SMU Fall Camp Notebook: Day 5

Come inside for stories and notes from SMU's fifth football practice!

Pope Brings Energy At LB

When Kevin Pope first made the transition from running back to linebacker, he was asked if he thought he had a linebacker's mentality. Pope seemed flustered by the question and gave an awkward response, which drew jeers in the locker room.

But now, there is no question about it.

Pope indeed does have that ‘linebackers mentality' and is ready to show what he can bring to an SMU defense, which finished among the nation's best in terms of turnovers.

"You have to bring intensity to the defense," Pope said. "It means a lot to me to be starting now, and I just want to bring a high intensity and be a leader overall. I have to help get everybody playing at high level and on the same page."

Pope has always been known for athleticism. At Mount Enterprise, a tiny 1A school in East Texas, Pope played on both sides of the ball, rushing for 1,401 yards and notching 76 tackles in eight games as a senior.

But Pope has gained more and more notice for being able to lay the wood. The 5-foot-10, 225-pounder is known as one of the hardest hitters on the team and has been an absolute headhunter on special teams.

Despite playing behind Taylor Reed, who is now with the Dallas Cowboys, for most of his career, Pope has notched 60 tackles over the past two years and recovered a team-high three fumbles in 2012.

"I learned a lot from Taylor Reed. You know, just to keep my head down and be patient. Him and Ja'Gared (Davis) taught me a lot of things in the game itself," Pope said. "I just sat behind them, learned and got better. Sometimes you have to wait your turn, and it'll all work out."

And Pope is still learning. Fellow inside linebacker Randall Joyner and new linebackers coach Eric Daniels have been helping Pope embrace his starting role.

"Joyner is a great guy. He plays with a bunch of enthusiasm. I love him to death. He's been helping me out as well," Pope said. "Coach Daniels is teaching us same foot, same shoulder. Basically, a lot of tackling. That's what we have to do as a linebacker core is just tackle. He's been really helpful so far."

While it will be hard to replicate last year's performance as a unit, Pope believes his Mustang defense can reach its goal of being top-20 in every major statistical category.

But his main focus is helping SMU win a conference title in its first season in the AAC.

"We're just trying to come out here and get better and beat Tech every day. We're working to win a conference championship," Pope said. "We're just trying to go undefeated each week. We expect nothing less."

VIDEO: SMU QB Garrett Gilbert

Practice Notes

- Coling Lagasse was impressive catching ball out of the backfield today. He looked extremely quick and shifty and could give Ronnell Sims a run for his money as the team's change of pace back.

- Rishaad Wimbley, who made the transition from running back to linebacker in the spring, looks like he's in better shape and may develop into a player like Kevin Pope. Today, he showed off his athleticism by making a few good plays in pass coverage.

- Neal Burcham had the most impressive throw of the day on a deep ball to Ryan Walker. Unfortunately, Stephon Sanders' pass interference ruined what could have been a beautiful play.

- Garret Krstich stares down his receivers way too often.

- Garrett Gilbert certainly didn't have his best day of fall camp. He had quite a few inaccurate throws and didn't seem to be on the same page with his wide outs. There was one play where he really showed frustration when it appeared Arrius Holleman ran a route Gilbert was not expecting, and the ball sailed through the back of the end zone.

- Burcham threw a ball just slightly behind Keenan Holman, which bounced off his fingers and was picked off by Jordan Miller.

- Burcham bounced back with a nice throw in traffic to Jeremiah Gaines for a touchdown. Gaines looks like he going to be a great red zone target this season.

- On that same play, defensive backs coach Derrick Odum was visibly upset with freshman Darrion Richardson and gave him a stern talking to on the sideline.

- Perhaps the most beautiful play that actually happened was a screen pass to Traylon Shead, which went for 60 yards. Defensive end Cameron Smith failed to break down and instead bull-rushed the quarterback allowing for an easy set up.

- On the very next play Gilbert threw a great deep ball to an uncovered Der'rikk Thompson, which led Nick Reed to yell, ‘get your head out of your butts!'

- A frustrated Shakiel Randolph popped Prescott Line, who had already stepped out of bounds, on the next play.

- Robert Seals showed great speed off the edge and swallowed up the quarterback on two consecutive plays. But when matched up against Thomas Ashcraft, Ashcraft got the better of him.

- Reed got a lot of the reps at nose tackle today but looked a little slow and out of shape.

- Randall Joyner could be heard almost the entire practice and really does a terrific job of leading the defense.

- After practice, June Jones said the mental errors are the biggest thing SMU needs to correct.

- He also said everybody needs to get on the same page in order for the passing game to improve.

- Jones said Traylon Shead has picked up pass blocking quite well while Line has struggled.

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