Dallas Colleges: June Jones
The parallels can be difficult to decipher. On one end stand William Leahy, Ernest King, Chester Nimitz, and William Halsey -- four men who helped establish the U.S. as the world's greatest fleet. On the other stand names like Mumme, June Jones, Dan Morrison and Jason Phillips -- a core of influential minds who will comprise the Mustangs' coaching staff this season, their first in the American Athletic Conference.
But the blending of brains should be a fascinating experiment, if only to see the godfather of the Air Raid offense (Mumme) paired with the curator of the Run 'n' Shoot (Jones, the head coach). The fact that they are also working with Morrison -- who at Hawaii coached NCAA all-time touchdown pass leader Colt Brennan -- and Phillips, who led the nation in receiving yards during Houston's Run 'n' Shoot heyday in 1987 and 1988, should only get the creative juices flowing some more.
"I bought the book on purpose, because it's kind of like being on the staff at SMU," Mumme cracked.
Mumme, SMU's passing game coordinator, will be working closely with Phillips, the co-offensive coordinator who is in his second season with the Mustangs after a nine-year stint with Houston, where Kevin Sumlin's four-year tenure featured many Air Raid principles. Their first-year graduate assistant is Timmy Chang, who became the NCAA's all-time passing leader under Morrison at Hawaii.
There are still questions. Will there be a catchy new name for this hybrid offense?
"I don't know what we'll call it, but it's the 21st Century version," Mumme said
And what, exactly, will it look like?
Jones says Mumme's offense is known for stretching the field horizontally, whereas his gets the ball down the field vertically. The common link between the two is Phillips, who coached in the former scheme and played in the latter.
"I think what we tried to do is combine some of those things off of the packages that our kids were doing pretty soundly here that we think we can add, and they'll do good with some of the things that Hal brought," Jones said.
"And I think once we manage the players, getting them in the right spots, I think we're going to have some fun."
Mumme, 61, and Jones, 60, have known each other for more than 30 years. They studied each other's film in the 1990s when Mumme was coaching Valdosta State and Jones was with the Atlanta Falcons. And they crossed paths in the Western Athletic Conference throughout the last decade, when Mumme spent four years at New Mexico State and Jones was at Hawaii.
"We'd get together and joke around with the media all the time about how we were going to have a game where there were no runs," Mumme said.
Both said that they had been trying to work together for years, though nothing materialized until Jones hired Mumme away on March 20 from Div. II McMurry in Abilene, Texas.
Together in Dallas, they will see their brainchild play out through the arm of fifth-year senior and former Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who totaled 3,278 yards and 23 scores in his first season at SMU, which finished 7-6 last season. Gilbert and Mumme immediately hit it off upon the coach's arrival, meeting regularly to share ideas as the assistant helped install the new offense.
"It's a very cool combination on paper," Gilbert said. "We've still got to come out and execute it on Saturdays in the fall. But it gives us the opportunity to throw the ball down the field that coach Jones has been so great at, and doing some of the stuff that coach Mumme has been so famous for and so good at over the years -- getting the ball out of the quarterback's hands, letting the wide receivers make plays down the field... fast-paced. A combination of those two things will be great for our offense."
Perhaps fittingly, this outfit's first test will come on the season's first Friday night against Kliff Kingsbury in his debut as head coach at Texas Tech -- a coach and program with no shortage of Air Raid ties themselves.
"I don't think it's too early to imagine the fireworks," Mumme said.
Jones said that last season was a big year mentally for Gilbert, who came off a final campaign with the Longhorns that saw him lose his starting job before undergoing the season-ending shoulder surgery. Three years earlier, after the 2009 season, ESPN's former No. 2 quarterback recruit nationally had been thrust into the BCS title game against Alabama as a true freshman, getting picked off four times after starter Colt McCoy was knocked out of the contest.
Gilbert threw 13 interceptions through his first seven games with SMU in 2012 before closing the regular season with five straight pick-less contests.
He netted 310 yards, two scores and two interceptions in a 43-10 rout of favored Fresno State in the Hawai'i Bowl, as the Mustangs closed the season on a 5-2 stretch.
But Gilbert, who went through a coaching change before his senior year at (Austin) Lake Travis, a coordinator change with the Longhorns in 2011, a transfer to SMU last season and the addition of Mumme this season, will basically be learning his sixth different offense in the past seven years.
One worry, at least, can be quelled, as Gilbert and Mumme are in lockstep when it comes to this offense's ultimate goals.
"We want to lead the nation in passing, that's for sure," Mumme said. "We want to win a whole bunch of games. What's the name of our conference? We want to win that."
To see previous entries, click here.
Most important game: Oct. 5 versus Rutgers
Why: SMU has a very challenging nonconference slate. The Mustangs open their season Friday, Aug. 30 against Texas Tech and new coach Kliff Kingsbury. Two games later they travel to College Station, Texas, where they will face either an Aggie team coming off the high of beating defending national Alabama for the second year in a row or an Aggie team hungry after suffering a tough loss to the nation's best. One week later, they travel to TCU.
Like we said, very challenging. At least they avoid conference favorite Louisville in Year 1 of a new league.
So that brings us to Oct. 5, with the nonconference slate in the rearview mirror. SMU has a home contest against a Rutgers team that has a lot of unknown parts heading into Kyle Flood's second year as head coach. The first month of the season should test the Mustangs physically and mentally, and if they respond the way most good teams should, they will be ready for their Big East debut against the Scarlet Knights, one of four defending champions.
SMU's offense should be fascinating to watch with Hal Mumme joining head coach June Jones to tutor Garrett Gilbert. Rutgers is breaking in three new starters in the secondary. A bye follows the Rutgers game, and then come games against Memphis and Temple, two programs widely expected to finish at or near the bottom of the conference in 2013.
You look at the tough first month and what it could spell for SMU moving forward, and you look at games against the Tigers and Owls soon afterward, and you cannot help but think of what a win over Rutgers could do for this program in its first game in the Big East. A 3-0 start going into Cincinnati on Nov. 9? UConn awaits after that. A 4-1 start in conference play is very much possible, not to mention the chance of winning one or more of the aforementioned tough early-season games against its Texas brethren.
The possibilities could be there for a strong Big East debut for the Mustangs. But a lot of that only looks realistic if they can beat Rutgers on Oct. 5.
2012 record: 7-6
2012 conference record: 5-3, C-USA West
Returning starters: Offense: 6; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 2
QB Garrett Gilbert, WR Der'rikk Thompson, DB Kenneth Acker, LB Randall Joyner
RB Zach Line, WR Darius Johnson, DE Margus Hunt, LB Ja’Gared Davis
2012 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Line (1,278 yards, 13 TDs)
Passing: Gilbert* (268-of-506 for 2,932 yards, 15 TDs, 15 INTs)
Receiving: Jeremy Johnson* (679 yards, 3 TDs)
Tackles: Taylor Reed (97)
Sacks: Hunt (eight)
Interceptions: Acker*, Joyner* Reed (three each)
1. Garrett Gilbert looks sharp. Coach June Jones said after spring practice wrapped up that he was pleased with the way Garrett looked and improved in the biggest area of all -- accuracy. Gilbert only completed 53 percent of his passes last year but has a better grasp of the offense now and more chemistry with his receivers. It probably helps that he had Hal Mumme working with him, too.
2. Traylon Shead steps up. The Mustangs lost their best offensive player in Zach Line, but Shead stole the show this spring as he worked his way up to the first team. Jones called the Texas transfer “the real deal,” and is confident the running game will be just fine with Line gone.
3. Linebacker depth. Reed and Davis are gone, but there is depth at this position and some veterans returning to the starting lineup, too, in Joyner and Kevin Pope. Jones said Joyner had a great camp, and so did Lincoln Richard. Rishaad Wimbley moved over from running back as well.
1. Pass-rush specialist. Defensive end Margus Hunt proved just how special a talent he is this past weekend, when he was drafted in the second round. So how do the Mustangs go about replacing him and their other starting end, Kevin Grenier? Finding another pass-rush specialist takes on even greater importance now that the team is moving to a new league.
2. Offensive line depth. The Mustangs have to replace three starters and are going to be much more inexperienced at this position. Though Jones feels confident with his starting five, depth still has to be built in the fall. True freshmen may have to be relied on this season.
