The Roundup’s end of spring rundown kicks off with a look at players from the one and true king, Southwest Conference, who are primed to pop this fall on a field near you. We call them Playmakers*, we hope by next December they’ll be household names. *This series has no affiliation with the dumpster fire ESPN series from the early 2000s.
Michigan’s defensive guru Don Brown and his assortment of four and five-star talent stopped a lot of great players in 2018. They couldn’t stop James Proche. The DeSoto product torched Michigan in the Big House with 11 catches, 166 yards, and two scores. The Wolverines won the game, but they never solved Proche.
Against New Year’s Six Participant UCF, Proche added 12 catches and 100 yards. He put a cherry on top of 2018 with a combined 23 catches for 317 yards and three touchdowns in the final two games (Memphis and Tulsa).
All told the rising senior caught 93 balls in 2018, best on the team, made First Team All-AAC, and flirted with turning pro. You couldn’t blame him. Proche showed pro-skills last season, his first outside the rather sizeable shadow of Courtland Sutton as well as Trey Quinn. The third option became the first option and the security blanket for SMU quarterbacks.
Proche finished first in the AAC in receptions, touchdowns, and receiving yardage. He finished fifth in explosive plays. Nationally, he ended the season fifth in catches and catches per game, and eighth in touchdowns.
SMU targeted Proche 150 times in 2018, the fifth most in the FBS, averaging eight yards per target. Thirty-four of his 93 catches came on third or fourth down, Proche averaged 12.1 yards per catch in those high leverage situations.
So how do you follow up a season like that? For Proche a new quarterback should help. Texas transfer Shane Buechele steps into to take over at QB for year two of Sonny Dykes’ tenure on the Hilltop. The continued explosive development of Reggie Roberson Jr. as a viable receiving option will help as well. Plus Proche should be better in his second year of Rhett Lashlee’s offense.
Proche has all the makings of a receiver who’ll play on Sunday. In the meantime, he’ll make life hard for defenders on Saturdays.