SMU threw a lot last season, as is always the case under coach June Jones.
That certainly isn’t going to change for the Mustangs, who missed a bowl game for the first time in five years.
“We are going to go back to what we do best,” he said.
And that means throwing downfield.
The meshing of Jones’ “Run and Shoot” offense with Hal Mumme’s “Air Raid” philosophy with more horizontal routes produced 341 yards passing a game, by far the best in Jones’ six seasons on The Hilltop.
But the Mustangs still struggled to reach the end zone, and the 10.2 yards per catch was the lowest under Jones. Both receivers with more than 100 catches, including returning junior Darius Joseph (103 yards, 808 yards, five TDS), averaged less than 10 yards.
Mumme spent only one season as Jones’ passing game coordinator before taking his seventh head coaching job, at NAIA school Belhaven in Mississippi. SMU also has to replace two 1,000-yard receivers and quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who was drafted by the St. Louis Rams.
The likely quarterback is sophomore Neal Burcham, who started the final two games last season when Gilbert was hurt, though the Mustangs lost both to finish 5-7.
“Certainly he has waited his turn,” Jones said. “He throws the ball accurately, understands what we’re doing.”
Burcham could be pushed by Matt Davis, who transferred from Tyler Junior College after initially being at Texas A&M in 2012 when Johnny Manziel was a freshman Heisman Trophy winner.
Five things to watch with SMU this season:
BOUNCING BACK: June Jones has never had consecutive losing seasons as a head coach, and bounced back nicely from each of the three sub-.500 records in his 15 years. After a 1-11 debut at SMU in 2008, the Mustangs were 8-5 in 2009. He had six-win improvements after his losing seasons at Hawaii — from 3-9 in 2000 to 9-3, and then from 5-7 in 2005 to 11-3.
CLOSE, BUT … : SMU had 50 drives inside the 20 last season, and scored touchdowns on only 27 of them. Add in 12 field goals and the Mustangs ranked 97th out of 123 FBS teams last year in red-zone scoring at 78 percent. They lost three games by four points or less.
LONE STAR REUNIONS: All four of SMU’s nonconference games are against Texas teams, three of them old Southwest Conference rivals. The Mustangs open Aug. 31 at Big 12 champion Baylor’s new campus stadium, then go to North Texas on Sept. 6. After an off week, they have home games against Texas A&M and TCU before the American Athletic Conference opener Oct. 4 at East Carolina.
NEXT LINE: When Prescott Line was redshirting in his first season at SMU two years ago, he got to watch the end of brother Zach’s standout career. Only Eric Dickerson finished with more yards rushing at SMU than Zach Line’s 4,185, and both had 47 career TDs. Prescott, whose 6-foot, 228-pound frame is almost identical to his brother, was SMU’s top rusher last season as a freshman with 90 carries for 332 yards. Zach had 49 carries for 189 yards as a freshman, then three consecutive 1,200-yard seasons.
BIG LOSSES: While eight starters return on defense, the Mustangs’ two tacklers last season were seniors Randall Joyner (98 tackles) and Kevin Pope (91).
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