3. Receiver rotation. Jeremy Johnson and Thompson are back, along with Keenan Holman but otherwise, there are some young faces that are going to find themselves getting much more playing time. Line was also a big part of the pass game. Can Shead fill that role now?
SMU begins Year 1 in a new conference under sixth-year head coach June Jones, who made a big-name addition to his staff two weeks ago.
McGee says Hal Mumme is the reason to watch, with the former Division II McMurry (Texas) head coach coming aboard to be the Mustangs' assistant head coach and passing game coordinator. The addition of Mumme, the proprietor of the Air Raid offense, places him with a boss in Jones who is considered a founding father of the Run 'n' Shoot offense. Three of the top seven signal callers in career passing yards per game were coached by either Mumme or Jones, making for an intriguing dynamic in Dallas.
"This might not work at all," a fellow Big East offensive coordinator told McGee. "But if it does, the results might be scary. If anything, this is one of those experiments where coaches all over the country will be pulling film just to see what these two come up with together."
To read the full story about all five off-the-radar teams to watch this spring, click here.
But now that Acker is going into his senior season, the Mustangs are going to try to get one of their best players on the field as much as possible. Acker is lining up at receiver this spring in the hopes of being able to continue as a starting cornerback while moonlighting as a pass catcher once the season begins.
Acker was dynamic with the ball in his hands at high school, racking up nearly 3,000 all-purpose yards his senior year, playing at the same high school Jones played at in Portland, Ore. But when he arrived in Dallas, coaches wanted him to focus on the defensive side of the ball and play cornerback, a position he was not as skilled at.
He has worked hard to become one of the top players at his position, earning second-team All-Conference USA honors this past season. Jones wants to look at some of the younger cornerbacks on his team this spring, and he has some holes to fill at receiver so he figured he would give Acker a shot on offense.
In describing how the conversation went down, Jones said with a laugh, "I told him, and I didn’t care if he was happy."
Acker is happy.
"A lot of schools out of high school were talking to me about playing both ways, but as my college career went on, it went out of my head," Acker said in a recent phone interview. "Coach Jones had already brought it up last spring that he was going to have me do some stuff and then we had a couple guys go down so then he backed off that.
A couple months ago he brought me into his office, I went in there checking up with him and he just told me he was going to have me go out for receiver in spring. I was thankful for the opportunity."
Acker worked with the receivers before spring practice started, and focused mainly on how they ran routes. Specifically -- where they lined up to start their routes.
"If you’re not lined up in the right spot the whole play is messed up," Acker said. "I was relying on the little stuff so when I got on the field with the coaches I would look like I was in the right spot, so the beginning part that some people would have to learn, I could just go past that so I could go right into learning the scheme instead of having to learn little stuff and falling behind. I tried to get myself ahead and not come in here as a rookie or a new guy."
His first goal was not to drop a pass on Day 1. Mission accomplished.
"I’m trying to build on that," Acker said. "If I don’t drop any balls, that’s a good day in my eyes."
The next question, of course, is whether Acker could start both ways.
"I’m anxious to see if he can," Jones said. "I think he has the talent to start for us. He helps us the most at corner, and if he played 10-15 plays on offense, then that makes us better, too."
|Brett McMurphy joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss college football's national championship game coming to Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
You are losing so many starters. How do you envision the spring playing out for you, knowing you have to replace your productive guys while moving into a new conference?
JJ: There’s definitely a lot of unknowns. The competition we’re playing -- everybody’s getting better. The Big East plays a very good brand of football, the schools that are left in there are pretty good. We have some positions to replace, but we think we have on campus a lot of good, young players who have been waiting for an opportunity. We have some kids that maybe, two or three of the freshmen kids will be an upgrade from what we’ve had the last four or five years, too. I think we’ll be OK.
The other question on offense surrounds your quarterback, Garrett Gilbert. How are you going to work with him to improve on his accuracy?
