It appears the Ben Hicks era could be over on the Hilltop before it even started.
The redshirt freshman took over the starting role for SMU after a season ending injury to senior captain Matt Davis left the Mustangs without their star quarterback. The early results verged on disastrous, as Hicks managed 1,284 passing yards, including six touchdowns and nine interceptions in his first five games as a starter. What’s really hurt the Mustangs is four of those interceptions have come in the end zone, completely killing SMU drives that otherwise would have resulted in points.
Despite playing his best game of the season against Tulsa, it appears the Mustangs are prepared to move on from Hicks. Ben managed to complete 55.8% of his passes against the Golden Hurricane, good for 258 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. However, it appears that is not enough to stop Chad Morris and his staff from going in a different direction.
The Mustangs signed another quarterback this week, earning the commitment of DJ Gillins, a junior college transfer from Pearl River Community College. Gillins is a former four star recruit who began his career at Wisconsin, but was moved to wide receiver after new head coach Paul Chryst installed a pro style offense for the Badgers. Despite receiving playing time as a wide out, Gillins wanted to try his hand as a dual threat QB, and thus decided to leave the program. Even though he is coming off two ACL tears in two years, Gillins will be eligible immediately for SMU, and will likely compete for a starting role under Morris.
His main competition for starting QB will undoubtedly be Arkansas transfer Rafe Peavey, another former four star, dual threat QB. Peavey competed all spring with Arkansas QB Austin Allen for the starting role, and announced his transfer when he was established as the team’s backup. Peavey was tabbed as the “most mobile” QB on the Arkansas roster this spring, but his throwing ability kept him from earning a starting role. However, he will definitely get the chance to compete for that role with the Mustangs.
Of course, the wild card in all of this is if Matt Davis receives in medical redshirt from the NCAA and is able to return to the Mustangs next season. While Peavey and Gillins may have more potential than Davis, he is a senior captain for SMU and one of the guys Morris leans on in the locker room. It’s hard to imagine that he would fight for another year of eligibility with zero chance of starting. Should he return to the Mustangs, I expect Davis to be the front runner for the starting role.
Additionally, the Mustangs already have two quarterbacks in their class of 2017, Charlie Brewer and Tyler Page. Both three stars, Page and Brewer are likely the future of the SMU’s program at the quarterback position. Brewer is a pro style and Page is a dual threat, but both will get the opportunity to compete for the job when they arrive on campus next fall.
Regardless of which of these five quarterbacks earns the job, none of this is good news for Ben Hicks’ future on the Hilltop. Not only is Morris not going to keep more than five scholarship quarterbacks on his roster; he is clearly favoring dual threat QBs, which Ben Hicks is most certainly not. Thus, I expect Hicks to utilize the remainder of this season as an audition of sorts, only to have him, and his backup Darrel Colbert, transfer out of the program. While it seems harsh, it will ultimately be the best move for the SMU Mustangs and Hicks’ football career.