Southern Methodist University watched former head coach Sonny Dykes put together a stunning run to the national title game last season — and that run was right next to SMU at rival TCU. Now, SMU enters 2023 with more familiarity with this regime in place.
SMU Coaching Staff 2023
Head Coach, Rhett Lashlee
Lashlee’s first season ended with a respectable 7-6 record, but it concluded with a loss in the New Mexico Bowl. Known as an offensive genius, Lashlee’s 2022 offense ranked in the top 15 and was 12th in scoring offense. Additionally, they were seventh in red zone offense.
Lashlee was already beloved in SMU lore as he was the offensive coordinator behind the Mustangs’ record-breaking season of 2019. That was also the year he was nominated for his first Broyles Award.
Now, Lashlee keeps most of his first staff intact as SMU remains in the American Athletic Conference.
Defensive Coordinator, Scott Symons
Symons was a 2021 hire following Lashlee’s promotion to head coach.
His first Mustangs defense ended up producing 28.5 sacks and 76 tackles for loss. While SMU surrendered an average of 203.6 rushing yards per game, they did bottle up passing offenses to 227.5 yards per contest.
Symons was previously at Liberty, where the Flames ranked ninth in passing yards per game and 10th in red zone defense. He has also coached at Memphis and West Georgia.
Offensive Coordinator and Tight Ends Coach, Casey Woods
Woods was one of Lashlee’s hires in December 2021 and came from Missouri.
His first SMU offense tallied 37.2 points per game and scored 63 total touchdowns in 13 games. In the process, Woods produced CFN Freshman All-American Honorable Mention RJ Maryland, who caught 28 passes for 296 yards and scored six touchdowns.
Woods was previously with UAB as the TE coach and worked alongside Lashlee at Auburn.
Co-Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach, Jonathan Brewer
Brewer was one of Lashlee’s hires in December 2021 before being elevated to Co-OC duties. Brewer previously worked with Lashlee at Miami before returning to SMU, where he spent 2018 and 2019. He helped Tanner Mordecai throw for 3,524 yards and 33 touchdowns before Mordecai transferred to Wisconsin.
Running Backs Coach, Khenon Hall
Hall was another December 2021 hire by Lashlee. His 2022 backfield was instrumental in producing the nation’s seventh-best red zone offense. Under his tutelage, Tyler Lavine became a 10-touchdown back. Hall previously coached at Texas Southern and his alma mater, Illinois State.
Co-Offensive Coordinator and Wide Receivers Coach, Rob Likens
The coaching veteran of three decades spearheads one of the deeper and strongest units on the SMU roster. With the Mustangs operating out of their up-tempo Air Raid approach, Likens’ wideouts were responsible for 36 of SMU’s 63 touchdowns.
Likens saw pupil Rashee Rice to snatch 96 passes for 1,355 yards a season ago. Rice led the nation with 112.9 yards per game before ultimately joining the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs through the NFL Draft.
Prior to his time at SMU, Likens was at Miami and had a successful tenure (2017-2019) at Arizona State during a time when the Sun Devils had a young Brandon Aiyuk.
Offensive Line Coach, Garin Justice
Justice coaches a unit that helped give Mordecai all the time he needed to shred defenses while also paving the way for SMU to average more than 156 yards per game on the ground. Justice additionally is a former head coach, having spent time at Concord University in West Virginia where he went 40-17 from 2011-2015. He has also had stops at Florida Atlantic and UNLV.
Defensive Line Coach, Calvin Thibodeaux
Thibodeaux joined SMU after a long six-season stint at Oklahoma. Known for his recruiting prowess, he was honored by Rivals as a top 25 recruiter in 2018 and 2019. He recently produced Elijah Chatman at the Hilltop, who ended his season earning All-AAC second-team honors with 39 tackles, four stops behind the line of scrimmage, and three sacks.
Cornerbacks and Pass Defense Coordinator, Ricky Hunley Jr.
Hunley came to SMU via Liberty, where he shares a connection with Symons. His CB unit not only helped produce the 10 interceptions the Mustangs snatched in 2022 but was also largely responsible for SMU’s 42 pass breakups.
Before SMU, he was on the coaching staff that witnessed Liberty’s first bowl appearance in the 2019 season, which ended with a victory in the FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl.
Linebackers and Run Defense Coordinator, Maurice Crum Jr.
Crum Jr. was the lone new staff hire for Lashlee in January 2023. And he’s coming over from SEC country as he was the LB coach and co-defensive coordinator at Ole Miss.
He helped oversee a Rebels defense that recovered 12 fumbles, the second most in the conference. Playing-wise, Crum is a past Notre Dame star ‘backer from 2005-08.
Special Teams Coordinator and Safeties Coach, Kyle Cooper
Cooper was not only brought in by Lashlee to run the outside linebackers in December 2021 but to serve as a recruiting coordinator. He’s another with Miami ties alongside the HC but had a previous stint at SMU in 2018-19. Now he gets the safeties and special teams unit in Dallas.