SMU fell to No. 3 TCU on Saturday, but the Mustangs have made their point through three games this season.

The program is in far better shape than most would have expected at this point in head coach Chad Morris' three-game career in University Park, and it's striking while the iron is warm ahead of what is suddenly promising remaining schedule.

SMU reached out to senior Van running back Aphonso Thomas on Monday and offered him a college football scholarship opportunity. Thomas announced the news through his personal Twitter account.

Bullard tight end Major Tennison, a junior, also received an offer from the Mustangs on Monday.

For Thomas, it's opportunity No. 6 from an FBS school. He's committed to Nebraska and holds other invitations from Colorado State, Kansas, Nevada and Texas State.

The running back holds a seventh offer from Stephen F. Austin on the FCS level.

It seemed all the hard work put into the SMU program from 2008 onward was lost when former head coach June Jones resigned from his position just two weeks into the 2014 season. The Mustangs closed last season with a 1-11 record, its only win under interim head coach Tom Mason came in a surprising upset at Connecticut in the final week of the regular season.

Jones had guided the Mustangs to four bowl games during his tenure -- the program's only four since receiving the NCAA "death penalty" in 1987 for paying players in the midst of its most successful sustained run earlier in that decade.

However, the program made a big splash in the offseason by luring Morris away from a comfortable job as the offensive coordinator at Clemson to be its next head coach.

Morris knows East Texas. For starters, he graduated from Edgewood High School.

His first overall head coaching job came in 1994 at Eustace High School. He moved on to Elysian Fields in 1998 and his success there opened doors for him at Bay City, Stephenville and then Lake Travis where he closed his high school coaching career with back-to-back Class 4A Division I state championship wins.

Morris left Lake Travis for a one-year stint as Tulsa's offensive coordinator in 2010 before being hired away by Clemson for the 2011 season.

SMU is 1-2 thus far with losses to No. 5 Baylor and TCU sandwiched between a win at home against North Texas.

The Mustangs hung tough with Baylor for a half and then pushed TCU to the fourth quarter in Fort Worth. Those two opponents entered the season with the highest odds of winning the Big 12 Conference championship.

SMU will square off with FCS opponent James Madison this weekend to close non-conference play and then it opens its American Athletic Conference schedule against East Carolina on Oct. 3.

Van, a Class 4A Division I school, is still playing non-district opponents and has a 3-1 overall record. Its one loss came by a point to Lindale from Class 5A.

Thomas has 549 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on the ground through four games. He has about 580 all-purpose yards and an additional touchdown reception.

Van will visit Paris North Lamar on Friday. North Lamar could swing back around as the team's first round playoff opponent if both teams qualify for the postseason and do so in a particular order.

Thomas and company will enjoy their open date next week, seven days ahead of a meeting with Athens that could be the de facto District 8-4A Division I championship game.

SMU is also actively recruiting Liberty-Eylau athlete Ke'Mon Freeman and Alto athlete Keenen Johnson as parts of its 2016 recruiting class.

Thomas, like all senior high school football players, will become eligible to sign with any school that offers him on Feb. 3.

2016 East Texas Football Players With Division I FBS Offers

  • Austin Anderson, OL, Mineola, 6-4, 289 – committed to Texas A&M; additional offers from Arizona State, Arkansas State, Auburn, California, Cincinnati, Houston, Illinois, Kansas State, Louisiana Tech, Miami, Michigan, Mississippi State, Missouri, North Carolina, North Texas, Northwestern, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, SMU, Southern Miss, TCU, Texas, Texas State, Texas Tech, Tulsa, Vanderbilt (27)
  • Riley Anderson, OL, Mineola, 6-5, 287 – committed to Texas A&M; additional offers from Arizona State, Arkansas State, Auburn, California, Cincinnati, Houston, Illinois, Kansas State, Louisiana Tech, Miami, Michigan, Mississippi State, Missouri, North Carolina, North Texas, Northwestern, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, SMU, Southern Miss, Texas, TCU, Texas State, Texas Tech, Tulsa, Vanderbilt (27)
  • Demarco Boyd, RB/LB, Gilmer, 6-0, 215 — committed to Texas; additional offers from Baylor, Florida State, Texas A&M (4)
  • Gabe Foster, RB/DB, Newton, 6-3, 180 — offers from Arkansas State, Purdue, Texas State, ULL, ULM (5)
  • Ke’Mon Freeman, QB/ATH, Liberty-Eylau, 5-11, 188 – offers from Arkansas State, North Texas, SMU (3)
  • Travon Fuller, CB, Athens, 6-0, 160 — committed to Texas A&M (1)
  • Alex Gregory, WR, Nacogdoches, 5-11, 175 — committed to Stephen F. Austin; additional offers from Texas State, ULM (2)
  • Zach Hall, ATH, Tyler Lee, 5-11, 170 – offers from Baylor, Missouri, Texas Tech (3)
  • La’Darius Hamilton, LB, Corrigan-Camden, 6-1, 220 — offers from Texas State, ULL (2)
  • Adrian Harris, OL, John Tyler, 6-2, 290 — offer from ULM (1)
  • Tanner Holmes, LB, Newton, 6-3, 220 — committed to ULL (1)
  • Jerrod Johnson, OL, Lufkin, 6-2, 290 — offer from ULM (1)
  • Keenen Johnson, ATH, Alto, 6-1, 190 – offers from SMU, ULL (2)
  • Brandon Jones, S, Nacogdoches, 6-0, 190 — offers from Alabama, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Boise State, California, Florida State, Georgia, Houston, Kentucky, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, LSU, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Penn State, Purdue, SMU, Stanford, TCU, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Tulsa, UCLA, USC, Washington State (40)
  • Braylon Jones, DT, John Tyler, 6-3, 285 – committed to Houston; additional offers from Air Force, Army, Colorado State, Navy (5)
  • Corey Lane, S, 5-11, 185 – offer from Louisiana Tech (1)
  • Bronson Massie, DE/LB, Lufkin 6-3, 202 – offers from California, Colorado State, Louisiana Tech, Texas State, Washington (5)
  • Jarrod McLin, DE, Carthage, 6-4, 212 – committed to UTSA; additional offer from ULL (2)
  • Denzel Mims, WR, Daingerfield, 6-4, 180 – committed to Baylor; additional offers from Arkansas State, North Texas, Texas State, Texas Tech, Tulsa (6)
  • Cody Mitchell, TE, Jasper, 6-5, 225 — offers from Illinois, Louisiana Tech, Missouri, Texas State, ULL (5)
  • Jordan Morales, DL, Tyler Bishop Gorman, 6-3, 275 – offer from UTEP (1)
  • Kendrick Rogers, WR, Frankston, 6-6, 207 — committed to Texas A&M; additional offers from Arkansas State, Cincinnati, Houston, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, Mississippi State, North Texas, SMU, ULL, ULM (11)
  • Micahh Smith, DB, Marshall, 5-11, 185 — offer from Texas State (1)
  • Aphonso Thomas, RB, Van, 5-10, 180 — committed to Nebraska; additional offers from Colorado State, Kansas, Nevada, SMU, Texas State (6)
  • Jeremy West, OL/DL, Chapel Hill, 6-2, 297 — committed to Northwestern State; additional offer from ULL (1)
  • Andre Wiley Jr., OLB/S, Liberty-Eylau, 5-10, 170 – offers from Arkansas State, Army, Louisiana Tech, Navy, Texas State, Wyoming (6)