SMU finds new life under pass-happy June Jones
Jones says the demands on his workers are simple: Go to class, come to practice and give maximum effort.
“It’s not that hard,” he said. “If you can’t play for me, you can’t play for anybody.”
As for those who can’t, Jones will suspend them or kick them off the team. He doesn’t care who they are. He did that to a pair of his best players before his first year at Hawaii, and he did it to a couple of his best receivers late in his first season at SMU.
Emmanuel Sanders wasn’t offended. He came back for his senior season and led the Mustangs with 1,339 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him in the third round in April.
“It definitely woke up the whole team,” said Sanders, who missed two study halls and was late to practice once. “I think that’s part of the reason why coach Jones turned the program around because so many guys knew that from then on, he wasn’t playing any games. If you didn’t have your act right, you weren’t going to be on the team no matter who you were.”
Jones isn’t expecting another 12-0 BCS-busting season like he had in 2007, when Hawaii lost to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. He says it’s tougher to go undefeated in Conference USA, so right now he has his players shooting for a league title.
Quarterback Kyle Padron will be the key. He took over at midseason as a freshman last year and went 5-1 as a starter, throwing for a school-record 460 yards and two touchdowns in the bowl win. He’s the star of those relentless passing drills.
“We’re trying to be perfect out here,” said Padron, who learned a similar spread offense nearby at Southlake Carroll High School. “Coach Jones expects nothing less.”
The Mustangs are closer to perfect than they’ve been in a generation.