SMU Fall Camp Notebook: Day 1

The Pony Stampede staff will be at every SMU fall camp practice this month and will provide exclusive stories, videos, and observations. Today we reflect on Day 1.

Gilbert all about having fun in new situation at SMU

By EJ Holland

With a bright smile on his face, Garrett Gilbert greeted reporters and spoke with young fans following his first official practice as an SMU Mustang. After all scrutiny he faced at Texas, Gilbert finally seemed happy to be playing the sport he loves at a place where he can thrive as a new leader.

"My first practice was great. First off, it was awesome just to be out playing football again," Gilbert said. "I think it's been 10 months since I've been able to practice. It felt like an eternity. Just getting out here and getting a helmet on felt great. Obviously, getting out here with my new teammates was really fun."

Gilbert wowed everyone in attendance including his own teammates as he showcased his rocket arm and pinpoint accuracy. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound signal caller looked extremely poised in the pocket as head coach June Jones, who has been instrumental in getting Gilbert prepared to learn the new offense, barked orders.

"He's very hands on, and I like that," Gilbert said of Jones. "Obviously this is his offense so he knows it very well. He does a great job of teaching it. He's able to talk to everyone so quarterbacks and receivers are learning at the same time so it does nothing but help."

Along with Jones and assistant coach Dan Morrison, quarterbacks Conner Preston and Garrett Kristich helped Gilbert get acclimated with the Run N' Shoot during voluntary summer workouts.

Gilbert explained that this is his fifth offense in six years but feels like he has ‘a pretty good handle' of the terminology and plays. In three years at Texas, Gilbert passed for 3,301 yards and 13 touchdowns with 23 interceptions. Gilbert expects to eclipse those numbers this season and make better decisions with the ball in his new system under Jones' guidance.

"What I came to Texas watching with Colt McCoy, it was a spread offense, but it was different than this," Gilbert said. "This offense is fairly unique. There is a lot of difference to it. It takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of reps, and that's why we were out there running routes for an hour and 30 minutes today. It's a huge part of practice. It takes a lot of work, but it's also fun to play in."

Before arriving on the Hilltop, Gilbert underwent season-ending surgery on his right throwing shoulder. But SMU's new field general says it ‘feels stronger than it has in a long time' after going through a lengthy rehab process.

""My shoulder feels great. We threw a lot, and it didn't feel too bad. I'm just going to go ice it down and enjoy my day off tomorrow and get ready for six in a row," Gilbert said. "The UT training staff did a great job. I've been through this rehab process before since I did it in high school. This time, I was able to take it slower since I had the surgery in October and didn't have to be ready till June. I made sure everything was healthy and ready to go."

While things didn't exactly pan out as planned at Texas, Gilbert has moved forward from the experience and is happy about getting a fresh new start at SMU, where he believes he can help the Mustangs have one of the most successful seasons in recent memory.

"I thought it was great fit for the next two years that I have left to play. I came up here to watch a practice, and I really liked it," Gilbert said. "I thought it was awesome. I really liked the program. I like where we're heading as a team this year. I think we'll be able to find success and not to mention, have some fun."

Video: June Jones talks about opening practice

Freshman quarterback getting accustomed to college

By Beionny Mickles

Transitioning from high school football to Division I football can be daunting and sometimes overwhelming- especially as a quarterback. However, freshman gun slinger Neal Burcham has gladly accepted the challenge.

"It's been great," said the former Greenbrier (Ark) standout. "I love to learn new things. It's definitely been a challenge to take in a whole new offense but it's definitely been fun and so far it's going good."

Burcham has been recovering from a torn ACL, which occurred during his senior season. Since then, he has worked hard in rehabilitation and says that his knee is vastly improving. "It's good. I don't really have a whole lot of pain in it," Burcham said.

Although being a college quarterback has its demands physically, having the mental fortitude and dedication to live and breathe inside of the playbook is just as important if not more. Burcham says that learning things quickly is definitely a strength of his.

