Chad Morris is out at SMU after accepting the head coaching position at the University of Arkansas.
As we predicted yesterday, associate head coach and running backs coach Jeff Traylor will be named the interim head coach reports ESPN.
It is believed that Traylor will be heavily considered for the head coaching position at SMU.
Traylor joined Morris’ coaching staff in February 2017. As we wrote previously, prior to SMU, Traylor coached tight ends and special teams at the University of Texas. Like Morris, Traylor has a storied legacy in Texas high school football. Traylor was the head coach in at Gilmer High School for 15 seasons where he amassed 175-26 win loss record (.871). During those 15 seasons Gilmer High School won 3 state championships and 12 district titles.
In 2004 and 2014 Traylor guided the Buckeyes to perfection with 16-0 records and state titles both years.
In February 2014, when Traylor was hired, Morris told SMU Athletics, “He has deep ties to Texas high school football, particularly in east Texas, and I consider him one of the bright offensive minds in college football.”
Traylor’s deeply rooted Texas football ties include his brother, Kurt Traylor, who is currently the head coach at Robert E. Lee High school in Tyler, Texas. Why is this relevant? Well, during Jeff’s dominant run at Gilmer High School, his brother Kurt helped orchestrate Gilmer’s offensive power as the O-line coach and run game coordinator for Gilmer. If Jeff is named SMU’s next head coach, I’d look to see his brother Kurt make the move from high school to college.
During his time at the University of Texas, Traylor is largely credited with being responsible for UT’s 2016 top ten recruiting class.
In fact, because of his recruiting efforts Traylor was named Scout.com’s Big XII recruiter of the year.
Traylor has shown to a recruiting whiz. With nearly three decades of experience in Texas football, he knows who to call, what to say and exactly how to say it.
Like Morris, Traylor is believed to be an offensive guru. In 2014, during Gilmer’s perfect run to a state championship, the Gilmer offense put up the second-most points in the history of Texas high school football with 950 in 16 games for an average of 59.4 points per game. The Buckeyes scored over 60 points on nine occasions, twice posting 80 or more. They also averaged 536.1 total yards per game (8,577) with a balanced 293.9 passing yards and 242.1 rushing yards per contest. The defense was equally impressive, allowing only 276 points (17.3 ppg) with five single-digit performances and two shutouts, while recording 23 interceptions and forcing 17 fumbles.
As the running backs coach at SMU, in 2017, Traylor coached Xavier Jones to a 1,000 yard season, while at the same time coaching both Ke’mon Freeman and Braeden West to over 500 yards on the season each. SMU scored 26 total rushing touchdowns while gaining 2,230 yards on the ground. Nationally, SMU’s rush offense ranked 44th in the nation.
— Xavier Jones™ (@The_XavierJones) December 6, 2017
SMU will most likely wait until after the December 20th Frisco Bowl to announce the head coach, but as players are being notified of Morris’ departure, the #JeffTraylorForHeadCoach hashtag has already started stampeding throughout the Hilltop.
Earlier this evening rumors began swirling on social media that Chad Morris had taken the head coaching job at Arkansas.
That report HAS NOT been confirmed. What do we know? Nothing. Other than Morris is believed to be the leading candidate for the position. While no official word is being released, sometimes silence gives you the answer you need.
There have been no prior indications from Morris that he is interested in the Arkansas job, but from a coaching stand point it is a jump to the next level in the SEC that any coach would consider.
IF MORRIS LEAVES, WHAT?
Could Joe Craddock, SMU’s offensive coordinator be an option for the top position at SMU? Absolutely. However, Craddock is young and lacks experience. That being said, under Morris’ guidance he led an SMU offense that was very dominant.
A more likely scenario would be associate head coach and running backs coach Jeff Traylor. Traylor has deep ties to Texas football, he coached wide receivers, tight ends and special teams at the University of Texas. Prior to the job at Texas, Traylor coached Texas high school football’s legendary Gilmer high school where he won three state championships and had 11, 10 win seasons.
Traylor played football at SFA, shoutout to The Sawmill, and has been coaching Texas football since 1990.
According to SMU Athletics: under Traylor “the Gilmer offense put up the second-most points in the history of Texas high school football with 950 in 16 games for an average of 59.4 points per game. The Buckeyes scored over 60 points on nine occasions, twice posting 80 or more. They also averaged 536.1 total yards per game (8,577) with a balanced 293.9 passing yards and 242.1 rushing yards per contest. The defense was equally impressive, allowing only 276 points (17.3 ppg) with five single-digit performances and two shutouts, while recording 23 interceptions and forcing 17 fumbles.”
