The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The year of the Mustangs? Maybe, maybe not

This could be the year that SMU athletics finally puts everything together. But at the same time, it could just be the beginning of another disappointment.

Last season, around this time, all the talk was about the football team. It was coming off a 6-6 season when the team just missed a bowl bid, and this was its year. Justin Willis and Emmanuel Sanders were coming back for another year of touchdown completions.

That didn’t turn out well for the Mustangs, who went just 1-11 and got the coach fired with four games left in the season. But this year could be different. There is a new mentality, and that is due to one man, June Jones.

But don’t get your hopes up too high. After all, Jones is just one man with only one abbreviated recruiting class under his belt. Asking for an early season upset of Texas Tech or a Conference USA Championship is probably going a little overboard. But asking for more than one win certainly isn’t.

In a “What have you done for me lately?” college football world, Jones is coming into the best possible situation at SMU; it’s win-win.

If he brings them to a bowl game, June Jones is a coaching god worth every cent of his contract. And if he just wins just more than one game, he did better than last year, and it’s an improvement.

There are still areas of concern.

For an offense that revolves around the quarterback’s play, it would be nice to know who that quarterback is and what he can do. If it is Willis, he is coming off a sophomore slump in which he did not perform to nearly the expected standards. Not to mention he missed spring practices due to “violation of team rules.” Not the way you want your returning starter to get aquatinted with the new coach, not to mention he didn’t get to work in the new coach’s offense.

If it isn’t Willis lining up under center, it will be a quarterback with minimal to no collegiate experience, which could lead to a season full of growing pains.

And then there is the defense.

A defense that could look like it had everything together at one point, and then just fall apart the next.

Now, not every last second, end of the game or overtime loss can be blamed on the defense. Certainly not Willis’ fumble against Tulane, or a two-point conversion attempt at Memphis. But Tulsa, UTEP and Rice certainly come to mind.

The defensive will be young, but that might not be a bad thing. The main thing will be staying away from injuries.

The Mustangs lost a component in the secondary last year before the season ever started. Rock Dennis will take the field for the first time in a Mustangs uniform this season along with Bryan McCann and Tyler Jones, who both stepped up last season.

The defensive line and linebackers lost two solid veterans in Cory Muse and Tony Hawkins from last season. But the younger players showed potential last season. Now it is going to depend on their maturing to see if they can get the job done.

So get excited about the season, just be sure to be realistic about it.

The men’s basketball team also suffered a long season last year. Head coach Matt Doherty returns for his third season leading the Mustangs, which means it’s time to see some improvement.

The loss of Jon Killen and Derrick Roberts to graduation certainly hurts, but at times the young players showed they have what it takes to play at this level. And now Doherty’s recruits are getting older, and are expected to make a difference.

Bamba Fall will be the only senior on the team next season, and don’t expect him to lead the same way Killen and Roberts did. He is soft-spoken when you talk to him, but I don’t think anyone would describe the 7-foot-1-inch Fall’s dunks as quiet.

Fall will lead by example, which certainly isn’t a bad thing, but it does mean that one of the underclassmen is going to have to get vocal. Look for Mike Walker to possibly fill that role. Spending time at point guard last season, it would be a fair guess that he will see time there. The addition of a top-10 recruit at that position could create a position battle.

After just three conference wins in 2006-07, the four C-USA wins from last season was a step in the right direction, but another first-round C-USA Tournament bow out was not unexpected. The Mustangs are going to have to compete more in conference play this season to want a chance to have people consider it a successful season.

The one sport that has managed to stay consistent, in a good way, has been the men’s soccer team. Shellas Hyndman returns for his 25th season as the Mustangs’ head coach. Even with speculation about his possible departure to coach FC Dallas, Hyndman says he will return to SMU.

The Mustangs spent a majority of the past two seasons near or at the top of the rankings, but lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament both years. Since their appearance in the College Cup, soccer’s version of the Final Four, the Mustangs haven’t been able to make much of a dent in the tournament.

Unfortunately, the regular season success has come to be expected from SMU fans, so for the Mustangs to make a splash at Westcott Field this year it will mean a long postseason run and a possible return to the College Cup.

SMU fans have been telling themselves, “Maybe next year,” for too long. This needs to be the year that the Mustangs get it back on track.

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