SMU Coach Inducted Into Western Chapter Of The Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame

April 6, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Robby Gillespie

Former NFL assistant coach and current SMU linebackers coach Joe Haering earned a spot in the 2010 induction to the Wester Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, the organization announced Monday.

Haering joined June Jones’ staff in the summer of 2009 after spending 12 seasons as a college scout with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

As a linebackers coach last season, Haering worked with senior Chase Kennemer, who worked out with the Dallas Cowboys this week in an effort to increase his draft potential in preparation for April’s NFL Draft.

Haering and the rest of the defensive coaches helped lead the Mustangs to their first bowl win in 25 years, holding Nevada to just ten points in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

In 1994, Hearing oversaw the Atlanta Falcons’ linebackers as an assistant coach. A year later, he took over as defensive coordinator, a year the Falcons went to the playoffs.

He served as a linebackers coach with the New York Jets from 1978-1979, then spent several years coaching in the CFL through out the 1980s.

Haering began his coaching career at Bucknell, his alma mater, before moving on to stints at Kentucky, Boston University, and Kent State.

After earning all-conference honors as a linebacker at Bucknell, Haering went on to serve in the US Army as a first lieutenant and company commander in Vietnam.

The Western Chapter is the largest division of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. The ceremony banquet will be held May 1 in Mars, Penn.

SMU Football Kicks Off Spring Practice

March 29, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Robby Gillespie

After a historic bowl winning season in 2009, the SMU football team took the practice field Monday for the first Spring practice of the season. The Mustangs begin preparation for the 2010 season looking for their second straight winning record and another bowl win.

The Mustangs finished the 2009 season with a victory in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl for the program’s first bowl win in 25 years.

The full team practices will be held inside Ford Stadium and on the Pettus Practice fields next door. Fans are welcome to watch the team from outside the fences.

The practice marked the first of 15 practice sessions over the next 27 days, each running 7-9 a.m. For a full schedule of Spring practice, click here.

For the full post practice report from the Dallas Morning News, click here.

Check back Tuesday for The Daily Mustang’s full practice coverage, including video interviews and a recap of the practice.

SMU Faces Tough Nevada Running Attack

December 24, 2009 by · Comments Off 

By Robby Gillespie

HONOLULU — The SMU football team will have to find a way to stop the best rushing attack in the NCAA Thursday night to earn their first bowl win since 1984 when they won the Hawaii Bowl.

Nevada set an NCAA record in 2009 after three Wolfpack running backs ran for more than 1,000 yards each. Fortunately for SMU, Nevada will play without two of their leading running backs Vai Taua and Luke Lippincott who combined for 2,379 yards and 19 rushing touchdowns. Taua was ruled academically ineligible this week and Lippincott had surgery two weeks ago.

The Wolfpack also lost strong safety Duke Williams and linebacker Andre Davis Wednesday after head coach Chris Ault suspended Williams for unspecified team violations and released Davis from the program.

Those losses may help out the Mustangs who have had trouble stopping the run this season, allowing 169 rushing yards/game and giving up 331 rushing yards to a Navy offense that also focuses on running the ball.

“They’re not going to change what they do,” said SMU Head Coach June Jones. “Somebody will get an opportunity to be a star and the team may rally up and play harder. They’re one of the best running teams in America…it’s going to be a tough match up for us.”

“We’re excited and are looking forward to the challenge,” said SMU senior linebacker Chase Kennemer. “As a linebacker you want to play a team that runs the ball. I’m looking forward to trying to shut them down. ”

Jones led the Mustangs to the biggest turnaround in school history and in the NCAA in 2009 with a 7-5 record, after SMU went 1-11 in 2008. He did it with a true freshmen quarterback, Kyle Padron, who he was talking about red shirting earlier in the season. Padron led the Mustangs to a 4-1 record as a starter.