"Learning is something that I've got to do every day," Burcham said. "Something that I feel I'm good at is picking up stuff and learning and having a passion for the game and giving it my all."

Burcham, who was elected to the All-Conference as well as the All-State team in Arkansas, has already gotten the chance to develop a relationship with fellow freshman wide receiver Gehrig Deiter.

"I talk to Gehrig Dieter a lot and I feel like he's one that can be something pretty special," Burcham said. "I know he's in the same class as me so I've been watching him. He's a real cool guy, and I think he's got tremendous skills."

Burcham, who has yet to receive word on whether or not he will redshirt this year, has nothing but good reflections on his new head coach June Jones and offensive specialist Dan Morrison.

"As a quarterback, you like that chill about him," Burcham said of Jones. "He's definitely laid back and I love that. You can talk to him and you can learn from him easily, him and Coach Morrison both."

Day 1 Observations:

- Despite the extreme heat, June Jones was wearing his customary black jumpsuit while the players wore nothing but Nike today with most wearing a black dri-fit undershirt underneath their jerseys, grey shorts, and low-top red black and white cleats.

- Kickers had on special nike cleats which were black with neon orange and neon green accents.

- All four QB's threw tight spirals for the most part but Garret Gilbert really shined. A lot of "umph" on his balls today. His arm strength was very impressive.

- Arrius Holleman dropped a few passes during drills initially but hauled in a nice one handed grab later on in the practice.

- Keenan Holman made a nice catch on the sideline and showed some burst as he shot up the field.

- On a whole practice was very laid back as usual, wide receivers were taking a knee when not running routes.

- SMU quarterback commit Kolney Cassel watched practice for the entire three hours with his family. His little sister was proudly wearing a Mustang shirt.

- Margus Hunt had the quote of the day when a reporter asked him about a t-shirt that he was wearing which had a picture of the Marvel Comic hero the Punisher. When asked about it Hunt responded by saying something along the lines of "You don't read comics?" then he proceeded to say: "Every once in a while sit down and read something instead of writing all the time."

- Wide receiver Gehrig Deiter took reps with the 4th team wide receivers today.

- In early passing drills, freshman Neal Burcham appeared to lack leg strength after recovering from an ACL tear.

- Speaking about ACL's, running back Jared Williams practiced today despite talks that he might have been out for nearly the entire year.

- Freshman Derek Longoria practiced with casts on both his wrists, which forced him to greyshirt.

- Aaron ‘Spike' Davis had war paint on his face and was energetic throughout practice.

- Holleman appeared winded during the conditioning test and decided to lie down on the grass.

- Ronnell Sims suffered a vicious cramp during the conditioning test and limped to see a trainer. Freshman offensive lineman Christian Chamagua also had cramps and went down hard.

- New transfer Stavion Lowe did separate conditioning drills with Williams, Ashton Duhe, and Jarrett Spencer. Lowe looked extremely out of shape and is recovering from a hamstring.

- There were a lot of fashion statements made freshmen at today's camp. Shakiel Randolph wore Betty Boop socks while Ajee Montes had a blue streak in his hair.

- Special teams coach Frank Gansz Jr. usually does a lot of yelling but may have gotten scolded himself for wearing Adidas shoes instead of Nike. He was force to tape around the logo.

- Senior safety Ryan Smith appeared to be in tip-top shape and was a true leader during the sprints

- The SMU kickers got a visit from former kick Brad Namdar, who gave some words of advice.

- Defensive back J.R. Richardson was sidelined after the sprints that the team ran in the middle of practice. Chris Parks then practiced with the firs team.

- The second team defense consisted of Beau Barnes, Davis, Zach Wood, Robert Seals, Kevin Pope, Randall Joyner, Cody Worthen, Horace Richardson, Chris Parks, Jeremy Gray, and Daniel Roundtree.

- The second group of receivers consisted of Holleman, Cole Loftin, Ryan Walker, and Stephen Nelson.

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