While talk of players being suspended dominated today's practice at Southern Methodist University, the good news is that starting quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell is progressing with his rehab work and is expected to play Saturday against UTEP.
Mitchell took about 30 percent of the reps Thursday morning, preparing for Saturday night's game against the Miners.
"He still has a little pain, but he is fighting through it," June Jones said after Thursday's practice. "We have discussed it, and if he is able to go he will play Saturday. We will see after he throws some tomorrow whether he starts or not, I expect him to."
Without his two top wide receivers making the trip to El Paso this weekend, Jones did confirm that he and his staff have made some additional personnel decisions regarding some freshmen redshirts.
"We have discussed it and decided that we don't plan on pulling Braden Smith's redshirt unless we have two quarterbacks go down," Jones said. "He will make the trip, but we plan on saving his redshirt if possible."
Two other freshmen that could have seen action this week are wide outs Cole Loftin and E.J. Drewery. Loftin went out early in the season due to a broken collarbone, according to Jones he is ready to play if needed.
"We have decided to hold off using those two unless it's absolutely necessary," Jones said. "We are going to save their red shirts as well. Cole could play, but we are hoping to get a medical redshirt for him and don't want to waste those with just two games to play."
According to Jones he has also considered holding Mitchell out this week, but feels that the true freshman will be ready to play.
"If it was a knee we wouldn't even consider playing him," Jones said. "There is nothing torn in his shoulder, he is just a little sore. It will be good to see how he fights through pain; he is definitely one of our leaders on our team."
Jones feels that his team will respond well to the adversity it has faced this week.
"It's all about changing the culture of this team," Jones said. "The little things are important. Our team will be better because of this, they will fight through and will learn from it, I'm sure of that."
Mitchell was excited about his progress this week in practice.
"I will definitely be ready to play Saturday," Mitchell told PonyStampede.com. "We will be ready to play and will give it our best shot for a win against UTEP."
Jones confirmed Thursday that junior wide out Emmanuel Sanders and Aldrick Robinson, the No. 3 wide receiver in the country going into last weeks game have been suspended from the team along with sophomore linebacker Justin Smart due to breaking several minor team rule violations.
According to Jones the violations ranged from missing classes, being late for study halls, and tutoring sessions. Most of the violations were academic related.
"We have had over 17 players suspended at one time or another this season," Jones said. "It's a part of setting the standard and building a program. Our first two years at Hawaii we had a lot of suspensions. Our last four years we didn't have one single one. It's about doing the little things right, being on time for meetings, classes etc. This shows our team that no one is above the rules, we will be better because of it in the long term."