Tanner Mordecai took his talents to the Big Ten.
The former Southern Methodist gunslinger announced in late December that he would be transferring to Wisconsin and leaving behind an offensive unit that ranked first in the AAC last season and was the top-scoring Group of Five team in the nation.
Mordecai and the Mustangs averaged 37.2 points per outing and 472.8 yards per game, both of which were first in the league. He averaged 293.7 passing YPG.
Mordecai’s favorite target, Rashee Rice, has also moved on from the program after being selected 55th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in last month’s NFL Draft. Rice didn’t just lead the conference but led the nation with 112.9 receiving YPG. His 96 receptions were by far the most on his squad. And in a backfield that was a committee, only the Mustangs’ fourth leading rusher is on the depth chart this spring.
Nearly all of SMU’s offensive production from last season is gone.
So, what’s left?
Scanning through the current roster and depth chart, there are not a ton of top contributors from last season on those lists.
Under center will be sophomore Preston Stone, who appeared in six games in 2022 and passed for 388 yards and two touchdowns while tossing one interception. RB Camar Wheaton currently sits third on the depth chart behind transfers Jaylan Knighton and LJ Johnson Jr. Wheaton looks to be the top returning back after playing in 10 games, logging 62 totes and averaging 5.2 yards per carry and two scores.
Even with losing Rice, most of the Mustangs’ returning offensive production comes from the wideouts. Senior Jordan Kerley, senior Jake Bailey, and junior Moochie Dixon front the receiving core. All three saw the field and even found the end zone.
Last year’s No. 2 option, Kerley, finished with 37 receptions and averaged 58.8 YPG while hauling in six scores. He missed two games last season due to injury.
Early signs point to some chemistry between Kerley and Stone:
Bailey also dealt with his own injury bug and missed most of the season after appearing in just four games after reaggravating a shoulder injury. He averaged 51.2 YPG during that span on 12 receptions while also scoring a touchdown. There was plenty of excitement surrounding the 5-foot-10, 183-pounder entering last season, and that same excitement should circle back around as the fall approaches.
Dixon is the only one of these three that played in all 13 games last season but didn’t get many opportunities to get the ball in his hands. When he did, however, he showed some potential. Dixon totaled 378 yards on 28 receptions while adding three touchdowns.
SMU is also bringing back sophomore tight end RJ Maryland, who should be the No. 1 guy heading into the fall. He caught 28 passes for 296 yards and proved to be a solid red zone threat after tying with Kerley with six TD receptions — the second most on the team behind Rice.
There will also be some consistency up front as the Mustangs bring back tackle Marcus Bryant, guards Justin Osborne and Cameron Ervin, and a solid center in Branson Hickman:
Sophomore placekicker Collin Rogers will also be returning and was 16 for 20 on his attempts.
It will be a challenge for SMU’s offensive production to replicate what it did last season. Though, there are plenty of guys returning that can help make some noise again this year. Mixed with the transfer class coming in — which is among the best in the nation — it wouldn’t be a big surprise if Rhett Lashlee has the Mustangs picking up where they left off in 2022.