Photo courtesy of SMU athletics
Prior to the start of the 2022 college football season, we’re going to spotlight 24 SMU players as preseason award winners. At the end of the season, we’ll reflect on each of the picks and see how we did.
There are six categories: True Freshmen, Transfers, Unsung Heroes, Big Play Specialists, Most Improved, and MVPs. Each award will recognize two offensive players and two defensive players.
Let’s begin with the first part of the series: True Freshmen.
Even though it was only a list of 12, it was still tricky to narrow it down to four. Because of how polished and talented he is, defensive lineman Dylan Frazier was the hardest cut to make from this list. But, with the combination of depth and quality at interior defensive line, it feels like there are better options.
Cornerback Jayden Lawton was also a challenging cut to make. The 6-foot-4 cornerback has the combination of length and speed that would turn any defensive coordinator’s head. But, his game is a little raw and will take some time to develop. When it does, though, look out.
4. Isaiah Smith, EDGE
Smith, an edge rusher from the Washington D.C. area, is incredibly athletic and was an impressive land for the Mustangs. Not only was he a great get, but head coach Rhett Lashlee and the new staff did an excellent job to keep him committed.
Smith held 10 Power 5 offers coming out of high school, including offers from Tennessee, Michigan, and Kentucky. The 6-4, 210-pounder should be a great scheme fit for new defensive coordinator Scott Symons.
The reason he’s down at fourth on this list is because edge rusher is not really a position where the Mustangs are lacking. But don’t be surprised if he becomes an important contributor to the defense.
3. Collin Rogers, K
Is it a little cheeky to pick a kicker as one of the offensive players for an award? Maybe a little.
But this Prattville, Ala. native was ranked fourth in the entire 2022 class by Kohl’s Professional Camps — the preeminent kicking entity. Not many true freshmen see the field, but not many are rated as a five-star coming out of high school.
With Blake Mazza in the NFL, the starting spot at kicker is there for the taking. The two main contenders are Collin Rogers and redshirt freshman Brendan Hall. That’s why Rogers makes the list.
2. Pierre Goree, S
Pierre Goree’s unbelievable athleticism, raw ability, and pure potential made him one of the most intriguing Texas prospects in recent memory.
The Duncanville High School safety was routinely putting up the fastest track times in the state in the 100-meter dash. Some of his times were so impressive that he could likely run track at an elite college level right now.
Unfortunately, SMU does not have a track team. What the Mustangs do have is a need at safety, a desire to play fast, and one of the fastest athletes in Texas. Also, it does help Goree that he can run college track as an individual.
1. RJ Maryland, TE
Son of former top overall NFL Draft pick Russell Maryland, RJ Maryland is everything modern offenses want out of a tight end. He’s fast, lean, and has good size.
The second composite four-star to commit in as many years, every major recruiting outlet had Maryland ranked as a top-100 prospect in the state of Texas.
The Mustangs are hoping that Maryland can pick up where past tight ends have left off. Grant Calcaterra was drafted in the sixth round by the Philadelphia Eagles this past year. Kylen Granson was drafted in the fourth round by the Indianapolis Colts the previous year.
Maryland’s tape and size are remarkably similar to that of Granson’s after he had already spent a couple of years at Rice.
Look no further than Granson’s 2019 campaign for an idea of how SMU could utilize Maryland’s talents. Granson’s 2019 season was by far his best as he accounted for 43 catches, 721 yards, 16.8 yards per reception, and nine receiving touchdowns.