Ascraft Fitting In Fine
Just a few months ago, Thomas Ashcraft didn't know if football was going to be a part of his future. Now, he's expected to be the starting left tackle for SMU.
Ashcraft originally began his career at Texas, where he played four years and appeared in 35 games. He graduated in December and began taking businesses courses in the spring. It was then when he realized he wanted to pursue a master's degree and use his last year of eligibility to play another year on the gridiron.
So Ashcraft gave his former teammate a ring, and everything just fell into place for the 6-foot-5, 315-pound offensive lineman.
"I saw that the sports management program was actually split with Cox Business School, which is a very prominent school. I have the opportunity to learn from people in the industry and network so I saw it as a great opportunity.
"So I called Garrett and asked him about the depth on the offensive and defensive lines because I was willing to play either one. Then I got in contact with Coach (Wes) Suan, and we set up everything. They just had a scholarship open up because someone transferred so it all worked out."
And so far so good. Ashcraft has been one of the most impressive players on offense during fall camp and has earned praise from just about everyone. Although he's still learning and getting used to playing in a pass heavy system, Ashcraft has really progressed and says the transition has been somewhat easier than expected on and off the field.
"It's a lot more simpler and easier to learn. You basically have to take the right steps and have the right technique," he said. "Texas was more complex and more smash mouth football. I'm pretty much getting it down here. I think I can adjust really well to this offense.
"I like it a lot here. It's a lot more quaint and quiet. There aren't too many distractions around campus. It's easier to focus on football. The classes are a lot smaller. It's a lot different than 300 people in a lecture hall."
At Texas, Ashcraft played every position along the offensive line except for center. But he spent the majority of time on the interior at guard. On the Hilltop, Ashcraft will be in charge of protecting Gilbert's blindside and fending of some of the fiercest pass rushers in the American Athletic Conference.
To help with this, Ashcraft has been picking the brain of Ben Gottschalk, who started at left tackle last season before moving the left guard this summer.
"When I first got here, I went straight to him since this is what he had been playing," Ashcraft said. "I've just been asking what he sees on some reads and what techniques he uses in certain situations. Just seeing his point of view, makes me more confident in my abilities heading into the season."
That confidence will go a long way this year. With some of the changes made this offseason, it wouldn't be surprising if this offense gets off to a slow start. But Ashcraft has high expectations for the unit as well as himself and Gilbert.
"I think this is a great atmosphere for Garrett. He doesn't have as much pressure. He was expected to be this great guy at Texas before he even developed as a quarterback. Now, he's a lot more confident. I've seen him grow a lot, and I'm expecting a lot from him.
"I think we've got a lot going on offense. I've seen a lot of leadership out here. I thin we have a lot of weapons, and we can be pretty good this season. As far as myself, I don't want to give up any sack, and I feel like I have the ability to do it."
VIDEO: DB Hayden Greenbauer
- Shakiel Randolph made a couple of statement plays during 7-on-7. The first one was a big hit on Jeremiah Gaines, who was overthrown when coming across the middle.
- The second was an interception on a pass that went off of Gaines' fingertips. Randolph returned it for a pick six, which the defense celebrated with a few dances.
- There were a couple of times where Stephon Sanders looked extremely quick coming off the edge, but Garrett Gilbert did an excellent job of avoiding sacks and getting the ball out to Collin Lagasse in the flats.
- Elie Nabushosi also looked great coming off the edge. But he really showed his athleticism when lining up inside at nose tackle.
- Not to be outdone by Randolph, Lincoln Richard also had a big hit today as he sent Lagasse flying out of bounds just after catching a swing pass.
- Deion Sanders Jr. isn't the fastest guy in the world when it comes to straight-line speed. But he's extremely shifty and quick. On one play, he caught a ball on a drag and made quite a few defenders miss.
- Hal Mumme praised Neal Burcham for what was probably the best pass in practice today. He threw an accurate bullet in traffic to JaBryce Taylor, who was running a skinny post. The play was perfectly executed.
- There was a little bit of trouble with bad snaps today. Taylor Lasecki has done a nice job. But nobody has asserted themselves as a solid backup.
- Keenan Holman once again made some nice grabs as he continues to be the surprise of camp on offense.
- Cedric Lancaster may be the fastest player on offense. He really has speed to burn but looks like he's around 5-7 not 5-9.
- On the last play of practice, the offense had the ball at the five and Lancaster caught the ball on an out route but was stopped just shy of the goal line by Kevin Pope, who did a tremendous job of breaking down and wrapping up.
- After practice, June Jones said Lagasse is a very good football player, and he feels they found a position that fits his skillset (running back).
- Jones also said he's happy with the way the offensive line is progressing and said Thomas Ashcraft is very smart and getting better everyday.
- Quote of the day: "People that don't have to run long distances shouldn't have to run long distances!" – Defensive lineman Spencer Conley on having to run field-length sprints after practice.
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