Acker Flashing Versatility
After a season where he earned several awards and accolades, SMU senior Kenneth Acker is ready to step on the field for one last season on the Hilltop.
The preseason first team All-AAC cornerback has solidified himself as a legitimate defensive back last year, but he still has a lot to build on. Acker says the respect he has earned from other teams around the conference is well earned, but he feels he has even more to prove.
"I feel like I have a lot of respect on this team, but I feel like there is a lot more respect to be earned," Acker said. "Preseason accolades don't really mean anything at the end of the day. I'm trying to solidify myself as the best cornerback at the end of the season not at the beginning."
This spring, Acker was been asked to assume responsibilities as a pass catcher and playmaker on the offensive side of the ball. Acker says that the transition wasn't as difficult as some might assume because of his experience playing multiple positions in high school.
Acker says he wasn't too surprised when head coach June Jones asked him to play in the slot because it was something they talked about back when he was first recruited.
"I just take it as what he says he really means," Acker said. "When he recruited me, he said he saw me as a full athlete and that he would try me at both (offense and defense). Now we're going into the season where he's doing that so really it shows the character that Coach Jones has a person."
The most difficult part about making the switch for Acker was the time involved in making sure that he was the best he could be at both positions. Acker, however, says he knew going in that if he wanted to be good at it he would have to sacrifice his time so he was prepared to make that commitment.
"Really all its doing is making me a better football player," Acker said. "If it wasn't difficult it would be something that everybody does so it's supposed to be difficult. I just look at it as a blessing to have the opportunity."
With the secondary's struggles last year, Acker says he was skeptical about making the switch to offense at first. But when he looked at the depth behind him, it made the decision easier. Acker says most likely he won't be switching to offense full time but even if he did he would be comfortable with the guys lining up behind him.
"I feel like we're the deepest secondary that I've seen in a while here," Acker said. "I was really thinking about going to offense full-time at one point, which probably isn't going to happen anymore, but I felt comfortable with the guys that were behind me and the guys coming up after them."
Acker believes that the biggest change occurring within the team as a whole is the fact that everybody is on the same page and has the same goal of doing all they can for the whole team.
"At the end of the day, I don't want anybody to be able to say that he didn't try as hard as he could," Acker said. "I just want to go out there and be the best that I can and leave it all on the field."
Q&A With SMU WR Ryan Walker
PS: Going into your senior year with a real possibility of starting... What is your mindset going into this season?
RW: I'm just trying to go out on the field every single day and be the best player I can be. Whether it's working the hardest on the field, staying late, getting on the field early or getting my assignments perfect I just want to be the best.
PS: You've been here for a while. How has waiting in the wings benefited you in terms of understanding the offense and the playbook etc.
RW: Coming up and being in the mix at a young age I got a chance to learn from guys like Emmanuel Sanders, Cole Beasley and Aldrick Robinson so I feel like that helped me a lot. Being here in my senior year I feel like I know the offense just as well as any of our coaches do so that helps me a lot too.
PS: What is the biggest thing that has changed since when you were a freshman?
RW: We expect to be great. The year before I got here, we were 1-11 and obviously we wanted to be the best we can be but we hadn't exactly experienced winning. Now, we've gotten a taste of it, and we're not achieving our goals the way that we want to but now we expect to be great and we know how to work to be great.
PS: How is your chemistry with Garret Gilbert?
RW: It's great. He's a real hard worker and he's always trying to do a little extra. We come in and get extra work in all the time. He's always trying to get better so we're getting after every day. We've got great chemistry I'd say.
PS: It seems that Gilbert just couldn't get in sync with the receivers last year and when he did, there were a plethora of dropped passes that just killed momentum. What's been different this year in terms of ensuring that that doesn't happen this season?
RW: Just holding each other accountable. We don't accept not being the best so when stuff happens, we don't have a problem going up to each other and saying we need more out of you and we've got to be better. We've got to be the best. We hold each other to a higher standard. That's the only way to get better.
PS: There is a bunch of young talent especially at the receiver position on this team. How have you had an effect on your younger teammates in terms of you showcasing that veteran leadership?
RW: Well, the biggest thing with the freshmen is that they come in and they want to work and they want to learn and they're hungry to be the best. I've got them coming up to me asking me for help so I do the best I can to help them out. Being experts, because we're seniors or upperclassmen, we can guide them in the right direction so they don't have to just ask the coaches questions but they can ask us questions and we can reinforce what the coaches are teaching them so they can pick things up real fast.
PS: Any of them in particular make you raise your eyebrows?
RW: All of them. I think every single one of them will be a good player here one day whether that's this season or next season or whenever they get their shot. They're all great to me, and they all work hard to be the best so I think they will all be good.
PS: What are the top three things that you want to achieve this season?
RW: Have a record of 1-0 after each game we play is my first goal. Being all-conference is my second goal. And being an All-American is my third goal.
• JaBryce Taylor is a standout. Definitely has the talent to start. Made a couple spectacular catches one diving out of bounds with a toe in and another deep ball where he went up full extension to make a tough catch
• Gilbert looked good. Made some tough throws between the corner and safety during drills.
• Marcus Holyfield did a good job of catching passes. Didn't drop a ball in drills today
• The new guys as a whole have good hands. I saw Nate Halverson, Taylor and few others all make great catches.
• Hayden Greenbauer caught an interception off Garret Krstich.
• Defense did a good job on 7-on-7 in forcing QB's to hold on to the ball for a long time.
• Neal Burcham has good timing and accuracy with receivers. Much of the time as soon as they look up the ball is there and perfectly placed.
• Keenan Holman had a good day. He made a couple of nice catches in traffic. Looks good.
• Jeremiah Gaines has the ability to really be a mismatch. Showed that ability to get behind linebackers up the seam.
• Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos were out at practice today.
• Kolney Cassel still hasn't really settled in. Made some good throws but made some bad ones too.
• Kyle Guinyard did well. Got rocked by Daniel Roundtree and held on to the football.
• A leader pushes everybody around them to be better and Randall Joyner is just a natural at it.
• Horace Richardson looks like he is back to full strength. Both he and J.R. Richardson did well in coverage.
• Gaines will be an excellent red zone option. He is big, strong, and almost impossible to bring down. The best thing about him however, is the fact that he doesn't give up any athleticism. He jumped up and fully extended to make a tough catch in traffic near the goal line. Would have gotten tattooed on game day but he takes contact well.
• Darrion Richardson caught a pick six off Neal Burcham in 7-on-7's.
• A.J. Justice really struggled on the back end.
• Roundtree made a few good hits including a great lick on Traylon Shead.
• Stephen Nelson does not drop balls. He consistently made plays today. Mr. Reliable in my book.
• Garrett Gilbert threw a beautiful pass to Taylor in the end zone on the sideline and he barely dropped it. Would have been the cherry on top of a great day
• Colin LaGasse did a good job of catching balls out of the backfield.
• Lincoln Richard could be a stud one day. Caused so much destruction at the line of scrimmage today.
• Talked to Gilbert after practice and he said that he feels the strongest he has felt since before his sophomore year. With shoulder surgery he wasn't able to do much as far as getting stronger and during the season the Mustangs have more of a strength maintenance program and not a strength gaining program. So he says this summer was his first chance to get stronger and just by looking at him you can see the difference.
SMU Fall Camp Notebook: Day 3
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