The candidates: QB Garrett Gilbert, RB Traylon Shead, LB Randall Joyner and DB Kenneth Acker.
And the award goes to: QB Garrett Gilbert
After watching Garrett Gilbert struggle early last season, he finished the last five regular season games without throwing an interception and led the Mustangs to a Hawaii Bowl win over Fresno State to cap off his first season at SMU.
Gilbert went into last season having to learn June Jones’ Run-n-Shoot and develop chemistry with his wide receivers in a short amount of time. The result was not pretty for Gilbert or the rest of the SMU passing game.
Gilbert showed signs towards the end of the year that he was getting more comfortable and when Jones added Air Raid offense guru Hal Mumme in the spring, many SMU fans thought it was the perfect marriage between the Run-n-Shoot and the Air Raid.
Gilbert has spoken highly of the work Jones and Mumme have done in the pring and the offseason and there is plenty of speculation that some changes are taking place on the offensive side of the ball
Gilbert has three of his starting receivers returning from last year and some talented freshmen receivers in the mix as well. With Gilbert having a full, healthy offseason to develop some more, a 4,000 yard and 30 touchdown season is not out of the question, but it is just a matter of him limiting his mistakes.
The candidates: QB Garrett Gilbert, RB Traylon Shead, C Taylor Lasecki and WR Jeremy Johnson.
And the award goes to: RB Traylon Shead
Gilbert may be the team MVP, but Traylon Shead is going to be a big reason why Gilbert will be successful. Shead, a former four-star recruit according to Scout.com out of Cayuga High School, originally enrolled at the University of Texas in 2010, but did not have the same success in Austin as he did in high school.
Shead transferred to Navarro J.C., where he rushed for close to 1,200 yards and 17 touchdowns. Shead caught the SMU staff’s eyes and joined Gilbert as another former UT player to land at SMU.
With Shead’s combination of size at 6-2, 230, he fits right in to Jones’ offense, where the running backs are asked to provide good blocking and to keep defenses honest by being a threat out of the backfield.
Zach Line left a tough void to fill, but Shead has all the talent in the world to fill it well. There isn’t a reason why Shead can’t replicate Line’s success at SMU this season and take some of the burden off of Gilbert.
The Candidates: LB Randall Joyner, DB Kenneth Acker, DB J.R. Richardson and LB Stephon Sanders.
And the Award Goes to: LB Randall Joyner
The unquestioned vocal leader of SMU’s defense is senior linebacker Randall “Rambo” Joyner and for good reason. His teammates have spoken highly of how hard Joyner has worked this offseason in the weight room, film room and on the field as well.
Joyner has played in 40 games during his SMU career including eight starts last season in place of the injured Cameron Rogers, who has since graduated. That experience and graduation hitting the linebacking corps hard this past spring and SMU needed someone to step up.
Joyner will make all the calls for the SMU defense this year and will be asked to help out a very inexperienced defensive line get into the right gaps on defense. His athleticism and knowledge of the SMU defense make him a big candidate for All-Conference this season as well.
Even though Joyner only started eight games, he still notched 93 tackles including a 14-tackle and two-interception performance against the University of Texas at El Paso. With SMU facing a some high-powered offenses early this season, Joyner will have to set the tone for the entire season that SMU’s defense will again be a strength of the team.