It took a long time for Southern Methodist University to reclaim its spot among the top football schools in the country. The story of the rapid fall from their success is well documented and even had its own 30 For 30, “Pony Excess”. However, in 2019 SMU won 10 games and were ranked for the first time since returning from the ultimate depths of the death penalty they received in 1987 for their corruption and greed.
Thanks to head coach Sonny Dykes and a number of transfers, SMU had one of their best offensive outputs in recent memory. However, with the best receiver at SMU in 2019, James Proche, heading to the 2020 NFL Draft, can Reggie Roberson step up and be the number one weapon for quarterback Shane Buechele?
Roberson is entering his senior season, his third with the Mustangs, and is now set to be the main attraction among the SMU wide receivers. Combine that opportunity with a quarterback in Buechele who is looking to make his own statement for the 2021 NFL Draft and Robinson had a massive opportunity to improve his draft stock next season. Let’s take a look at just who Roberson is and what he brings to the table for 2020?
Robinson’s High School and West Virginia Beginnings
Roberson comes from DeSoto, Texas, only about 20 minutes south of Dallas, and the same high school as Proche. He was an excellent wide receiver as well as a kickoff and punt returner in high school. In his senior year, he recorded 60 catches for 1,060 yards and 11 touchdowns. In the return game, he averaged 13.4 yards per punt return and 36.7 yards per kickoff returns. He finished with 1,859 all-purpose yards. Roberson was a multi-sport athlete in high school as he also ran track, and, as we’ll discuss here, his track background certainly shows up on the field.
Despite growing up near Dallas, SMU was not his first stop in college. In fact, he didn’t even play at any school in Texas. He initially went to West Virginia for a year in 2017, as the Mountaineers were one of several Power Five schools to offer him a scholarship out of high school. He played in 12 games as a receiver and on special teams, finishing with six catches for 30 yards and one touchdown.
Roberson Returns Home
After that lone season in West Virginia, Roberson decided that he wanted to move back closer to home to care for his mom and dad. That led him to transfer to SMU. The Mustangs also applied for a hardship waiver and were granted that waiver, which allowed Roberson to play right away, instead of having to sit out a year.
In his first season with the Mustangs, Roberson played in 10 games, starting in seven, recording 52 catches for 802 yards and six touchdowns. All of those ranked second on the team behind James Proche (93 catches, 1,199 yards, six touchdowns). Roberson also dabbled a bit in the return game, but that job was mostly handled by Proche as well.
In 2019, Roberson again was second on the team in receiving with 43 catches for 803 yards. He once again added six touchdowns, which ranked third on the team behind Proche with 15 and Rice transfer Kylen Granson with nine. Proche led the way across the board one more time with 111 catches for 1,225 yards.
2020 Offers Roberson the Opportunity to Shine
After two seasons of playing alongside and in the shadow of Proche, 2020 is now Roberson’s time to shine. Proche’s departure effectively bumps Roberson up to the number one role for the Mustangs. Is that a role Roberson can handle?
The early indications are that he absolutely can handle that role. Roberson has a lot of speed to burn on the field, but he is a lot more than just a deep threat. Roberson is a good route-runner. He understands where to break his routes and how to run smart routes against defenders to create separation. He is also smart on the field in that he knows where the first-down marker is. He’ll run routes and make his break at just the right moment to put him right at the marker and, most importantly, move the chains.
Having the speed is an added bonus, and you can definitely tell he ran track in the past. He runs right past plenty of opposing cornerbacks he is up against when running deep routes. If there is one matchup to check out that shows a great battle on both sides, it’s Roberson against one of the top cornerbacks in the 2020 draft class. TCU’s Jeff Gladney. Roberson and Gladney went toe-to-toe, with neither really getting the edge over the other. However, both demonstrated reasons why they will be good NFL players in the future and why Gladney may end up being selected in the first round of the draft in just a few short weeks.
As for Roberson, if you want a further case that he is a name to watch this upcoming season, Brad Kelly listed him among his honorable mention list for the top senior wide receivers for 2020. Just being mentioned among a group with that level of firepower, including Alabama’s DeVonta Smith and Florida State Tamorrion Terry, is a tremendous feather in the cap of Roberson.
2020 is about stepping up as a leader for Roberson. But that is a role I am willing to bet he is extremely eager for. Between his smarts, his speed, his athleticism, and his route-running, Roberson could be the star receiver you have not heard of yet if you haven’t followed SMU too closely to this point. However, the next time you fire up some SMU tape, keep a close eye on No. 8 (or No. 21 depending on what game you’re watching, as he changed numbers).
Watch his explosion off the line of scrimmage. He is so fast and uses his feet and hands very well to beat the cornerback and begin to create separation for himself. The Temple game is also a good one to showcase his deep threat ability. Sure, Temple obviously doesn’t have the secondary that TCU does, but they have some good players including cornerback Harrison Hand.
As for this upcoming season, Jeff Gladney may be gone but Trevon Moehrig and Ar’Darius Washington will be leading the charge in the middle of the field and TCU always sports a strong defense. SMU gets them again at home on September 26. SMU is set to have another good offensive season with Roberson, Granson, and Buechele leading the team. With three players looking to improve their draft stock for the 2021 NFL Draft, an already exciting offense could go to the next level.