Insider Look: June Jones

The news of SMU head coach, June Jones, meeting ASU school officials on Saturday caught the Sun Devil nation by surprise. The SMU community was also taken aback by this development especially with the recent success Jones has been enjoying with the Mustangs. Devils Digest invited Laken Litman, Publisher of PonyStampede.com to give us the SMU perspective on this story and coach Jones.

Devil Digest : It wasn't a secret that Junes Jones has expressed interest in the Arizona State head coaching job, but the fact that school officials visited him yesterday is another story. What has been the reaction in the SMU community about this news?

Laken Litman: "It didn't surprised me that June Jones was interested in the ASU job, because it was known that for a while he always had some interest. He is from the West Coast and has coached there and has always wanted to get into the Pac-12. But it did surprise me that he did meet with ASU yesterday because SMU had 13 big time recruits visiting on campus over the weekend. You would think he would at least wait until during the week to meet with ASU. The timing was really odd."

DD: After starting 1-11 Jones has obviously done a good job at SMU leading them to three straight bowl games. It sounds like there shouldn't be any displeasure in Dallas over June Jones that may have caused him to look elsewhere, but is there something behind the scenes?

LL: "There isn't and this is more about him wanting to get back to the West Coast. But I didn't think he would leave SMU this early. He came to revive a program and it is being revived but it isn't back yet like it was in the 80's and that was his goal.

"But the thing is that lately when you go to practice, the players seem disinterested. They were 5-1 to start the season and then lost four of their next five games. Jones is shrugging everything off and not saying much about that (players being disinterested) but you can tell that he is frustrated too. Maybe he hides what he really wants to say. But insiders that I talk to were surprised that he did meet with ASU."

DD: As a program insider, what kind of coach is June Jones?

LL: "He's a player's coach that doesn't yell. The SMU quarterback has struggled a lot and it's the assistant coaches are yelling at him, but Jones doesn't. The players like it that he let's them play. The team does commit a lot of penalties every game so is that sense I guess they are undisciplined. But he did bench their starting linebacker because of something he shouldn't have said during the game and he was suspended from the team for a whole week and didn't play the next game. When he did come back I was surprised that was starting again, but maybe it wasn't something too serious that he did that should have lasted two games. But the team doesn't have off-campus incidents."

DD: Can tell you us about the offense and the defense schemes that SMU runs under Jones?

LL: "On offense he has the run and shoot, pass-first offense. The receivers obviously love it, but because of the shaky quarterback situation the offense hasn't been playing all that well this year. You think this side of the ball would play really well with such an offensive guru like Jones. The quarterback, J.J. McDermott just doesn't have a good chemistry with his receivers and has as many interceptions as he has touchdowns. They have one of the best running backs in the nation (Zach Line) and they had a good running game until he got injured. So I think they got a good offensive system, but they don't have a good quarterback that can run it well and the offense couldn't be balanced with a good running game after (Line) got injured."

"The defense is pretty good and they actually have kept SMU in a lot of games. They run a 4-3, do a good job tackling, but don't force as many turnovers as you would like them to. When you ask the coaches why they don't have more turnovers, the coaches don't have answers. The defense only had one or two bad games all year. Tom Mason is the defensive coordinator and he really runs the defense, Jones in practice never goes over to the defense."

DD: You mentioned the big recruiting visit weekend that SMU just had. What can you tell us about how well recruiting has been at SMU in the Jones era?

LL: "Recruiting has been amazing and this year is probably the best class the team has had since the Death Penalty. The sad part of Jones leaving is that he won't be able to reap the benefits of some of the classes because the players are so young and won't be good for two, three years. If he does leave some of the coaches will leave with him, specifically their recruiting coordinator Adrian Klemm who landed six guys in this class from California. So if he left a lot of recruiting would probably follow him to where he went and that would be terrible for the program.

"The offensive recruits obviously like the system Jones runs but they commit to SMU mainly because of Klemm who is a great recruiter with a lot of ties to California. He also won national recruiter of the year (by various recruiting services) since he has been here. I don't know if for sure he is a package deal with Jones, but if Jones leaves I expect him to leave with him."

DD: So from an SMU perspective, what do you anticipate happening in terms of Jones' status?

LL: "I think the Athletic Department at SMU will work like crazy to keep him, unless they have someone else in mind to replace him. But I don't think that this is the case because his meeting with ASU caught then off-guard. Jones has obviously been trying to get the ASU job ever since it opened. I'm still surprised by all this because I don't think he is finished doing his job here. At least with Hawaii, Jones left after he took them to a BCS bowl. He is bringing in great recruiting classes, but again it will take him a couple of years because those players can show what they can do for SMU and I would think Jones would stay here and see what he can do with them.

"It would be devastating for SMU if Jones left and took Klemm with him."


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