Neal Burcham

Torn ACL could cost SMU QB Neal Burcham 2015 season

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SMU quarterback Neal Burcham just cannot catch a break it seems. The Mustangs quarterback could miss the entire 2015 season well before it kicks off due to a torn ACL injury.

The Dallas Morning News reported the injury Monday afternoon. Burcham missed the majority of the 2014 season after suffering a right elbow injury in early September. The injury forced Burcham to miss the remainder of the season after passing for 158 yards in just two games. He had won the starting job at SMU and was expected to be a leading contender for the starting job in 2015 under new head coach Chad Morris.

If Burcham is to miss the entire 2015 season, and a torn ACL injury would likely result in just that situation, then the SMU starting job at quarterback will likely be decided between Matt Davis and Garrett Krstitch. Both saw playing time last season after Burcham went down with his elbow injury. Both had similar stats with each passing for 855 yards and combining for five total touchdown passes with 12 interceptions.

SMU, Baylor QBs transfer to Sacramento State

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For the first time since Chad Morris took over as head coach last month, a player has left the SMU football program. And, as it turns out, another player from a fellow Texas FBS program is following.

In a press release Friday, Sacramento State announced that Kolney Cassel is one of three midyear transfers joining the team. Because the Hornets play at the FCS level, the quarterback will be eligible to play immediately this coming season.

“We wanted to add a transfer at quarterback and after looking at film and talking to coaches, we were fortunate to get Kolney,” head coach Jody Sears said in a statement. “He brings some experience and veteran leadership to the program. He has good size (6-foot-2, 192 pounds) and a great arm and will increase the competition at the position.”

After redshirting as a true freshman in 2013, Cassel played in five games for a Mustang squad that saw four different quarterbacks start at least one contest. Cassel was one of those, starting one game.

The three-star member of SMU’s 2013 recruiting class completed 15-of-37 passes (40.5 percent) for 156 yards and a touchdown for the one-win Mustangs. He has three years of eligibility remaining.

Matt Davis, a Texas A&M transfer who started the majority of the games the last month of the season; Garrett Krstich, who started from mid-September until Davis essentially took over; and Neal Burcham, the starter at the beginning of the season until being sidelined by a season-ending injury, will head into spring practice as the three favorites for the job, with that logjam factoring into Cassel’s decision.  Of the three that remain, Davis would likely be considered the front-runner.

As for the other FBS transfer, the Hornets also announced the addition of Alexis Robinson. Robinson signed a track scholarship with Baylor last year and was also a preferred walk-on to the Bears football team, where he redshirted for the 2014 season.

“We didn’t sign a quarterback last season so Alexis will step in and fill that role for that class,” Sears said. “He is a world-class sprinter that is a football player. He’s a phenomenal athlete that we are lucky to have in our program.”

Robinson will have four years of eligibility remaining and, like Cassel, will be eligible immediately.

The Fifth Quarter: Week 5 Rewind

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As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

THUMBS UP

Exorcising the Raleigh ghosts
When it comes Raleigh, NC, that college town has served as Florida State’s kryptonite over the past couple of decades.  Six times since 1998 a ranked FSU squad lost to North Carolina State, the most recent coming in 2012.  The Wolfpack were looking to continue that rather bizarre run of success, jumping out to a 24-7 first-quarter lead and holding a 10-point lead with just over six minutes remaining in the third quarter.

The reigning Heisman winner and one of his backfield sidekicks, however, weren’t having any of that.

In his first game since a one-game suspension, Winston tossed a pair of third-quarter touchdown passes to give the ‘Noles their first lead of the game at 42-38.  A Karlos Williams one-yard touchdown run three minutes into the fourth quarter essentially put the game away — Winston’s inexplicable interception, which had Jimbo Fisher downright irate, notwithstanding — while Williams’ 12-yard scamper with just over two minutes remaining put the exclamation point on the closer-than-it-looked 56-41 win.  Winston wound up completing 26-of-38 passes for 365 yards and four touchdowns while Williams added 126 yards and three touchdowns to stave off the upset bid.

The win kept FSU’s winning streak alive, extending its school record to 20 straight.  However, the Seminoles have already seen its stranglehold on the top spot in the Top 25 rankings loosened over the past couple of weeks; it’s highly likely that support will weaken yet again when the polls are released Sunday afternoon.  Will it be enough to knock them off the perch?  Probably not this week, but it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if a team like Oklahoma or Alabama leapfrogged the defending BCS champions.

Good gawd Gurley
You would have to do a pretty damn good job to convince me that Todd Gurley is not the best football player in the country this year.  In Georgia’s nail-biting  35-32 win over Tennessee Between the Hedges, the junior running back rushed for a career-high 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns; 129 of those yards came in the pivotal fourth quarter.  One of the scores was a 51-yard thing of beauty that put the back’s exceptional vision and cutting ability on full display.   On his next run after that, he hurdled a Vols defender on his way to a 26-yard gain midway through the fourth quarter.  Provided he stays healthy the remainder of the season, there’s simply no way Gurley won’t at least receive a mid-December invitation to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.  If Mark Richt & Company continues to feed the beast, that is.