JJ: Any time you’re in a system more than one year you get better, you just get more comfortable with it. I think that will help Garrett. I really was happy with his competitiveness as a player. He did a lot of different things for us, running the ball, competing that way when things broke down to get first downs, things like that. He showed that he’s a competitive winner. So as long as he keeps getting better in the passing game, he’s got a shot to be a step up from where he was last year. We have a kid on campus, Neal Burcham, who is very accurate passer and will compete with Garrett. Both Garrett will make Neal better and Neal will make Garrett better. Competition does that.
Along the same lines, how are you going to work on just being a more consistent offense this spring?
JJ: You have to be or you’re not going to be very good. We have to be able to throw the ball more effectively. I’m not really worried about the run part of it. We will get the runs when we have them. The thing we have to be able to do if we’re going to be able to be successful, we have to throw the ball effectively. We’re in a pass offense. If you’re not completing 68 to 72 percent of your passes, that’s probably not getting the job done. That’s what we have to be able to do.
Defensively, you have to replace guys like Margus Hunt, Taylor Reed and Ja'Gared Davis. Who are the next guys up?
JJ: We have some kids on campus that played pretty well last year for us. We have a kid named Zach Wood and Beau Barnes that split time with Margus, they rotated in. Probably the most underrated guy we had was a guy name Torlan Pittman, and Darrian Wright will replace him. Darrian played as a true freshman and really played pretty well for us. We have some depth and we have some really good kids coming in. The best lineman we ever recruited named Zelt Minor from Lamar will compete right away for a starting job. He’s one of those kids that we’ve never had come to our school, since I’ve been here anyway, from a talent standpoint. We have some guys here, we have another kid, Elie Nabushosi that I think may be really, really great d-lineman. He redshirted last year. We couldn’t block him in practice.
We’re replacing two pretty productive linebackers in Taylor Reed and Ja'Gared Davis but we have some kids who might be bigger and more talented than them on campus right now, in a kid named Jarvis Pruitt and Lincoln Richard being the other guy. We’re going to be OK but they’ve got to learn the defense and play on game day. They’ll make mistakes but talent wise I think we’re going to be pretty good.
It sounds like you’ve got a lot of talent there, but you're young.
JJ: Everybody’s young. We open up with Texas Tech so obviously you better play pretty good to beat them, but at the same time I think once these kids get to Game 3 and 4 where they have a little game experience -- they’ll make plays while they’re learning -- but at the same time how you minimize your mistakes is really how you win the games. Who screws it up less is who wins games early so when you’ve got young kids, you’re making mistakes. We’ll make some big plays in there, too, because they are very talented.
What do you think when people say this is a rebuilding year and they’re not quite sure what they’re going to see out of you guys this year?
JJ: I don’t really pay too much attention to that. We were told when I was in Hawaii we were the worst team in the conference and we went 12-0. I think sometimes when people don’t expect you to be what you are, you have your best seasons. That’s just me. But I don’t worry. You’re coaching the kids up. You prepare them to win and they’ll learn how to win. We just have to hang together until they do. That’s how you turn it around.
Offensive guru June Jones has hired offensive guru Hal Mumme as assistant head coach/passing game coordinator at SMU, the school announced Tuesday.
Both coaches have done their share to expand and enhance passing games. Jones has been known for his Run and Shoot concepts that allowed Colt Brennan and Timmy Chang to each pass for over 35,000 yards in three seasons at Hawaii; Mumme is known as the man behind the "Air Raid" offense, versions of which Mike Leach, Dana Holgorsen and a host of others now run.
One of the biggest areas that has to be improved this spring in Dallas is consistency in the passing game. Garrett Gilbert threw for 2,932 yards, with 15 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions last year as the Mustangs posted their lowest passing total since Jones arrived in 2008.
Mumme has had offensive success at all his stops. He comes to SMU after spending the past four years as head coach at McMurry, which just completed its first season as a Division II independent. During his time there, he led McMurry to a 27-16 record and three consecutive winning seasons.
Mumme has also served as head coach at Kentucky, New Mexico State, Southeastern Louisiana, Valdosta State and Iowa Wesleyan.
