Q&A with DMN writer Adam Grosbard: Should pre-Tulane focus be more mental or physical?
Mustangs, Green Wave kick off SMU Senior Day at 11 a.m. Saturday Posted on 11/22/2017 by PonyFans.com
|Adam Grosbard says that as the Mustangs prepare to face Tulane Saturday, head coach Chad Morris and his staff should make sure the psyche and confidence of the players is intact after losing three straight games (photo by Patrick Kleineberg).
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: The Mustangs have lost three straight games — games everyone knew from the start of the season would be tough. With Tulane coming in Saturday, which is the coaching staff’s bigger job: improving some aspect of technique, or helping players overcome varying levels of frustration?Adam Grosbard
: Good question. There was some evident frustration around the SMU locker room after the game so I have to think that the mental aspect will be the most important thing. Everyone knew this was going to be the toughest stretch of the season, but after a 6-2 start, a three-game losing streak has to weigh on you, especially for a defense that has given up just under 613 yards per game during the three-game stretch. (The Mustangs) will try to keep in mind that they want to send the seniors out on a high note in their home finale, which is a good motivator.PonyFans.com
: Which should be a bigger concern about this week’s opponent: the fact that Tulane just beat Houston and has a much-improved offense that put up 62 points in a victory over Tulsa, or the hunger that will be evident in a Green Wave team that will be playing for bowl eligibility at Gerald J. Ford Stadium? Grosbard
: Probably be more concerned with the tangible on-field stuff that Tulane has been showing off lately. The defense is in for another challenge, but compared to the last three games it isn't that daunting. It's almost like when you're in the batter's box and you've got a donut around your bat to make the a little heavier so you swing harder once you're at the plate. Not that SMU can take Tulane lightly, but the Mustangs aren't facing the big guns they faced against Memphis, Navy and UCF.PonyFans.com
: Apart from the normal pre-game pep talks from players and coaches, etc., how can the Ponies counter that hunger and intensity that Tulane likely will bring Saturday? Grosbard
: With the three-game losing streak, SMU should have plenty of internal motivation. The Mustangs want to end the three-game losing streak, they don't want to back into their bowl game with four straight losses, and then it's Senior Day for guys like Justin Lawler, Mason Gentry, Cedric Lancaster, Evan Brown, Anthony Rhone and even (junior) Courtland Sutton, who has made no secret that this is his last year before going pro. If all those things aren't enough to motivate SMU against a Tulane team the Mustangs know they can't take likely, then there are some serious issues in that locker room. That said, SMU will likely look to some of those older guys, especially Sutton, to make a play early to provide a spark.PonyFans.com
: Which of the young (true freshman, redshirt freshman or sophomore) players would you say has/have the highest ceiling for future success in the years ahead? Grosbard
: Of the true freshmen, I think we'll see a lot of receivers Judah Bell and Tyler Page, offensive lineman Hayden Howerton, linebacker Shaine Hailey and safety Elijah McQueen in the coming years. Bell looks like he could step in for Courtland Sutton next season is Alex Honey and Kevin Thomas continue to stall in their development. As for the redshirt freshman and sophomore class, safeties Rodney Clemons and Mikial Onu have developed a lot over their sophomore seasons. Defensive lineman Demerick Gary has been kind of lost in the shuffle since moving inside but still has the tools to be a difference maker, and Ke'Mon Freeman looks like a future star at running back.PonyFans.com
: After victories and losses alike, coaches will always find a long list of things that need to be fixed or improved. In your eyes, what needs to be done better in order for the Mustangs to get back on the winning track against Tulane? Grosbard
: Tackling is the biggest concern at this point. The run defense has been dreadful and it almost seemed like Chad Morris was resigned to that fate after the SMU's loss to Memphis. He more or less said "you are who you are at this point in the season" in regard to that area and wants to save any potential changes for before the bowl game. Even still, the defense needs to be working on this constantly this week as well as alignments. (With) the offense, there aren't many complaints after the Memphis game. Ben Hicks struggled early but Morris said that had to do with figuring out the strong winds that were affecting the passing game. If anything for the offense, try to get a good script going for the first couple of drives to try to create a big play for Courtland Sutton to provide a spark for the whole team.