Elementary, my dear Watson
Against North Carolina Saturday, Deshaun Watson became the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Clemson in 20 years (Nealon Greene, 1994 vs. South Carolina). Watson’s debut as a starter was a monster one as the five-star 2014 signee completed 27-of-36 passes for 434 yards and six touchdowns.  The scoring tosses are a school record for a freshman, or for any other class for that matter, as well as an ACC record for a frosh. According to a note from the school, the Tigers are now 5-12 all-time in games started by first-year freshman quarterbacks; three of those five wins have come at the expense of the Tar Heels.  Based on Watson’s play in his first outing, it appears likely he’ll get the opportunity to add to that overall win total as, barring injury, there’s little doubt it’s his job moving forward.

(more…)

SMU great Eric Dickerson grabs flamethrower, torches Mustangs

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It’s been a rough last couple of days on the Hilltop.

Monday, June Jones abruptly and unexpected stepped down as SMU’s head coach. A day later, the Mustangs lost starting quarterback Neal Burcham to a season-ending right (throwing) elbow injury. That same day, one of the greatest players in the program’s history broke out a flamethrower to torch what’s left of the 0-2 team.

During an interview with KRLD Tuesday, Eric Dickerson, the Hall of Fame former SMU running back, was asked about the recruitment of Ricky Seal-Jones. The current Texas A&M wide receiver is a cousin of Dickerson and picked the relative’s brain when SMU showed interest a couple of years ago.

Dickerson’s response is not exactly something you’ll see in a recruiting brochure for the program at any point in the future.

“When he was getting recruited, he told me SMU had sent him a letter and asked me ‘do you want me to take a visit?'” Dickerson said. “I said no, do not take a visit. Don’t even waste your time going there. I didn’t want him going there. For what? It’s just a waste of time. I wanted him to have an experience in college with football that he really enjoyed like I had like when I went to SMU. He wouldn’t have that there. He’s at the right school at Texas A&M.”

That one will leave a mark. Dickerson, though, didn’t stop there. Here are some of his other choice comments on his alma mater, courtesy of a pair of Dallas Morning News blog posts that can be viewed in their entirety HERE and HERE:

On the state of SMU
“It’s a shame that my university has gone 10 steps backwards. It’s hard for me and all the players that went to SMU. A lot of guys that played in my era still feel like they are not welcomed there because of what happened. I could care less if I go to another football game, but when I do, I want my university to be competitive.”

On the talent level at SMU
“It’s nothing against those kids because those kids are give their all, but I guarantee you there are some high schools around the country that could beat them. There is no doubt. They don’t have the talent to compete with Baylor or Texas A&M. They would get killed.”

On if it’s too late for SMU to compete with Power Five conferences
“I think we had a shot, but it’s gone. I really do believe it’s gone. It’s like Texas and Alabama, those are big schools you can’t compete with. At one point, they were going to join the Big East. If I’m the Big East, if I’m the Big 12 or the Pac-10, I would look at SMU and ask ‘what do you have to offer us?’ You have 3,000 people that come to your football games. You’re winning maybe five games a year. What’s the appeal for us to want to split $12 million? There is no attraction. Yes, you are in Dallas, Texas, but that’s all you have. You can’t even compete.”

Dickerson also defended Jones… by bringing race into the equation.

“In some instances there, I didn’t think they did enough to help the students get in,” Dickerson said in response to the question of what the university was doing to hold Jones back. “Recruiting is right there in Dallas. I mean, you have to make the students and their parents feel like they’re welcome. I’m talking about black athletes to come play at the university.”

Regardless of what exactly Dickerson meant by that, it’s not a good situation for a football program when an icon like him comes out and tears the team to shreds so publicly. It’ll be interesting to see who takes over for Jones, although one of his first tasks to accomplish is already known: mend the fences with former players in general and Dickerson specifically.

Oh, and getting a new coach with Texas ties wouldn’t hurt. Chad Morris, anyone?

(Photo credit: SMU athletics)

A day after coach resigns, SMU loses starting QB

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It has been quite a 24-hour span for the SMU Mustangs. A day after the announcement of June Jones resigning as head coach, SMU loses starting quarterback Neal Burcham. Burcham suffered a right elbow injury that will require medical treatment that removes him from being able to play for the remainder of the season. Bill Nichols of The Dallas Morning News reported the injury news via Twitter.

The sophomore led the Mustangs in passing with 158 passing yards in his time on the field each of the first two games of the season for SMU. Burcham, along with the rest of the Mustangs, struggled to do much of anything in the first two brutal games. With Burcham now unavailable, it is likely Kolney Cassel will take over as the starter over Matt Davis. A redshirt freshman, Cassel has already nearly equaled Burcham’s passing total (154 yards) and has thrown a touchdown pass.

SMU is off this week to regroup during a coaching change following two brutal losses. SMU will open their home schedule next week when Texas A&M comes to Dallas.