Chatman
A three-star recruit coming out of Evangel Christian Academy two years ago, Chatman isn’t likely to be on NFL radars just yet, though he is well on his way.
The six-foot, 272-pound interior mauler appeared in 11 games as a freshman, recording 11 tackles (3.5 for loss) and a half-sack in a rotational role. Three games into his sophomore campaign, Chatman continues to make plays on the other side of the scrimmage line, compiling another 4.0 tackles for loss and two sacks.
Chatman, who saw action on both sides of the ball as a senior at Evangel Christian Academy, is an athletic, reactive defensive tackle that combats his lack of length with great use of power and leverage. The Shreveport native should continue his penchant for resetting the line of scrimmage in another plus matchup.
LB Richard McBryde
McBryde’s collegiate career has included several twists and turns, but the former Auburn linebacker has finally found stability. The sixth-year linebacker has defied impossible odds and become one of the more prominent defenders in the AAC.
After sitting out the 2018 season due to injury, McBryde returned to the team in 2019 a faster, more explosive second-level defender. In 13 games (10 starts), McBryde registered a team-leading 98 tackles (9.5 for loss), 3.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
Through three games, the Mustangs defensive leader has notched 14 tackles (2.0 for loss).
Measuring 6-foot-1, 232 pounds, McBryde has the speed and athleticism to patrol sideline-to-sideline to pair with a continuously developing coverage acumen. His ability to rapidly diagnose plays and instinctually shoot gaps has been an instrumental part of Kevin Kane’s defense. The Tigers must account for No. 50 at all times.
DB Brandon Stephens
Like McBryde, Stephens has also encountered a winding path to prominence. Initially a highly heralded four-star running back, Stephens rushed for 1,389 yards and 15 touchdowns in Plano High School in his senior season.
Stephens committed to UCLA, where he rushed for 277 yards and a touchdown on 65 carries and caught 12 passes for 108 yards across two seasons.
Featured | Farabaugh’s 4-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft
Following a transfer to SMU, Stephens underwent a seamless transition to cornerback. He went on to start all 13 games for the Mustangs. The six-foot, 206-pound defender totaled 49 tackles (2.5 for loss) and finished second in the AAC with 12 pass breakups.
Named to Phil Steele’s fourth-team All-AAC preseason list, Stephens already has 14 tackles (1.0 for loss), four passes defended, and his first career interception.
Stephens has the requisite size-speed combination to align anywhere on the backend. The Texas native has a sharp football intellect and plus ball skills, and while he continues to refine the finer nuances of the position, Stephens has yet to scratch the surface of his capabilities.