Why: The Mustangs lose Ja'Gared Davis and Taylor Reed following a 2012 campaign that saw the former notch first-team All-Conference USA honors and the latter garner second-team honors. That's 174 total tackles, 25.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, five interceptions, four fumble recoveries and four forced fumbles between the two that are gone from last year's team. Kevin Pope and Robert Seals figure to be the next in line to replace the two, with Pope playing in all 13 games as a junior last season and recovering three fumbles, forcing another and blocking a kick. Seals, meanwhile, saw limited action as a redshirt freshman in 2012, recording three tackles and a quarterback hurry in eight games. SMU is replacing five starters up front from a defense that led Conference USA against the run last season, and coach June Jones will be tasked with quite the reloading job heading into Year 1 of the Big East era.
Spring Start: March 25
Spring game: April 20
What to watch:
- Replacing Zach Line: The Mustangs have to replace their top runner over the past several seasons in Line, who had three straight 1,000-yard seasons. Leading the charge this spring are junior college All-American Traylon Shead and reserve back Rishaad Wimbley, who switched from defense a few seasons ago.
- New defensive starters: The Mustangs lost the bulk of their playmakers on defense in Margus Hunt and linebackers Taylor Reed and Ja'Gared Davis. Finding guys to step up without them is a huge priority. Watch for Zach Wood at defensive end in place of Hunt; and Kevin Pope and Robert Seals at linebacker.
- More consistency at QB: June Jones' offense runs best when the quarterback is at his best. Garrett Gilbert returns as the starter, but he is going to need to find much more consistency this spring and into the fall. Two numbers that have to be improved: accuracy (53 percent in 2012) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (15-to-15 in 2012).
SMU pulled off the upset in Honolulu, and the Mustangs made it look fairly easy. Coach June Jones escaped his old stomping grounds with a 43-10 victory over Fresno State to win the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl. Here's how it went down:
It was over when: Margus Hunt sacked Derek Carr on third-and-24 for a safety early in the second quarter. A little more than five minutes later, Zach Line rushed for an 8-yard touchdown to give the Mustangs a 19-0 lead, which was more than enough Monday.
Game ball goes to: Hunt, SMU's 6-foot-8, 280-pound defensive end, went out with a bang in the first half alone, recording three sacks and two forced fumbles, and notching the second-quarter safety.
Stat of the game: Hayden Greenbauer notched an 83-yard pick-six with 1:14 to go, putting an exclamation point on the night for SMU. The score gave the Mustangs eight interception returns for a touchdown this season, tying last year's Southern Miss team for the NCAA single-season record.
Unsung hero of the game: SMU's defense held Fresno State to more than 30 points below its season average, and it made the Bulldogs one-dimensional early, outrushing them by a 169-to-minus-24 margin.
What it means: SMU put on arguably its most complete performance of the season and won its final two games to finish above .500, at 7-6. Now, it preps -- for this moment, at least -- to take its football program to the Big East next season. Fresno State, meanwhile, saw its five-game winning streak snapped in a four-turnover performance.
Here's what I'm keeping an eye on in this week's five games across the Big 12.
1. Dominance up front is where it's at: How did Kansas State beat Miami so handily? By handling its business on both the offensive and defensive lines. Oklahoma's offensive line has been underwhelming, and it's thin, too. The defensive line is unproven and has had to shift around because of suspensions and personnel issues. If Kansas State is going to come into Norman and do the impossible (?), that's how it's going to happen.
3. How much better are you, really? Baylor's defense looked good against SMU in Week 1, but I'm not so sure how much Mustangs quarterback Garrett Gilbert has (A) improved or (B) was ready to run June Jones' offense. Last week, Baylor's defense didn't look great against Sam Houston State, especially in the first half. The second half was a different story. So which defense can we count on seeing from Baylor? The answer to that question might determine the outcome of the Friday-nighter.
4. Welcome to the land of the big-armed passers: Five of the nation's top six leaders in passer rating are in the Big 12, and Collin Klein gives the Big 12 six of the top nine. The Big 12 is living up to its reputation as the league with the best quarterbacks. Will that continue this week, the final one before conference play officially kicks in?
5. Keeping up appearances: Geno Smith has been downright ridiculous through two games. The competition doesn't get much tougher this week, but can he maintain his 9-9 touchdown-incompletion ratio? Craziness. Also, if you've lost track, TCU quarterback Casey Pachall isn't far off. He's got five touchdowns and six incompletions.
