SMU Fall Camp Notebook: Day 12

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

Wright Man For The Job

With all three starters ousted by way of graduation, the SMU defensive line will look a whole lot different in 2013. A little younger too.

Stalwart Torlan Pittman anchored the middle of the field all season as a senior but now there is a new nose tackle by the name of Darrian Wright taking the helm, and he's ready to prove the new defensive line is not to be overlooked.

"There's a lot of people out there saying that the D-Line is not this, not that, because we graduated three seniors but I feel like that's just going to make us better," Wright said. "We're taking it as people doubting us so every day in practice we work harder."

"We want to show people that we're the new D-Line and we're going to do our best and that there will be no drop off from last year."

In his sophomore season, Wright earned playing time in all 13 games and burst on to the SMU scene with a pick-six against Stephen F. Austin. This year, Wright plans to take the next step as the main man in the middle using lessons learned from his predecessors.

"I feel more prepared," Wright said. "I'm getting more reps as a starter this year. Last year, I sat behind two seniors, and I was behind those guys for a reason – to learn. So I feel like they took me under their wings and made me who I am right now."

Wright, who came in as a three-star recruit, has steadily shown progression each year but feels he still has plenty of work to do in order to become the complete nose tackle he desires to be.

As a nose tackle in the SMU defense, pass rush comes second to plugging up the gaps to take away interior running lanes. Wright says he's confident in his abilities to take care of runners out of the backfield but getting to the quarterback is a different animal.

"I feel like I can read faster now," Wright said. "I'm better at throwing my hands and stopping the run and stuff like that, but I need to work on my pass rush man. I need to get that up big time. But as the season comes it'll come to me."

Stopping the run first is not just a mentality that Wright has, but it is something that the entire defensive line wants to continue to focus on. If healthy, Wright believes that his unit could surprise a lot of people.

"I feel like we're going to be good this year," Wright said. "We've got the depth to where if the first group is out, the second group is still going to their thing.

"This year we're more unified. If Zach (Wood) does something I know I can read off it or if Beau (Barnes) does something I can read off him so I feel like I know what we're doing before the play is snapped."

VIDEO: Assistant Coach Hal Mumme

Practice Notes

- Jason Phillips ran an awesome drill today, where he stood about 6-7 yards away from a receiver diagonally and threw them several over the shoulder passes with a good amount of velocity on each ball. Some were over the left shoulder and some over the right. I really think this will help them. Nothing like catching a ball at full speed but developing that the muscle memory is key.

- First play of 11-on-11, Garret Gilbert threw a pretty pass down the sideline to Keenan Holman between Kenneth Acker and the safety. Great throw and catch.

- The offense looked great early in the day. Gilbert and Neal Burcham both doing incredibly well getting the ball out quickly, especially against the blitz.

- Jeremy Johnson is looking dynamic. He caught a ball at about the right hash on a crossing route running left to right, he stopped on a dime, juked left, outran everybody to the left sideline and turned on the jets to the end zone.

- Prescott Line gave a mean stiff arm to Ajee Montes while running down the sideline. When he gets a head of steam running downhill he's a big load to handle.

- The defense OWNED the second half of 11-on-11's.

- The starting defense has so much swag (that's the word Chris Parks uses to describe it) and intensity. They have fun but they play hard. They basically got three coverage sacks in a row vs. Burcham and Gilbert and talked smack after every one.

- The defense also has a lot of speed. All around.

- Jay Scott came up and put a lick on Jeremy Johnson. (Can't tell you how much more contact these practices have in them now-a-days. Total turnaround). Parks came up and started talking smack to Johnson, and he shoved him in the helmet. The next play Parks broke up a pass on the sideline intended for Ryan Walker. Feeding off the energy.

- Gilbert attempted a pass and Lincoln Richard bounced up like Tigger to swat it down. I think that should be something he tries to do consistently. His athleticism is through the roof.

- If Gilbert can get the ball to Holman in stride this year, he really could be dangerous. He might have been the best receiver on the field today. Size, speed, skill, moves everything. But can it translate to the games….

Johnson burnt Montes deep down the field, but Burcham didn't have the arm to get it there. Montes still dropped the pick. It was about 55-60 yards down field

- On excellent coverage from JR Richardson, Der'rikk Thompson got on the elevator and grabbed the ball out of the air and landed hard near the sideline. He got up slow but jogged off. Earned great praise from Joyner as well as Gilbert.

- A.J. Justice is starting to turn the corner. Earlier in camp, I reported that he was being harassed but the last couple practices I've covered he's made some splash plays and today he made a great one, swatting the ball away from Jeremiah Gaines

- And then the very next play Burcham threw it to Justice and he dropped the pick.

- Quote of the Day: After the coverage sacks that I talked about, Randall Joyner exits the field singing his rendition of an Akon song. "They locked up!" Joyner bellowed.

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