SMU Leaves Spring Ball With Confidence

SMU Football helmet | Image by SMU Football/Twitter

The SMU football team wrapped up its spring practices with its annual spring game on Friday night at Highland Park High School, officially moving on to the next phase as the team prepares for its first season in the ACC.

The move has caused plenty of excitement, and the Mustangs coaching staff believes the team is off to a good start after winning its first conference championship in 40 years last season.

“I feel like we had a good spring,” head coach Rhett Lashlee told the media on Friday night. “I felt like we got better, and we stayed healthy. As you can see, our guys had a good time together, and so phase two for us is done — being spring ball. We’ve got about three weeks of finals, and then we’ll be ready to have a great summer.”

The summer portion will be even more crucial for the program as several freshmen and more transfers join the fold and other contributors like starting quarterback Preston Stone return from rehabbing their injuries.

“He didn’t really get to go through spring in general, which is never good,” Lashlee said of Stone. “He had a really good year last year, and you’d love to go into spring and try to improve on areas [where] you want to get better and continue to get continuity and timing with your team, and he just wasn’t given that opportunity.”

“… Now, the positive on Preston from pretty much the first day [of spring is] he was at least able to go out there and warm up, and then they slowly progressed him,” Lashlee continued. “He did get officially cleared this week. Now, he had been practicing, so saying ‘cleared’ versus going out and doing 11-on-11 made no sense because he hadn’t been in that kind of conditioning shape, but what it tells you is he’ll be fully healthy to go into summer and go through the summer programs and the summer workouts and fall camp with his teammates.”

In Stone’s absence, sophomore backup Kevin Jennings, who started two games last season, took valuable reps with the first-team offense.

“The spring was really, really good for Kevin Jennings because, while we’ve seen him for two years go in games and be awesome, he’s still only played in two full games and a couple of spots,” Lashlee told the media. “So to get 15 full practices under his belt was really, really good.”

The development of the program’s future playmakers is critical. Still, plenty of players are returning from last year’s team, and even more transfer players who can make an immediate impact as SMU moves to a Power Four conference are coming in.

“They’ve done a good job of following the guys that have been here, and in a weird way, in this transition of the portal era, we have a lot of guys returning that may have been transfers last year, but now they’ve been here a year, and they’ve helped them know how we do things,” Lashlee explained. “That’s what you want. You want guys to come in and buy into the culture and how we do things. … I think we’re coming together. We’re not anywhere near where we’ve got to be, nor should we be at this point, but I am pleased with just the camaraderie and how guys are buying into what we do.”

SMU opens the season on the road against Nevada on Saturday, August 24, and opens ACC play at home against Florida State on Saturday, September 28. The Mustangs’ home schedule also includes Houston Christian, BYU, TCU, Pittsburgh, Boston College, and Cal.

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