Traylor sounds like just the kind of coach SMU would want and need, more Texas ties to build on Morris’ foundation, and well rounded when it comes to offense and defense.
Another option for the position would be defensive coordinator Van Malone, however SMU’s defense, although improving, seemed to struggle significantly this season under Malone.
Other options for SMU would be outside hires like Kevin Sumlin who couldn’t reach a deal with UCF, or possibly Lane Kiffin. However, Kiffin would probably pose as a PR nightmare that the Hilltop Administration would prefer to avoid.
Over the last two weeks we’ve endured rumors of Chad Morris wanting the Ole Miss job and interviewing for the Tennessee job. However, with the Texas A&M job being filled by Jimbo Fisher, I don’t think Chad Morris goes anywhere anytime soon.
RUMORS ARE RUMORS
When the Ole Miss head-coaching position became vacant, many people speculated that it was a job that Chad Morris wanted. But why would Coach Morris want to job at Ole Miss with sanctions pending from the NCAA? Since Dan Mullen left and Matt Luke was promoted the NCAA handed down sanctions to Ole Miss’ program that include a bowl ban and scholarship cuts. Did that situation look appealing to Morris considering he is on the upward stretch of rebuilding a program? I doubt it.
There was never really any proof that linked Morris to the job at Tennessee except for reports from “sources”, a dangerous term in the world of reporting.
Now, rumors are swirling that Morris or Memphis Head Coach Mike Norvell could be leading candidates for the job at Arkansas. Do we have any signs that would imply Morris would want that job? Nope, but we have plenty of signs that would show he doesn’t.
Morris’ contract extension has him at SMU through 2023. What does that mean? Really nothing except that it shows Morris is open to staying at SMU.
IF HE LEFT, WHERE TO?
I think if Coach Morris left the Hilltop anytime soon it would be for Texas A&M. His alma mater and where he grew into coaching both as an athlete and a graduate assistant, I believe A&M makes the most sense. However, with that position filled, and likely for a long time, I think Coach Morris will remain at SMU for a lot longer than people initially thought.
The plot twist would be where does Morris go, if not in Texas? Morris’ roots and recruiting strength are in Texas. However, his coaching style, offensive prowess and explosive play style make him an attractive coach at any level at any school in the country. That makes predicting Morris’ next destination nearly impossible. He’s a coach that any school would want, that any recruit would want to play for, and that any fan would cheer for.
Arkansas and Tennessee are still the biggest front-running college head coaching positions that are open. UCF did not finalize a deal with Kevin Sumlin so the Knights remains open, but Morris would never leave SMU for UCF. That being said, the UCF position could possibly create another vacant position at another university that Morris could find appealing.
For now though, I think it’s safe to say that SMU has survived another year of close calls when it comes to keeping Morris on the Hilltop.
WHAT’S THE CATCH
About two years ago we reported the idea of SMU building new practice facilities for football program. In October, SMU football revealed new lockers that would be installed in the off-season, however it has yet to be seen whether or not new facilities are coming their way anytime soon…
— #PonyUpTempo (@SMU_Football) October 3, 2017
In 2016, SMU officially announced its plans to build an Indoor Performance Center. This would include an indoor track and field, a new outdoor practice field, and other facilities and resources for student athletes. The issue? SMU estimates that it would take approximately 16 months from start of construction to complete the facility.
If SMU does not break ground soon though, they might have a hard time convincing Morris to hang around while the facilities are being constructed.
Despite losing two games in the Bahamas, the SMU Mustangs flew home with a signature win over the No. 2 ranked team in the country.
SMU opened the tournament with a 61-58 loss to Northern Iowa, the probable champion of the Missouri Valley Conference and a solid mid-major contender.
However, the Mustangs improbable lost to UNI set up a show down between SMU and No. 2 ranked Arizona Wildcats.
And for the first time since 1967 when SMU upset Louisville, the Mustangs beat the No. 2 ranked team in the nation.
WHAT WE LEARNED
During the first half of SMU’s game against Arizona, freshman forward Ethan Chargois was forced to leave the game early due to foul trouble. Back in the starting line up coming out of halftime, Chargois scored 11 points in 4 minutes to give SMU the lead.
On the season Chargois is averaging 12 points per game while shooting 47 percent from three and 58 percent from the field.
