Every practice, after team stretches, the entire SMU football team lines up for its first drill.
It's not head coach and offensive guru June Jones leading the drill.
No. Practice has not started until the voice of special teams coach Frank Gansz blares over the Pettus Practice Field PA system as offensive and defensive players alike partner up to practice form tackling.
"It's very simple," Gansz said. "I just try to communicate what I need from them on a daily basis,"
That is not all the coach does for the Mustangs. Gansz, who has 24 years of NFL coaching experience, is constantly encouraging his players with words like ‘You've got greatness inside of you'—just the words a team coming off of a 1-11 season need to hear.
Everyone hears his words. Even quarterbacks Justin Willis and Logan Turner participated in the tackling drills before Friday. Yet players like Willis and Turner have no problem participating in the drills.
Part of the reason is the team-first mentality that has only been strengthened by the arrival of Jones' coaching staff. "They work real hard and they want to win," Gansz said. "Their enthusiasm impresses me…to their attentiveness and to how receptive they are to what we're trying to do."
That has resulted in a steady improvement for the Mustangs' special teams since camp began Monday. Wide receivers were dominating the unit in coverage drills the first two days but have since been corralled and now find it hard to get ten yards against the unit.
Gansz, however, said there is no way to truly measure the progress of the unit. "It's hard to say because we haven't lined up against anybody else," he said. "But on a daily basis, every man, including myself, has to make commitments to improve his skill and his technique."
Yet the special teams coach admits that the outlook is good for a unit that returns NFL prospect Thomas Morstead to handle punts and field goals after finishing in the top five in the conference in punt and kickoff coverage as it did last year.
"They're doing well," he said. "We just have to continue to improve on a daily basis."