SMU head coach June Jones had to be disappointed.
There was his offense looking unlike a finished product with just 16 days before its debut against Rice in Houston.
Yet Jones was not upset at his offense despite the fact that it threw several interceptions in live practice against SMU defenders. The offensive guru, instead, gave credit where credit was due which is to the unit that is already showing improvement since the arrival of he and his coaching staff—the defense.
"We've got some athletes over there," Jones said. "They're playing real hard, hustling, and when you do that you're going to make plays."
That prospect has to excite the first year coach as he is inheriting a defense that finished second to last in the conference in scoring defense and tenth in total defense.
Where the Mustangs may see the biggest improvement, especially if Wednesday is any type of indication, is turnover margin.
The defense forced a plethora of interceptions in seven on seven and eleven on eleven which is a good sign for a team that finished second to last in the conference in turnover margin—a statistic that Jones said is particularly important for his team. "When you're throwing the ball like we throw it you've got to be aggressive because it's not so much stopping them, it's how many takeaways you have," he said. "Once we get it going offensively, if we get the chance to get the ball more times, then we're going to have a separation in total points."
That offense, however, is clearly still a work in progress. Jones intimated once again that he expects the real growing for his quarterbacks to begin when the regular season starts.
Yet he said he still believes his signal callers can improve significantly in the mental department during practice. And that is what he plans to use in judging his potential starters and narrowing them down to two by Monday. "That's what's the difference," Jones said. "It's not so much the plays, it's not so much anything else, it's knowing what to do."
But until his quarterbacks know what to do, the defense will continue to look good, and Jones will have to give credit where credit is due.