SMU Fall Camp Notebook: Day 12

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 12.

Focus Shifting To Baylor

By Beionny Mickles

For the past couple of weeks SMU head coach June Jones has had plenty of time to sweat, teach and observe as fall camp has taken place out on the Hilltop.

With the start of the season vastly approaching, Jones told the media that the team has made progress, but the attention is about to shift from establishing the foundation for the season to preparation for SMU's first game in Waco on Sept. 2.

"I would say that we've made a lot of strides. Now, we've got to focus and get ready for Baylor the next two weeks," Jones said after a shortened practice on Friday afternoon.

Jones touched on a number of areas and positions on the field and had many good things to say about his team, which is looking to get back to the conference championship after missing it last year. One of the things Coach Jones has been pleased with is his new starting quarterback Garret Gilbert.

"Our quarterback today was the best I've seen him," Jones said. "In 7-on-7 today he was 22 of 25 with one drop and two chances on the other two so he's gotten better and better. Every day he goes he sees a little bit more and that makes me feel better. I sleep a little better at night."

One of the biggest question marks coming into camp was the offensive line and how they would fare after graduating all five starters from a year ago. Jones said that they've looked solid and the veterans are leading the way.

"The veteran guys are getting it done," Jones said. "Some of the new guys, we're getting them a lot more reps. Seaver Myers is starting to look the part and Kris Weeks has done well. Taylor Lasecki has taken 50 percent of the starting snaps the past three to four days at center too so he's done a good job too. We've got a nucleus of good guys who are pretty solid."

Offensive lineman Taylor Reich who has been sidelined due to a broken leg has been cleared to play according to Jones, and should be out on the practice field unpadded for the first two days and then fully geared up thereafter.

Jones, who has always been known for his laid back attitude and practices, says that practicing without hitting works and has been proven even at the professional level. He says that that is the reason why so far the team hasn't suffered many injuries.

"That's pretty much the way I've done it since I've been a head coach," Jones said. "Houston was the number one offense in the league with Warren Moon and they were the number one defense in the league and they did it the way we do it. You can do it, but you have to be disciplined and get yourself ready. You have to have the right kind of guys who take the job seriously."

A couple of guys that Jones says he has been impressed with are quarterback Neal Burcham and wide receiver Gehrig Dieter, both freshmen.

"I like what I see with Neal just off of his knowledge. I can tell he's a real smart kid and he's got a quick release," Jones said. "The last two or three days, Gehrig Dieter has done a real nice job catching the ball and making some plays and that's what it's about.

Dieter, who started off camp slowly, has emerged as one of the guys who could see playing time this year according to Jones, who usually decides against rotating in receivers.

"We're going to play four guys, we'll probably rotate 1 or 2 in there on certain situations but by in large I usually just role with the guys who are in there and going," Jones said. "Just looking at it I would say Arrius (Holleman) and Dieter. Cole Loftin's going to play some and Ryan (Walker). Those four guys probably have a chance."

Q&A With SMU CB Keith Robinson

PS: As a senior you've been able to see plenty of different SMU defenses, how does this one rank up with the ones in the past and how good do you think you guys can be?

KR: Well I think we can be a great defense, definitely a top-25. We've got a lot of returning starters we've got a good defensive line, a good defensive back core, and great linebackers. I think this defense is very versatile; we've got a lot of size, a lot of speed, a lot of great players such as Margus Hunt, T-Reed, J.G. we've got Ack returning so I think this defense is going to do big things this year.

PS: By far the biggest headline this camp has been the injury to starting cornerback J.R. Richardson. How big of a blow is it going to be to the secondary and what are your thoughts on Chris Parks?

KR: I don't think it's a big blow because he wasn't a returning starter so either one of us would have had to step in. […..] Chris, he's fast and he's got the defense down so he should be in for a real good season.

PS: Going up against an offense with the likes of Garret Gilbert, Zach Line, and Darius Johnson, how good has that made you guys?

KR: Real good. Garret Gilbert coming from the big-12, he's obviously a big time quarterback, played in a big-time game he has a nice arm and makes good reads. He's very accurate. He makes us better by making us break on the ball by putting the balls in good position. I think having that speed on the offense such as Keenan, Der'Rikk Thompson , and DJ gets us ready for other fast receivers.

PS: Any predictions on the season?

KR: BCS. That's it.

Day 12 Observations:

- Darius Johnson and Der'Rikk Thompson were both back today while Kevin Pope filled in for Taylor Reed again

- Arrius Holleman got the start for Keenan Holman today, who did not practice. Gilbert threw a deep post to Holleman who was wide open and he dropped it causing him to yell out an expletive

- The offense worked out of a five receiver set for a while in practice today with the receivers being: Darius and Jeremy Johnson alongside Der'Rikk Thompson on the left, and Arrius Holleman and Cole Loftin on the right

- Neal Burcham threw the ball with a lot more on it today after he had been having trouble driving it down the field earlier in camp

- Ryan Smith got pretty vocal today in 7-on-7's today yelling," We're looking flat out here today let's pick it up!"

- Holleman got past the 1st team defense in a drill and had the ball thrown over his head by Gilbert. Really doing a nice job running routes and getting off of the line of scrimmage

- Freshmen Horace Richardson and Ajee Montes returned kickoffs today

- The Texans, Bears, and Jaguars were all at practice today mostly following the defense

- The timing on the offense is starting to look very fast and precise. Gilbert is firing the ball off quickly

- Cole Loftin had Derek Longoria beat deep and Neal Burcham underthrew him allowing Longoria to make a play on the ball

- Rodney Hubert made his first noise at camp today diving and swatting down a deep ball intended for Arrius Holleman

- Chase Hover made the play of the day banging home a 57-yard field goal today.

- Practice ended early after Hover kicked a 44-yard field goal a couple of plays later and the team all ran off of the practice fields to get into their swimming attire for a little high-diving at the SMU swimming team's pool.

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