They are the two most important members of the SMU roster: senior quarterback Matt Davis and sophomore wide receiver Courtland Sutton.
Davis, who started his collegiate career at Texas A&M, where he redshirted before spending one season at Tyler Junior College and then transferring to SMU in 2014, threw for 2,263 yards last season and ran for 761 more for the Mustangs, 2-10 in year one under new head coach Chad Morris.
The now-senior signal caller also accounted for 26 touchdowns last fall (16 pass, 10 rush). His favorite target was Sutton, who set an SMU freshman record with 862 receiving yards and tied another school mark with nine receiving touchdowns as a freshman.
“Courtland’s my man, he’s doing a really good job,” Davis said. “I think he’s grown a lot. He’s gotten bigger, gotten faster in his mental game, has gotten 10 times better, so I’m excited to see how he’s going to do.”
In 2015, Sutton was named to the Freshman All-America Team by USA Today Sports. This preseason, Athlon Sports named him to their All-American Athletic Conference team.
Given all this publicity, Sutton knows his days of being under the radar are over. But whether or not he faces double teams every week this season, he’s ready to help the Mustangs continue their recent upswing under Morris.
“I really think that we’re going to be able to surprise a lot of people,” Sutton said. “I’m not going to be under the radar, but there’s a lot of other people on our team who are under the radar that a lot of teams are going to have to take into account. That’s just going to open up our offense even more.”
The Ponies open the season Sept. 3 at Apogee Stadium against North Texas at 7 p.m. ET on ASN, a game marking the head coaching debut for Seth Littrell with the Mean Green.
Littrell was hired last December to replace Dan McCarney, who was fired last October following a blowout loss by UNT on homecoming to FCS school Portland State.
Sutton presents a big challenge for the Mean Green secondary, but it’s one Littrell and his players embrace.
“He’s a physical dude who he’s going to go get the ball. He makes plays,” Littrell said of Sutton. “Obviously, the quarterback has a lot of faith in him and they’re going to push the ball downfield with some different things.”
“He’ll be one of the better receivers we play all year, but we’ll get together a gameplan [to face him and SMU]. At the end of the day, we want to compete and see what happens. It’s a great challenge and obviously we love challenges.”
Littrell also knows Davis pretty well after recruiting him to come to Arizona, where he was an assistant between 2009 and 2011.
And the first-year head coach feels Davis epitomizes the term dual-threat quarterback.
“There’s no doubt, [Davis can beat you] not only throwing the football but [with] his athleticism,” Littrell said. “He can hurt you real bad with his feet and all the different run/pass options that they do. They do a great job. [He’s] a very talented player and again, it’ll be a fun challenge.”
However, one thing Davis hasn’t thought much about, at least not yet, is that SMU’s opener in Denton will mark the start of his final season on the Hilltop.
“Just excited to be here, be part of this team, what we’re doing,” Davis said. “I think it’s just exciting to get out there with these guys again.”
Above: SMU Matt Davis had 26 touchdowns last season (Courtesy SMU Athletics)
Middle: Courtland Sutton was one of Davis’s favorite receivers last year. (Courtesy SMU Athletics)