Incumbent starter Justin Willis, a junior, redshirt freshman Logan Turner, and walk-on freshman Winston Gamso stayed after practice with about 30 other players for extra conditioning work. True freshman Braden Smith greeted supporters up in the stands. True freshman Bo Levi Mitchell headed back to the locker room cutting up with a group of receivers.
It was just another day and another practice for the Mustangs, who moved their two-hour workout into Ford Stadium during Friday morning's downpour. The wet conditions soaked players and coaches alike, and caused for plenty of slippery passes and dropped balls. But the work got down nonetheless.
SMU's opener at Rice is two weeks from today, and head coach June Jones has indicated he'll select the starting quarterback soon in order to begin game-planning on Monday.
"We're still taking it day by day," Turner said. "I truly believe that whoever gets it, the team is going to be better for it. All five of us have gotten closer together. I'm not nervous. I'll take it as it comes."
For a second day in a row, Turner has been the first quarterback to take snaps with what appears to be the first-team offense. But he doesn't think that that's any indicator of where Jones might be leaning.
"I don't read into that," Turner said. "We've been working in rotations where each guy gets a few snaps in a row. It was me some today, but Justin and others have gone out their first too in the rotation."
Toward the end of practice, SMU's offense set up in a goal-line situation at the 9-yard line. Turner connected on his first two throws for touchdowns, blasting bullets to Aldrick Robinson in the end zone on slant-in pattern. He threw for a third score in three throws when Zach Zimmerman leaped for a high grab on the next play.
Bo Levi Mitchell came in for the next series and hit Josh Bryant for a touchdown. The offense switched directions, and Mitchell twice overthrew an open Terrance Wilkerson down the right sideline on deep fade patterns.
Braden Smith had a completion over the middle for a first down to Cole Loftin, who has had a fine finish to the second week of practice. The true freshman receiver is making a big surge toward becoming one of the five starting receivers.
Willis and Gamso did not participate in the 10-play goal-line set.
Turner said each of the quarterbacks are making better reads at this point, and can know and see defenses better at the line of scrimmage. Identifying the coverage and seeing the play mentally then allows the players' talent to come out.
"You see it, and then you can let your athleticism take it from there," Turner said.
The competition has brought the group together more than anything else.
"Any one of us is going to be better because of the others," Turner said. "We spend a lot of time together off the field. It's a friendly competition. We help each other out. Sometimes they'll see something that I don't and mention it to me, and sometimes I help them out. And Justin's been great helping us out because he's the only one that's seen all of this at game-speed."
Last-second pressureAs the team was about to undergo some extra conditioning work, Jones told everyone to gather in a horseshoe shape around the 25-yard line. There, Thomas Morstead was called on to kick a 35-yard field goal. The senior kicker made the field goal, and practice was then dismissed. Still, about 30 players stayed behind to do extra sprint and conditioning work.
View from the defensive lineSenior defensive lineman Patrick Handy sees all the work the defensive front has to do to match some of Conference USA's top offenses. Despite its 3-9 record, Rice ranked fifth in total offense in conference games last season. "As a line, we've got everything in place, but a lot of work to do," Handy said. "We just keep going over fundamentals and technique. The coaches are giving us a lot of freedom to go off the ball and make plays. They want us to just relax and play football. "I'm looking forward to having more sacks. I haven't had many so far." Handy still remembers well last year's game against Rice, where a defensive stop on Rice's final drive would have prevented the Owls' last-second field goal and a 43-42 loss. "We're pretty intent on stopping them in two weeks," Handy said.