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

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Competitive fire heats up spring football

 Competitive fire heats up spring football
Competitive fire heats up spring football

Competitive fire heats up spring football

SMU isn’t holding the fireworks until the season opener this year. In only the fourth day of spring football, the defensive and offensive sides got into several minor family feuds as both sides sought to show the determination and improvement necessary to become a better football team.

During drills with the receivers and defensive backs, one receiver took what appeared to be a late hit after catching a pass. The play was laughed off, but set the tone for a day of heated competition.

Sophomore quarterback Richard Bartel mixed it up a bit with defensive end Don Ieremia-Stansbury after Stansbury got a little physical with the red jersey-marked quarterback.

Bartel responded by beating the defense to the outside on a quarterback keeper. Bartel welcomed, however reluctantly, the thrill of competition to practice.

“I like it. I love it,” Bartel said. “It has its downfalls if it’s something we did all the time, but it’s something we haven’t seen yet. To come out here in spring ball and have everybody fired up, I think it says a lot about us.”

Two more quarrels led to head coach Phil Bennett reprimanding the team. While Bartel took everything as a sign of something that wasn’t present last year, the coach thought the enthusiasm was something that not everyone would handle in an appropriate manner.

“[Bartel’s] a little bit more mature,” Bennett said.

In addition to the quarterback’s improved maturity, Bennett has noticed overall growth in his projected starting signal caller.

“He has a great arm and has a little bit more presence about him than he had a year ago, which obviously comes from experience. And that’s what we need,” Bennett said.

Bartel and fellow sophomore quarterback Tate Wallis showed improved consistency and ability to read defenses, as well as good timing in checking off of receivers.

When Bennett accepted the head coaching job, the current quarterbacks were third and fourth on the depth chart. One of the top quarterbacks transferred. The other, Kelan Luker, put school on hold to pursue a music career. Wallis, who had been a red-shirted tight end, and Bartel suddenly had a lot of pressure to learn and to perform.

After an entire season in which both players got legitimate game experience – both at home and on the road – they are far ahead of where they were last spring and last game.

“A year ago, [the quarterbacks] were learning how to take steps,” Bennett said. “The continuity from the season has been good.”

After day four, Wallis and Bartel have run the offense well. SMU will focus heavily on improving offensively in the coming season, and the players under center will have a large hand in that.

“I think at the quarterback spot we’re further ahead than we thought we could’ve been,” Bartel said. “We were both inexperienced. We hit the ground running this year.”

Record-breaking junior running back Keylon Kincade has also hit the ground running. Kincade has not drifted from the fundamental, hard-running that made him a premier tailback last fall. Kincade reflects the across-the-board offensive advancement of the returning players.

“Keylon has looked good,” Bennett said. “And our receivers; Trey Griffin has looked good. I think there’s some maturity coming in there.”

Griffin, who had a break-out game last season against Rice in place of injured senior Johnny Freeman, dived to catch two long passes during drills. Griffin’s plays raised eyebrows and expectations on the field.

“It’s a big deal. We’re looking for a guy who can be a playmaker,” Bartel said. “The more he makes himself known, the more he starts to show the coaches and myself that he can make that big play, that’s more power to us.”

After a long, eventful day, Bennett and his staff made sure the players know where they are as a team. They left no question about where they want to be when the season starts. The Mustangs will play a difficult schedule as well as develop the incoming class. But while doing that, the blueprint is to compete at the highest level. And spring is the first step.

“[Our goals are] to get better – to get our best 11 [players] on both sides of the ball – and to get some depth,” Bennett said. “Right now, we’ve got some competition going on and I think competition is good. Competition makes you better.”

Four days can’t tell just how much better this team may become. If competition makes you better, then SMU is well on its way to playing as sinister as its new uniforms are designed to look.

“We will be an improved football team,” Bennett said.

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