1. QB Garrett Gilbert- Well it starts at the top for SMU with quarterback Garrett Gilbert.
SMU head coach June Jones brought in assistant coaches Hal Mumme, Timmy Chang and Jason Phillips over the last two years in hopes of improving Gilbert’s game and the SMU offense.
If Gilbert struggles early, the SMU fans won’t take kindly to him and the offense.
Gilbert ended the 2012 season on a high-note and must continue that against Texas Tech for SMU to win.
For SMU to have a chance to win, Gilbert will need to be the leader on offense and set the tone for the team.
2. RB Traylon Shead- Even though Gilbert has to have a good game for SMU to win, if SMU’s running game is non-existent, Gilbert could have a tough time getting the offense going.
Traylon Shead is going to be asked to keep the Texas Tech defense honest and stop the defensive line from pinning their ears back and rushing Gilbert.
The former four-star recruit transfered to SMU in the spring in order to compete for the starting running back position. Jones has called him “the best running back that I’ve had to play the position,” but Shead will have to show against Tech that he can live up to the lofty praise.
3. OLB Stephon Sanders- The athletic Sanders is being asked to fill the void left by Ja’Gared Davis’ graduation and that is a tough task to take on.
After starting five games as a first-year, Sanders was expected to be a solid pass-rusher opposite of Davis last year, but that never came together and he was held to one sack. With Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense coming to town, Sanders will have to get pressure on whoever Tech starts at quarterback.
If Sanders sets the tone with an early sack, the young Tech quarterbacks could be rattled and start making poor decisions.
4. DB Kenneth Acker- SMU’s best corner will need to be at his best right away for the Mustangs.
Even though the staff looked at moving Acker to offense, he stayed on defense as well and is extremely athletic and was named to some preseason All-American Athletic Conference teams.
Acker will have to shut down the top Tech receivers, who will already be without big tight end target, Jace Amaro, who is suspended for the first half and if SMU can lock down the other receivers, it will be tough for the Tech offense to get in a rhythm.
5. WR Jeremiah Gaines- The 6-foot-4-inch, 250-pound true first-year may not start on Friday, but you can tell that he can cause matchup problems.
If Gaines gets any opportunities in the red zone, look out because he is a big target for Gilbert that can be moved around the field.
Tech’s secondary is not incredibly strong and if Gaines can put more pressure on them with a matchup issue, it will help Gilbert that much more.
With Gaines’ size, he can even be brought in as an extra blocker along the offensive line, which could be a big help since SMU is breaking in two new tackles that will have to protect Gilbert this year.