6. Don't get defensive about it. (On second thought, do exactly that): Kansas' defense looked decent last week against TCU, and helped force four turnovers, moving into the national lead with 12. Northern Illinois topped 40 points in Lawrence last year, but the Huskies' offense has been unimpressive to this point this season. What does the Kansas defense have in store this week, in its first road game?
7. Can we get a medic here? STAT! Wildcats star linebacker Arthur Brown went down with what looked like an ugly, ugly ankle injury last week against North Texas. However, after missing only limited time, he returned to the field and made two tackles on his first two snaps, and finished with a career-high 13 stops. He's expected to play again, but will he look like his usual self? Kansas State needs him to.
8. What about the supporting cast? TCU's Josh Boyce and Brandon Carter have been really good through two weeks, both grabbing multiple touchdowns, nine catches and amassing at least 160 yards. Skye Dawson was quiet last week, and LaDarius Brown didn't have a catch until breaking out for five catches and 70 yards last week against Kansas. What does TCU's receiver depth have in store for this week against Virginia?
9. Welcome to the Thunderdome: Bob Stoops didn't really "call out" Oklahoma's crowd this week, but he did say he wanted the atmosphere to be something special. Will the folks around Owen Field respond? I'll be there to find out. We'll see.
10. Time to improve: Landry Jones has been unimpressive through two games, completing just 62 percent of his passes, and his offensive line has put him on the run more than you'd like to see if you're in crimson and cream. He has to be much better this week, both to grab the win and also to feel encouraged about how the rest of the season will play out. He's still dealing with a young offensive line and inexperienced receivers, and those guys have to help him out.
Palcic, who broke into coaching in the 1970s, spent the previous four seasons as UCLA's associate head coach for offense and offensive line coach.
Palcic has held multiple college and NFL coaching positions. Three players won the Outland Trophy while being coached by Palcic: Wisconsin's Joe Thomas and Gabe Carimi and UCLA's Jonathan Ogden.
SMU coach June Jones and Palcic have worked together before. Palcic was offensive line coach under Jones for the Atlanta Falcons in 1994-96.
At the celebration event for alumni and students, Turner announced that SMU will officially become a member of the Big East conference in all sports on July 1, 2013.
In attendance at the event, alongside Turner, was Big East commissioner John Marinatto, who personally accepted SMU into the Big East fold. Marinatto was greeted with an SMU football helmet, presented by the student body president.
The prize of this Mustangs victory, on the surface, is the chance to sit at the big boys' table in football with a BCS automatic qualifying bid opportunity through a Big East championship.
However, the treasure in SMU’s big move east is the financial gains the university will see in conference TV revenues and bowl payouts. That money will help resurrect aspects of the Mustangs' athletic department that had been downsized or eliminated due to budget cuts and financial problems faced as a mid-major school in Conference USA.
With a fatter pocketbook, SMU will make it a top priority to reestablish a marketing department within athletics to hopefully raise attendance at home events, athletic director Steve Orsini said.
Since the days of the football team's death penalty, SMU has managed to get by with little or no marketing effort that was specific to athletics. The Big East transition will not only allow SMU to make a national presence in college athletics, it will allow the school to be much more visible in its hometown.
Orsini said SMU is already beginning the planning phases of establishing a marketing department so it will be fully functional by July 2013, when the school will begin receiving its raised allowance.
“Even though it’s about 18 months until our first official day in the Big East, now is the time to start planning it because it will take a redesign, so to speak, a reallocation of our resources, plus just allocation of extra resources that we never had before," Orsini said. "Surely marketing, to meet our number one objective, which is increasing the attendance of every athletic event we have.”
SMU hopes the marketing push will add to the football attendance rise that has occurred with June Jones at the helm.
SMU averaged 23,515 at 2010 home football games, 2,167 more than the previous year. That increase was 30th in the nation, according to the NCAA. That still doesn’t explain a half-empty stadium for most contests at Ford Stadium.
“We haven’t really sat down, but right now in the priority of things, but marketing, increasing attendance - that would be priority one,” Orsini said. “I think by marketing ourselves more, by having more success, we’ll generate even more resources, more sponsorship sales, more fundraising, more ticket sales, etc.”
