Coming off a season where they were ranked 116th out of 117 Division 1 teams, the SMU defense is looking to improve vastly on their performance from the previous season. So far in training camp, the defense is looking quicker, stronger and more intense. The players are buying into the philosophy of new defensive coordinator Tom Mason of a lightning-fast blitzing defense.
As for day three of training camp, it brought what everyone had been looking forward to—players in pads. The day opened up with the whole team running a kickoff-style drill with four players staying in their lanes, running down the field and surrounding the ball carrier and giving him a good hit. Then the players split into their offensive and defensive position drills.
Many of the drills the defense has been running have been more oriented towards walk-throughs and instructional drills, rather than tackling and hard-hitting drills.
Mustang defensive back Rock Dennis said after practice, "I'd rather be taught the proper things first. Once we get comfortable and know the defense from rushing to the corners and safeties, we'll be fine. Then we can just go out there and play; it'll be like second nature. But first, everyone has to know what everyone else's responsibility is."
Dennis, the Junior from Leavenworth, Kansas, was injured all of last season with a broken shoulder, and his addition alone should be very helpful to the Mustang defense.
"My shoulder feels really good. I can't baby it, I just have to go out there and play like I normally would. Contact? I never shy away from contact, and it's always fun. I feel like I'm 100%."
Hopefully Dennis' addition will be something the Mustangs can build on and help this defense walk off the field this season with more turnovers than last. Last year, the Mustangs were minus 9 in turnovers and that is a statistic which makes it very hard to make bowl games and win conference championships.
Dennis added, "We have to force turnovers this year to win ball games. We know our offense is going to put up points, but in order for us to be successful, we must make the other team turn the ball over. Our motto this year as a defense is ‘play fast, finish hard' and if we can do that and be successful, we're going to put together some wins."