Last season, the SMU Mustangs were the worst team in FBS college football. They started the season 0-11, lost their head coach in Week 2, and suffered blowout losses at the hands of Cincinatti, Memphis, and most painfully, North Texas.
While last season brought misery to everyone even remotely connected to the Mustangs’ football program, it allowed the fan base to transition. Former coach June Jones had brought them to four bowl games in six seasons with the team, but after going 5-7 the year before, it appeared Jones’ engagement with SMU, and thus his winning ways, were over.
Thus, SMU hired Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris, a former Texas high school football coach, to take over its program–and Morris promised “the biggest turnaround in college football.”
In order to accomplish that feat with the Mustangs, Coach Morris will rely heavily on a player he desperately tried to recruit while he was at Clemson: quarterback Matt Davis.
Davis comes from Houston area Klein Forest High School, and was highly recruited by a number of SEC and Big 12 powerhouses, only to settle on Texas A&M as his college of choice. However, after missing out on playing time due to the meteoric rise of some guy named Johnny Manziel, Davis left A&M and enrolled in a local junior college with the hopes of reviving his college football career.
Davis eventually settled on SMU, as it was the best school that offered him an opportunity to play close to his home in Houston. When Coach Jones left in Week 2, no one kept a closer eye on the SMU coaching search than Davis, who wanted to be reunited with the offensive coordinator who once tried to get a Texas boy to come to South Carolina. When Morris was officially announced as the SMU head coach in December, Davis was through the roof with excitement.
In Chad Morris’ up tempo offense, Matt Davis is the perfect fit. Davis is a dual threat quarterback, with the opportunity to run on designed plays, as well as extend fledgling pass plays with his running ability. Morris envisions Davis working similarly in his offense to Tahj Boyd, the Clemson legend who holds nearly every passing record for Clemson and quite a few in the ACC. Needless, to say, if Davis can play at even a fraction of the level that Boyd demonstrated during his college career, SMU Mustang fans will be very happy.
However, the most important component of Davis and Morris’ relationship is not on the field, but rather their familiarity off it. Davis’ struggles at Texas A&M largely came from an unfamiliarity with the situations he faced. Mike Sherman, the coach who recruited him, was fired before Davis ever stepped on campus. Johnny Manziel, a relative unknown at the time, beat him out at the quarterback position. Matt Davis, who had excelled at football his entire life, was relegated to the bench as a redshirt freshman. Obviously, that didn’t sit well, so he left.
Even at SMU, Davis struggled to find his place. June Jones left just two games into his first eligible season. He didn’t get to start a game until SMU was already 0-7. He stepped into a situation that set him up to fail, so it’s no surprise that he struggled.
Chad Morris gives Davis the first taste of consistency he’s had since senior year of high school. In Morris, Davis has a coach that knows him on and off the field, acknowledges his strengths and weaknesses, and has carved out a specific place in his offense for Davis to thrive.
Combine that with the reengagement of the SMU football fan base and the excitement surrounding Chad Morris’ turnaround of the program, and 2015 could be a very successful year for Davis. Mustang fans can rejoice knowing that Davis and Morris were destined to pair up, and this time around, it’s for SMU.