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SMU: A season preview

 

STEPHEN HAWKINS,AP Sports Writer


DALLAS (AP) — See SMU throw. And throw some more.

"Well, if we take a vote on what we do, it's going to be pass, I promise you that. It will be 2-0 pass," said Hal Mumme, the new passing game coordinator for sixth-year Mustangs coach June Jones. "If I don't want to throw it, I'll probably look at June and say what do you want to do, and he'll say why don't we throw it."

The Mustangs will make their American Athletic Conference debut while meshing together Jones' run-and-shoot with Mumme's "Air Raid" philosophy.

"It looks like a lot of fun on paper," quarterback Garrett Gilbert said.

SMU has been to four consecutive bowl games for the only time in school history. In the final season of the Bowl Championship Series, the Mustangs are finally in one of the six conferences with automatic entry into the biggest games in January.

Gilbert, the former Texas transfer, played in a BCS championship game as a freshman four seasons ago against Alabama when he took over for an injured Colt McCoy, who was hurt on the opening series.

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Five things to watch during SMU's season, which starts Aug. 30 against Texas Tech.

1. GILBERT FINALE: Gilbert started all 12 games for Texas in 2010 and got a medical redshirt after starting only two games in 2011 before a shoulder injury. He then transferred to SMU, where he got to play immediately last fall after a summer finishing his undergraduate degree at Texas. Gilbert threw for 2,932 yards and 15 TDs last season and ran for another eight scores. "Being able to graduate and get a year under my belt was great," he said. "Otherwise, I'd be preparing for my first (SMU) game right now."

2. EXPERIENCED RECEIVERS, DIFFERENT LINE: Jeremy Johnson led SMU with 67 catches last year, and is one of three returning starters at receiver with Der'rikk Thompson (41 catches) and Keenan Holman (25). But they had some inconsistent moments last season. Mumme says he likes what he's seen this fall, and liked what he saw on film from that group late last season. Gone on offense is running back Zach Line, a workhorse with more than 200 carries each of the last three seasons. His brother Prescott is a redshirt freshman who will likely share carries with another former Texas transfer, junior Traylon Shead.

3. DOUBLE-SIDED ACKER: Cornerback Kenneth Acker had 50 tackles and broke up 12 passes last season. He also scored two touchdowns in one game, one on an interception return and the other after picking up a blocked field goal attempt. This season, Acker may have some chances to score on offense. He started working out as a receiver last spring, and June Jones expects that Acker will play on both sides of the ball. The coach isn't even worried if Acker misses a few defensive meetings to keep up on offense. "He's been doing the same things for four years on defense," Jones said. "If he never went to a meeting, he'd be fine."

4. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF: With the AAC's automatic BCS entry, the Mustangs don't have to worry about rankings or polls. They know the prize for winning the conference title is a BCS game. "You kind of determine your own fate," Jones said. "If you can really get on a roll, who knows, you might get in one of the BCS games." Jones made it to a BCS game in his final season at Hawaii, which got an at-large berth and played in the Sugar Bowl after going 12-0 during the 2007 regular season. As for the AAC, Jones knows it is a "step-up competitively" from Conference USA.

5. OVERSHADOWED DEFENSE: It is no surprise to linebacker Randall Joyner that the Mustangs' defense gets overshadowed. But he says don't forget them. "We're excited. The more points they score, that's the less we've got to stop them," Joyner said. "We feed off the offense. But we definitely like to see the tempo too, and play our style of football, and just be physical and play fast and be gap sound."

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Predicted finish in AAC: 8th.

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