Once SMU can scratch off the top item on its to-do list, it then has several options for which it can use the remainder of its Big East payout, if the school decides to put the money back into athletics.
One possibility that Orsini mentioned is the creation of new sports programs. He said baseball, softball, lacrosse and men’s track could be in the debate.
SMU’s tradition in baseball spans back to the second year of the university in 1916. SMU fans could watch Dallas’ boys of summer at Reverchon Park, a few miles away from campus, headed by several big names, including Dallas coaching legend Steve Adair. The team was disbanded in 1980 for financial reasons.
SMU never had a lacrosse program, but it might be a good fit now.
“Lacrosse, as you know, is growing here, and the Big East represents the footprint of the best lacrosse in America,” Orsini said. “Those are all things we’ll discuss and see at the presidential level here.”
Lacrosse is big on the East Coast but in its infancy in Texas. It's not recognized as a varsity sport by the UIL, but high schools have formed club teams that compete throughout the state. Squads from Coppell and Dallas St. Mark's, schools just miles from SMU’s campus, have been nationally ranked.
Looking at the big picture, SMU’s move to the Big East represents movement toward a point where the school shares equal emphasis and success in both academics and athletics, Orsini said.
“I think we’re getting close to that balance now,” Orsini said. “We want both. We want excellence in academics and athletics. We’re here now, but we aren’t winning. Now we want to win. This is an example of winning because now we’re at the highest level, the field of competition for me as an administrator is level again.”
"His receivers and the offenses that he has been a part of in his coaching career have been some of the best in the country and I'm excited to have him join our staff," SMU coach June Jones said in a release. "He knows our offense from having played in it and I look forward to his input into what we do, along with what he brings to us from the offenses that he has been associated with in his coaching career. He has recruited Texas for close to 10 years, so he will have an impact there as well."
Phillips, who also served as Houston's wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator, was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1989 when Jones was an assistant coach. Phillips played six NFL seasons, including another stint under Jones when he was offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons.
With Phillips calling plays, Houston's prolific offense led the nation last year with 599 yards per game, the second highest average in Division I FBS history.
In the last four seasons under Phillips, Houston receivers posted individual 1,000 seasons seven times. Phillips' guidance helped quarterback Case Keenum become the NCAA career leader in passing yards, touchdowns and completions.
The Panthers will try to give the Big East a 4-1 bowl record for the season.
WHO TO WATCH: Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri. It is hard to imagine any quarterback in the country taking as much criticism, and as many shots as he has this season. He was sacked more than 50 times, and former coach Todd Graham essentially blamed him for not making his "high-octane" offense work. Through it all, Sunseri took the high road, kept his head up and kept playing. Say what you will about his football season -- he deserves credit for taking the hits while trying to remain a leader for this football team. Interim coach Keith Patterson said this week tha the offense would slow down a bit to emphasize what Sunseri does best. That would be running the football. Zach Brown (bruised sternum) is most likely out, so the load will fall once again to freshman Isaac Bennett.
WHAT TO WATCH: Pittsburgh defense against SMU offense. The Mustangs have the potential to put up points in a hurry, but the key is being able to limit the pass game. More emphasis will be placed on that with leading rusher Zach Line out for this game. This is really all you need to know about how SMU does when it scores: The Mustangs are 7-0 this season when scoring first and 7-0 when scoring 21-plus points. Slowing down receiver Darius Johnson will be the biggest key. Johnson has five 100-yard games this season, and three games with 10 or more catches.
WHY TO WATCH: This could have been a future Big East game, but alas, Pitt is headed to the ACC when SMU joins up with the Big East. Either way, June Jones has done a remarkable job in turning around the Mustangs, though they probably fell a little short of expectations this season. SMU is playing in its third straight bowl game -- tying a school record. When his offenses are on, they are fun to watch.
PREDICTION: Pitt 28, SMU 17. From my predictions post a few weeks ago: Pitt has to do what has worked best this season -- establish the run and let Sunseri manage the game. The defense has been much improved in the second half of the season, and SMU has struggled to put up points of late. The Mustangs also will be without leading rusher Line, who played a big role in the offense. If the Panthers can continue to get after the quarterback and play well in the secondary, they should be able to win this game.
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