He will see a defense Thursday that has allowed opponents to 284 passing yards/game, ranked 118th in the country. A unique part of this June Jones offense is running back Shawnbrey McNeal, who is the first collegiate running back to run for 1,000 yards under Jones.

“We have a young quarterback and Shawnbrey has really taken a load off of him,” Jones said.

The Mustangs are hoping for a home crowd Thursday when they take the field at Jones’ former home, Aloha Stadium.

“Everywhere we go, everyone knows coach Jones,” Kennemer said. “I think him being here will give us a slight edge.”

For Jones, the homecoming will be a welcomed sight to a place where he has so many memories as Hawaii’s coach.

“It’s going to fun walking into the stadium on game day,” Jones said. “I’m looking forward to being on the same sideline I used to be on.”

Making Waves: 2009 Special Teams Picks

December 24, 2009 by · Comments Off 

First Pick: Margus Hunt
Class/Position: Freshmen Defensive End
Awards: 2009 Defensive C-USA Honorable Mention, Holds SMU record for career blocked kicks
2009 Stats: 7 blocked kicks, 1 fumble recovery, 1.5 sacks
Hunt became a threat on field goals and extra points early in the season, earning a total of 7 blocked kicks, which is second most in the NCAA for one season.

Second Pick: Sterling Moore
Class/Position: Defensive Back
2009 Stats: 1 blocked kick, 28 tackles, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery

Third Pick: Bryan McCann
Class/Position: Senior Defensive Back
Awards: 2009 Special Teams All-Conference USA Honorable Mention
2009 Stats: 2 blocked kicks returned for touchdowns, 2 forced fumbles, 808 kickoff return yards

Making Waves: 2009 Defensive Picks

December 23, 2009 by · Comments Off 

First Pick: Chase Kennemer
Class/Position: Senior Linebacker
Awards: 2009 First Team All-Conference USA,
2009 Stats: 2 Interceptions, 126 Tackles, 1 sack, 4 fumble recoveries
Kennemer averaged 10.5 tackles/game in 2009 (second best in C-USA, 13th nationally)

Second Pick: Rock Dennis
Class/Position: Senior Strong Safety
Awards: 2009 Defensive Honorable Mention All-Conference USA
2009 Stats: 4 Interceptions (1 for touchdown), 57 Tackles, 1 sack, 7 pass deflections, 1 fumble recovery

Third Pick: Bryan McCann
Class/Position: Senior Corner Back
Awards: 2009 Defensive Honorable Mention All-Conference USA
2009 Stats: 3 Interceptions, 53 tackles, 9 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles

Jones Leads Mustangs Onto Familiar Turf

December 23, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

By Robby Gillespie

HONOLULU — In his first year as head coach at the University of Hawaii, June Jones led the biggest turnaround in the NCAA by winning nine more games than the Warriors had won the previous season. In 2009, at SMU, he achieved the same feat.

After consecutive 1-11 seasons, Jones led the Mustangs to a 7-5 record in his second season, and again achieved the largest turnaround in the NCAA.

Jones has become a symbol of revival for collegiate football programs. He’s been described repeatedly as a “players’ coach” by many of his current and former players and says it’s those relationships he remembers most of his coaching stints more than the important games he has been a part of.

“He understands what’s important,” said SMU special teams coach Dennis McKnight who worked on Jones’ staff during his entire tenure at Hawaii. “June knows X’s and O’s, schemes, but that’s not what does it. It’s bringing a group of guys together as one. He knows the most important thing is mental and that’s what he works on from day one.”

Jones’ strategy to turn a program around begins with instilling confidence and the belief in the players that the feat is attainable. When he came to Hawaii after the Warriors went 0-12 the previous season, he set high goals for the team.

“He comes in for a team meeting and tells us we’re going to win the [Western Athletic Conference],” said former Warrior linebacker Chris Brown, who played under Jones in the coach’s first season. “Everyone thinks this guy is out of his mind, this guy’s crazy. He broke it down to who we’re going to beat, how many games we have to win, he knew exactly what we were going to do…to actually believe it was hard.”

Sure enough, Hawaii won the WAC that year, even after falling to a Carson Palmer led USC squad 63-3 in the opening game.

“After we won the second game, third game, it just started clicking,” Brown said.

A similarity expressed by Jones when the Mustangs beat UAB on the road. He saw the team’s attitude change when SMU won that second game and he says he knew right then that this team “had it.”

Brown, like many former players of Jones, still keeps in touch with the coach. He will root for Jones at whichever school he is coaching, including SMU.

“People love coach Jones out here. I think you’re going to see a lot of Hawaii fans cheering for him,” said Brown, who now works at the hotel the Mustangs are staying this week. “We miss him out here, but we understand he moved on. We knew it was a matter of time before he turned [SMU] around.”

Brown, a native of Hawaii, labels Jones as a “father figure” and someone who stays strong to his word.

“He’s a great players coach, you can tell him about anything,” Brown said. “He’ll tell it straight. When he says something, he’s going to do it. We learned that the first week. Everything he said happened.”

When Jones departed the islands for a higher paycheck at SMU, many on the island were more upset with the school rather than the coach.

“The program was great, he was filling the stands, everything was going well,” Brown said. “When he left there was nothing more he could really accomplish, but [UH] could have paid him to stay.”

Jones took his coaching staff with him to SMU, including McKnight whose coaching style is a stark contrast from Jones’ business-like attitude. McKnight’s voice can be heard at every practice by every player and on-looker.

“A lot of the players get pumped up with the intensity that McKnight brings to the field,” said senior Kellis Cunningham. “He’s very much a players’ coach but he brings intensity.”

At a practice at UH, McKnight dressed in camouflage and face paint and jumped out of a tree to scare some the players.

“You’ve got to keep it fun, and keep the kids always guessing,” McKnight said.

When asked about whether that would happen in Dallas, McKnight spoke about a story of when he jumped out of a plane before practice and landed on the field with a parachute.

There are contradicting reports from some Mustang players about the truth of that story, but the McKnight-Jones coaching duo has proved to be validly successful.

Jones won four bowl games in eight seasons at Hawaii. On Thursday, he’ll be looking for his first bowl win with the Mustangs in his second season, and to officially complete another turnaround.

Live Video Chat: Ask Your Questions About The Sheraton Hawaii Bowl

December 22, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

Robby Gillespie and Alan H. Rose are in Hawaii bringing you all the bowl coverage. Today, it was your turn to ask us your questions or comments about the Mustangs and anything about Thursday’s game.

The live streaming video chat concluded at 1:30 p.m. CST. Thanks for your questions, and check back tomorrow for game day coverage.

Making Waves: 2009 Offensive Picks

December 22, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Read more

Hawaii Bowl Blog: Experiencing Hawaiian Culture

December 21, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Posted by Robby Gillespie

On the islands for more than 24 hours, the SMU football team finally got a chance to hit the beach Sunday afternoon. Later that night they attended a Luau where they were entertained by hula dancers and Somoan warriors, who shared a piece of Hawaiian history and culture with the two teams playing Thursday.

Sophomore defensive back Chris Banjo made the night particularly entertaining when he danced freely with a hula dancer on the stage. He received a well-deserved standing ovation from his teammates.

A'Darius Medford joins a hula girl in a dance towards the end of the Luau. Photo by Alan H. Rose

Chris Banjo joins a hula girl in a dance towards the end of the Luau. Photo by Alan H. Rose

The team has only had one practice on the islands (with their second scheduled for Monday) and already they are feeling comfortable. With their head coach such a beloved celebrity in Hawaii, they feel the enthusiasm trickling down to the team.

Aloha Stadium during the Mustangs first practice on Sunday. Photo by Alan H. Rose

Aloha Stadium during the Mustangs first practice on Sunday. Photo by Alan H. Rose

Also, on Sunday the team made a very special trip to Pearl Harbor. Many of the players viewed it as a tribute to their late special teams coach Frank Gansz who passed away unexpectedly last spring. Coach Jones was slightly emotional when asked about the historical visit at practice prior to heading over there. Jones had known Gansz for over 30 years, having worked with him in the NFL and at the college level.

Senior Kellis Cunningham told me about how Gansz would bring the special teams unit into his office last season on a weekly basis to discuss his military experience and the importance of Pearl Harbor. Many of Gansz’s slogans are cemented in the team’s routines. The team has t-shirts with some of the those words inscribed.

Late Sunday night the SMU men’s basketball team arrived at the hotel to prepare for their Tuesday match up against (No. 23) UNLV in the first round of the Diamond Head Classic, which is played on the campus of the University of Hawaii. Who would have predicted that two SMU teams would be playing in Hawaii and staying in the same hotel at the same time? This week has great potential to be a testament to the new SMU athletic program, not to mention a help to recruiting with all the national attention.

The football team has practice every morning this week at 10:30 a.m. HST at Aloha Stadium and usually an event for them is scheduled in the afternoon and evening. Monday’s schedule includes a trip to Wet and Wild, a water park near Honolulu, and a Barefoot Pep Rally on the beach Monday night.

The team is here for a football game but they have a unique opportunity to experience the traditional Hawaiian culture with the festive events they are scheduled to attend. Nonetheless, the game is a priority for this week. Following Thursday’s game, June Jones will head to Kona to spend Christmas with relatives and relax for a few weeks, as the team heads back to the cold Dallas weather.

Alan and I are about to run to practice in the 80 degree sunshine. Check back for our new feature beginning Monday, “Making Waves.” We will pick three players from the defense, offense, and special teams as our top three performers from the season, profiling them each day this week.

Jones Makes Return to Aloha Stadium For First Mustang Practice

December 20, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Robby Gillespie

HONOLULU — Having spent less than 24 hours in Hawaii, SMU Head Coach June Jones already feels welcomed by the locals of the state where he turned around a losing Hawaii program and took it to national prominence.

“Each (team) has its own uniqueness and memories,” Jones said. “We’re excited to be here.”

After practicing at Ford Stadium in the mild Dallas December weather for three weeks, the Mustangs had their first practice at Aloha Stadium Sunday under a warm Hawaiian sun.

“It’s awesome to sweat again,” said freshmen quarterback Kyle Padron. “I haven’t had to sweat in practice since probably training camp. It’s great to be out here.”

The team has begun to understand how important their head coach was to the people of Hawaii during his coaching tenure with the Warriors. In no way has it been distracting for some players, if anything, it’s motivating.

“It’s not so much distracting,” Padron said. “He’s pretty well known around here, like a celebrity. We’ve kind of got a home crowd. They’ve treated us great and are very respectful.”

“I think (the crowd) will be equally divided, but hopefully we’ll have a few more on our sideline,” Jones said.

The team ran through practice just like they have at Ford Stadium all season – splitting up the offense and defense, running through plays, scrimmaging, and running sprints to cap it off.

Absent from practice were seniors Emmanuel Sanders and Bryan McCann who had to stay in Dallas to complete graduation ceremonies. They joined the team Sunday afternoon.

Also scheduled for Sunday was a team trip to Pearl Harbor, a visit the Mustangs have been looking forward to all season as a tribute to their late special teams coach Frank Gansz.

“It’s something special,” Padron said. “We talked about it at the beginning of the season. We’ve reached our goal and it feels good to be able to do that.”

Gansz served in the military after graduating from the Naval Academy. Last season, he held hour long weekly discussions with the special teams units about his experience in the Navy and how special Pearl Harbor was to him. Coach Jones had talked with Gansz several times about taking the team to the historical site before Gansz’s unexpected death last Spring.

“We talked about it almost two weeks before he passed,” Jones said. “It’ll be kind of a release, I know for me, that way.”

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