- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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Shortly after his first spring as an assistant coach at SMU, Hal Mumme purchased a copy of Walter R. Borneman's "The Admirals," a book about the quartet of five-star admirals who led the United States to victory in World War II.
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."
2dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
3dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney