On Wednesday’s national signing day, SMU did what it does. It worked the system with purpose and precision. Sonny Dykes has used the transfer portal to help turnaround the football in a few years’ time. Let’s face it, SMU plunders the portal with relative ease. Now they have brought in eight official transfers with at least a couple more to follow. Dykes has filled immediate gaps in the roster and moved forward in a way he believes will help him with recruiting high school players down the road.
SMU Plunders Transfer Portal
The Battle To Lead The Offense
One of the first things that got addressed was the hole at quarterback. With Shane Buechele headed to the NFL, and with transfers leaving last year, SMU had one quarterback on the roster who had only thrown one pass in a game. Derek Green has one career completion and spent all of last year as the holder on special teams. Dykes has created depth via the portal. He brought in Tanner Mordecai who is transferring from Oklahoma and John Seter, a grad transfer from Georgia. In the December early signing period he also signed four-star recruit Preston Stone out of Parish Episcopal High. Seter is not expected to figure prominently in the quarterback battle, having not played in his three years in Athens. Mordecai, using 2020 as the NCAA free eligibility year, would have three years left to play.
Dykes says he expects the battle at the position. “Every single job there is a battle,” Dykes said Wednesday. “The quarterback situation always gets more attention paid to it because the nature of that position where most of the time you are only going to play one of those players. And it is such an important position in your program.”
Loading Up At Tight End
Dykes also loaded up at tight end. The Mustangs lose All-Conference tight end Kylen Granson but pick up four via transfer. Those who figure to have the best shot at seeing the field early on are Nolan Matthews the transfer from Arizona State; Grant Calcaterra who is coming the Oklahoma Sooners; and Simon Gonzalez, the transfer from Texas Tech.
“We saw some opportunities with some players that we got to know very well through recruiting. Some of those guys that were in the portal, we knew them,” Dykes said. “We also knew we needed to bring in some guys that were a little more seasoned. We felt like those guys had experience. They had size.” Dykes actually tried to recruit Calcaterra when he, Dykes, was the head coach at Cal, but lost him to Norman, Oklahoma. “There is going to be a lot of competition and I think it is going to make everybody better.”
Familiarity Breeds Transfer Recruits
One of the over-arching themes for Dykes’ use of the transfer portal the last couple of years has been to bring back local and area players who initially went elsewhere to play college football. Matthews is from Frisco but went to Arizona State out of high school. Receiver Jordan Kenley is originally from Austin but signed with ASU before transferring to SMU. Mordecai is transferring from Oklahoma but went to high school in Waco. Stone, the freshman quarterback is one of the few major signees who is home grown and staying put for college.
“Being at SMU we have opportunities to recruit DFW kids that leave and want to come home,” Dykes said. “That is one of, I think, the strengths of our program. We are in a city that has great high school football and where people love to live. Often times they go someplace and it’s not what they thought it was going to be for a variety of reasons. And they want to come home and we are a fantastic option.”
The Portal Giveth And It Taketh Away
It is the Group of Five schools that honed in on the transfer portal years ago as a way to fill holes when they lost players to bigger programs. Ironically, Dykes said he sees how the door can swing in the other direction now as the bigger schools start to open more spots on the roster for transfer players. “I think you are going to see less and less kids sign with Big XII or Power Five, or whatever you want to call it, schools because I think so many of those schools now are adopting our philosophy of taking transfers.”
Dykes laid out an equation where each Big XII school opens up six roster spots for use with the transfer portal. That is 60 fewer spots available for high school recruits with those teams. He said he sees an opening to ramp up the Mustangs’ high school recruiting as bigger programs utilize the system he and other G% coaches mastered. “When you start factoring that in, then all of a sudden, the quality of high school player you can recruit is better. We feel like we recruit against Big XII schools anyway. If there is 60 less kids going to Big XII schools then we feel like we are really going to be able to capitalize on that opportunity.”
Dykes’ name came up during the off-season in the Tennessee coaching search. He said there are jobs where he would take the call and listen. But he did not indicate if Tennessee fell into that category. He said at this point in his career he is less enamored, “with the logo,” and more focused on fit, which he said is at SMU. He also said he and his agent team work to, “Make sure my name does not get out there for jobs.”
SMU is tentatively planning on opening Spring camp in early April. It would go through the end of the semester, COVID protocols allowing.