SMU football signs 27 commits, labeled finest class in three decades
Published: Friday, February 4, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
National Signing Day 2011 may very well be known as the day SMU began its official rise back to college football glory. With two bowl appearances under his belt, head coach June Jones was able to assemble one of the finest recruiting SMU has seen since the 1980s.
Scout.com's No. 1 AQ (non-BCS) recruiting class includes 21 three-star and above Rivals.com recruits includes four-star defensive end/linebacker Davon Moreland (6-3, 225), who is SMU's highest rated signee since Rivals recruiting database came into existence more than a decade ago.
Moreland, rated by Rivals as the No. 17 defensive end in the nation and the 27th-best player overall in California, was expected to sign with SMU right up until Oregon State made one last attempt at signing the nation's 231st ranked player. However, Moreland stayed true to his July verbal commitment and signed his letter of intent to play on the Hilltop.
As a senior at Salesian High School in Los Angeles, Moreland recorded 95 tackles and 17 sacks as he was named All-League Defensive MVP and Los Angeles Wave Player of the Year. The prize of SMU's Class of 2011 chose to don the red and blue over official offers from USC, Arizona, Texas A&M, UCLA and other BCS schools.
SMU struck gold in California this year as the Mustangs also signed three star quarterback Conner Preston (6-2, 205) out of Junipero Serra High School in Gardena. Preston arrived on campus early after enrolling in January and is eligible to participate in Spring drills. Sources say Jones believes Preston may give starting Kyle Padron a run for his job as the two will endure a vicious battle this off-season.
Preston had an impressive career at Junipero Serra where he compiled a 29-1 record as a starter and won a CIF State D-III title. In his final two seasons, Preston passed for over 7,000 yards and 88 touchdowns and received official offers from Colorado, Army and Toledo.
Other California signees include three-star defensive Christian Holloway (6-5, 247), three-star offensive linemen Taylor Reich (6-7, 285) and Dontae Levingston (6-5, 279) and two-star defensive back Mike Sparling (6-2, 175).
Reich and Levingston should solidify an SMU offensive line that will graduate three All Conference USA offensive linemen next year. Reich chose SMU over official offers from UTEP and Nevada while Levingston, the 25th ranked guard in California, rejected official offers from Florida, Oregon and Washington.
In Texas, SMU hit a home run with the signing of Euless Trinity linebacker Jonathan Yenga (6-2, 197). Mustang fans may be familiar with the surname Yenga as Jonathan's older brother Youri Yeng was a four year starter at linebacker on the Hilltop.
Yenga chose to follow his brother's footsteps and signed his letter of intent to play for SMU over BCS schools such as Kansas, Minnesota and Oklahoma State who all presented official offers. Yenga was rated the nation's No. 41 outside linebacker and the No. 71 player in all of Texas by Scout.com. As a senior, he tallied 134 tackles and three sacks while leading Euless Trinity to the Class 5A Division 1 State Championship.
The Mustangs also added more bulk to their defensive focused class with the signing of Mesquite Horn defensive end Stephon Sanders (6-3, 225) who was the rated by Rivals as the No. 36 defensive end in the nation. Sanders racked up 77 tackles and 4 sacks during his senior season and was named to MaxPreps.com's Texas Top 300 list. He chose SMU over official offers from Arkansas, Wake Forest, Iowa State, Kansas, Vanderbilt and Air Force.
SMU added some offensive fire power after heading out West to recruit a pair of Abilene High School superstars and got signatures from both three-star athlete Ronnell Sims (5-8, 165) and three-star wide receiver Darius Joseph (6-0, 175).
Sims was rated by Rivals as the No. 100 wide receiver in the nation and the 83rd-best player overall in Texas. At Abilene, Sims was known as a dual threat quarterback after passing for 1,893 yards and 19 touchdowns and rushing for 893 yards and 10 scores during his senior season. As a junior, Sims accounted for over 2,900 all-purpose yards and 33 touchdowns and led Abilene to the 2009 State Championship. Sims chose SMU over official offers from Baylor, Houston and Tulsa. Joseph, Sim's favorite target at Abilene, was an All-District 3-5A selection and followed his quarterback to SMU after receiving interest from Houston and North Texas.
The Mustangs had a solid year of production from workhorse running back Zach Line who rushed for over 1,300 yards and added some depth to the position by signing Katy Cinco Ranch three-star running back K.C. Nlemchi (6-0, 215). Nlemchi was rated by Rivals as the No. 36 running back in the nation and the 78th best player overall in Texas. The 2009 Houston Offensive Player of the Year rushed for 2,388 yards and 28 touchdowns as a junior and 1,200 yards and 18 scores as a senior. Nlemchi selected SMU over official offers from Arkansas, Utah and Tulsa.
These signees and the rest of SMU's stellar recruiting class will be able to showcase their talents when the Mustangs open up the 2011 season against Texas A&M in College Station on Sept. 3.