Offenses score points, defenses win championships.
One reason for Hawaii's undefeated season last fall was an improved defensive unit. Everyone already knew that June Jones' offense was going to score a lot of points, an improved defense was just what the doctor ordered.
Jones is now the new head coach at Southern Methodist University and the veteran head coach has put a big emphasis on changing up the defensive mind set on the Hilltop.
One area that impressed the new skipper during spring practice was the play of the defensive line.
"One area that was a pleasant surprise was the play of the defensive front," Jones told PonyStampede.com in a recent interview. "Our defense will play with a new mentality, we will be very aggressive and I want our players flying to the ball. I was very pleasantly surprised by how our D-Line played this spring."
New defensive coordinator Tom Mason echoed those sentiments earlier, stating though the Mustangs will remain in the 4-3 base defense, that's the only thing that will look familiar to fans.
"We have to play fast and finish hard," Mason said. "Our defensive philosophy will rely on 100% speed."
Mason admitted that the new coaching staff has thrown out the old philosophy of bend and don't break.
"That won't be the type of defense we will play here," Mason said. "Our offense sets the pace for the game with a fast break style of play. If we break, we will break 100 percent and will do so because we are flying to the ball."
Jones repeated the sentiment of how hungry his current players are to get the program turned around.
"These young men lost some heart breaking games last fall," Jones said. "We are focused on instilling a new attitude, a new confidence in each of our players. You have to have a winning attitude to be able to win some close games; our players have really bought into what we are doing both offensively and defensively."
Jones and his new staff brought a new laid back approach to the Hilltop this spring.
"A lot of the coaches have the Island attitude," noted one player. "The coaches teach us in a relaxed way, they aren't always yelling at us. They are taking the time to show us what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong. It's a lot different atmosphere than before."
Jones admits that he is a big believer in treating his players differently than a lot of coaches.
"The game is supposed to be fun," Jones said. "Winning makes it fun. We need to build these players' confidence back up and we need to motivate them to play their best every time they are on the field. We bring more of a professional approach to the college arena."
Whatever the new philosophy is, it appears to be working.
Every player interviewed so far has reflected the new changes.
"They are making football fun again," Serge Elizee said in an earlier interview. "They want us to play to our god-given strengths and abilities; they are great teachers of the game."
According to Jones, he and his staff have received a warm welcome from his players and the SMU community.
"We are undefeated, everybody is happy right now," Jones laughed. "Everyone has really made us feel at home. Highland Park is a great place to live, I couldn't ask for anything better."