A good start with room for improvement
Coach Eric Daniels pleased with how LBs stepped up for injured Joyner
Posted on 09/02/2013 by PonyFans.com
Linebackers coach Eric Daniels said he was pleased with Brandon Henderson (pictured) and John Bordano as fill-ins for injured linebacker Randall Joyner in the 2013 season opener (photo by SMU athletics).
This probably wasn't the way Eric Daniels wanted his debut as SMU's linebackers coach to go.

After spending a few seasons as a graduate assistant and quality control assistant at SMU, Daniels took over his new position this summer, and inherited a group that lost three proven starters in Taylor Reed, Cameron Rogers and Ja'Gared Davis, but also welcomed back a quartet of players with considerable experience, either as starters, or in the case of new outside linebacker Robert Seals, at least as a regular reserve. In addition to Seals, the Mustangs have junior Stephon Sanders outside and seniors Kevin Pope and Randall Joyner in the middle.

That group suffered a significant blow Friday against Texas Tech when Joyner went down with a knee injury. After being slowly helped to the sideline, Joyner was examined on the bench by SMU medical personnel. He tried to stand up, but clearly was in pain, resuming his seat on the bench and pounding his fist in frustration on one of the equipment trunks behind the bench.

"Obviously, 'Rambo' is our vocal leader — he takes charge of everything in there," Daniels said. "(Defensive coordinator Tom) Mason preaches all the time that the next guy up is 'one play away from being a starter,' so we prepare the backups as if they're starters. (Brandon) Henderson and (John) Bordano each played some (in Joyner's place), and they really did a pretty good job. They did exactly what they were supposed to — they were ready when we called their number(s), and they didn't have any mental busts.

"He went down in the second quarter, and we were still in the game with 10 minutes to go. If we didn't have quality guys ready to step in and do the job in his place, we would have been in trouble before that, but they (Henderson and Bordano) did a nice job.

The officiating in Friday's season opener has received some attention since the conclusion of the game, with most scrutiny being paid to the holding call on Prescott Line that nullified a touchdown pass from quarterback Garrett Gilbert to Jeremiah Gaines. There were other calls that affected the Mustangs negatively, including a late-hit call on Sanders, but Daniels refused to suggest that the officiating had anything to do with the outcome.

"I didn't like that call (on Sanders)," Daniels said. "The guy didn't run out of bounds. He got near the sideline and turned upfield, so he ran right into Stephon, who was running toward the sideline and is a lot bigger, so of course they ended up going out of bounds. It wasn't a late hit.

"But that doesn't matter. We don't blame the officials for the way the game turned out. There were calls we didn't like, but I'm sure if you go back and look at the film, there were calls they (the Red Raiders) didn't like, either. Those things happen in every game. We won't blame the refs. That is not an excuse. The bottom line is that we didn't finish like we need to, so now we need to work on improving so when we get in a similar game, we can finish the right way."

Daniels said that all things considered, he was pretty pleased with the linebackers as a group.

"Even though they aren't freshmen, we had a lot of guys getting their first experience against a big-time opponent," Daniels said, "and they settled down during the game. We had a couple of busts, like every team with guys playing for the first time will, but overall, we played hard and we played pretty well. It was a good starting point, and there's a lot we can learn from that game to get better."

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