Ke’Mon Freeman, the last-minute signee, emerging fast for SMU

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Photo Credit: SMU football on Twitter

In February, Ke’Mon Freeman was a man without a position. He had committed to SMU under the “athlete” label on the eve of National Signing Day as the 25th and final member of the Mustangs’ 2016 signing class.

SMU’s freshman class had plenty of hype long before any one of its members had played a college snap. Fans and recruiting analysts focused on Jordan Carmouche, Michael Badejo, Ken McLaurin and others, many of whom had spurned Power Five offers to play for SMU.

Few fans, though, said much about Ke’Mon Freeman.

For most of the recruiting process, the former FCS commit without a true position was only a well-kept secret of recruitniks and coaches. SMU head coach Chad Morris knew he might have found a steal in Freeman before he even signed.

“A guy that when we get him here on the Hilltop, he’s going to flourish. He’s got huge upside,” Morris said in February. “Talking to other coaches, they talked about this kid. They said, ‘Coach, you better go get this kid. He’s a game-changer.’”

After a strong fall camp in which he rose up the depth chart, Freeman has settled in as SMU’s bigger running back as a compliment to smaller, faster backs Xavier Jones and Braeden West. He rushed for 39 yards on 5 carries in last weekend’s 34-21 win at North Texas. Since he arrived on campus in June, he’s drawn consistent praise from SMU coaches and players.

“He’s picked up really quick,” SMU offensive coordinator Joe Craddock said. “I think he’s going to have a great career here, once he keeps developing at the running back position or if we ask him to play more quarterback. That’s the thing you love about the kid, he’s so coachable and he’ll do whatever you tell him to do.”

Freeman played quarterback at Texarkana (Texas) Liberty-Eylau High School. SMU’s initial plan was to give him a chance at quarterback, but leave the possibility open that he could move to running back, safety or elsewhere.

SMU offered Freeman in the summer of 2015, but had higher priorities on its recruiting board. He committed to Stephen F. Austin in January 2016. When SMU’s final recruiting target, four-star wide receiver Audie Omotosho, committed to UCLA the night before Signing Day, SMU offered Freeman his spot. He accepted.

As fall camp neared, SMU decided it would move Freeman to running back. Craddock was anxious about telling him about the move. He worried Freeman wouldn’t be open to it. It proved to be a baseless concern.

“Team truly comes first with him. He could have very easily come here and said, ‘No coach, I came here to play quarterback,’” Craddock said. “He could have had a bad attitude about it. Instead it was, ‘OK, sounds good coach, whatever you need me to do.’”

Coachable? Check. Versatile? Check. In ridiculous shape? Also check. Take one look at the 5-foot-11, 212-pound Freeman, and it’s hard to miss his build.

“When you touch him on the [shoulder], there’s nothing but solid rock,” Craddock said. “I think he’s got like 4 percent body fat. It’s unbelievable.”

One big adjustment for quarterbacks moving to running backs is learning how to pass protect and pick up blitzes. On one of Freeman’s first days of camp, he was tasked with blocking senior linebacker Jackson Mitchell on a blitz. He displayed his strength and stopped Mitchell clean in his tracks.

“Ke’Mon got him pretty good,” Craddock said. “All the coaches were like, ‘whoa, that just happened. This kid just started playing running back.’ The moment’s not too big for him. He’s just a football player. He’s a guy that just understands it.”

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