For SMU, replacing senior linebacker Chase Kennemer will be tough. Not only did he lead the team in tackles last season, but was also the field general, leading the defense and calling out plays. Now, it's a sophomore's turn. Insert Taylor Reed.
The Beaumont product had a great spring and appears to be on his way to being a star in Conference USA. Reed recorded 57 tackles, 4.5 for-loss, and two force fumbles in 2009. His most memorable play was an interception late in the 4th quarter, sealing a SMU win against UAB on their two-point try to tie the game. His stats were good enough for a spot on the C-USA All-Freshman team.
"He's in a position where he has to think, but he is in the glory position in our defense. I'm really impressed with him right now, he is farther in at this point than I expected him to be," said SMU defensive coordinator Tom Mason. "The thing you have when you play a freshman is, what is he going to do as a sophomore? A lot of kids flatten out after their sophomore year. I don't think it's going to happen for him."
So is Reed ready to take over for Kennemer? The freshman handled himself fine on the field last season, but is he ready to lead a defense as a sophomore?
"As the middle linebacker, everyone is going to look at him to lead," said Kennemer to PonyStampede.com earlier this week. "As a young guy, that's difficult. It came natural for me because I had been around the game for four years and had time to mature. He's far more talented than I was, so the performance aspect of the game will be a breeze for him."
Standing just below 6'0, Reed came to SMU at 200 pounds. While he did gain the normal freshman 15, it was 15 pounds of muscle, something that has excited the SMU coaching staff. He is now up to nearly 220 pounds.
"He not only has to play now, he has to take over the leadership part," coach June Jones said. "Over the next three years, he's not just going to be a great player, but a great leader for us."
"Taylor is a good football player. He is one of the better freshman I have coached of all-time," said Mason. "He has he natural instincts, again it's going to be a rep thing. How fast can he mature?"
SMU fans will find out soon enough.