It is quite possible that Chargois is the most talented freshman to step onto the Hilltop in a while. With his ability to shoot the three, rebound and score in the post, he brings a versatility to Tim Jankovich’s offense that will only make it more deadly.
ASSIST – SHAKE
Jimmy Whitt has embraced his role as point guard with ferocity. Averaging 5 assists and 5 rebounds a game for the Mustangs, Whitt has been doing a little bit of everything for SMU.
With Whitt playing point guard, Shake Milton has been able to fill a scoring guard role.
Despite having an over shooting percentage in the mid-30s, Milton is averaging nearly 18 points per game for SMU.
Averaging 10 points and 6 rebounds per game the story for Ben Emelogu has been efficiency. The leading scorer against Arizona, Emelogu is shooting a staggering 54 percent from three and 47 percent from the field.
After being the 6th man anchor last year, Emelogu is emerging as the dominant senior start that SMU needs.
AS A WHOLE
The losses to UNI and WKU are not ideal. But losing by a combined 5 points two quality teams is nothing to be ashamed of. And while some would argue that Arizona is overrated at No. 2, there is no doubt that the Wildcats are in the race for the Pac-12 and will be a NCAA tournament team.
Overrated or not, SMU picked up one of the biggest wins under Tim Jankovich and a win that will be heavily considered come selection time.
For the first time in years SMU has a young team with depth that will only get better with the eligibility of Jahmal McMurray.
Stay tuned Mustangs fans, this team will only get better from here…
SMU returns home to host the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday night.
Players fell to the floor, the ball was everywhere – it was a scramble literally. That or a game a hot potato. Either way, the mayhem that was displayed for 15 seconds during SMU’s first half against University of Arkansas – Pine Bluff was an accurate depiction of SMU’s start to the season.
— Nemanja Jovanovic (@coachnemanja) November 20, 2017
SMU struggled during their home opener against the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Despite winning 78-67, the Mustangs had several questions that went unanswered. Would the defense improve? Could anyone other than Shake Milton be relied on to score the basketball? Which of the freshman would standout and be reliable?
Just two days later the Mustangs struggled again, despite rallying in the second half to win 83-65, the Mustangs first half struggles continued. Freshman Ethan Chargois showed to be a huge positive for the Mustangs. Chargois averaged a double double through the first two games and showed of his able to shoot reliably from three point range. However, SMU’s three point defense still had holes, foul trouble plagued the Mustangs, and rebounding was an issue.
The game against Northwestern State however was a different story. Although quality of opponent may have played a role, the Mustangs finally found their groove. Holding the Demons to 8 points in the first half, SMU took a commanding lead going into halftime.
Jarrey Foster finally filled into his role for SMU as the do it all athlete and exploded in the first half. With 12:52 left in the first half the Mustangs went on an 11-0 run to take a commanding 21-6 lead. Over the final 12:21 SMU would outscore NSU 23-2 to take a 36-8 lead at halftime.
On a night where everything went wrong for NSU, nothing could go wrong for the Mustangs. The Mustangs stampeded out of the half with a barrage of three pointers led by senior Ben Emelogu. SMU would finish the game going 13-31 from three.
I would like to say that in two months we will look back on this game as the foundation of SMU’s success.
The junior pair of Shake Milton and Jarrey Foster have shown early this season that they will continue to be quite the pair. Foster and Milton are averaging 14 points and 21 points per game respectively.
Sixth Man Senior
After two efficient but quiet starts for SMU, Emelogu caught fire from deep in SMU’s third game against NSU. The 2016-17 American Athletic Conference Sixth Man of the Year nearly logged a double double against Northwestern, scoring 17 points and snagging 9 rebounds. One of only two seniors on the roster this year for the Mustangs, Emelogu’s role has shifted from do it all sixth man to starter and leader.
Emelogu continued that hot streak against UAPB scoring 13 points and snagging 10 rebounds for his first career double double. On the season “GUUUU” 12-20 shooting 60 percent from three. His ability to be consistent from deep will be key for the Mustangs.
Offense Highlights – Defense Shines
For the first time this season SMU fans were treated to an offense and defensive performance that complimented each other in back to back games against Northwestern and UAPB.
While the Mustangs are young, offensively they caught fire, showing off a rotation of five players that can all shoot from deep. Jimmy Whitt has continued to take command of SMU’s offense. Whitt is averaging 6.5 assists per game.
With SMU’s 4-0 start to the season, the Mustangs Head Coach Tim Jankovich moved into second place on the NCAA’s list of best home starts at 29-0.
— SMU Basketball (@SMUBasketball) November 20, 2017