August 23, 2010
By KATE HAIROPOULOS
The Dallas Morning News
UNIVERSITY PARK – SMU football players cheered and razzed each other Saturday afternoon, urging the rookies to take the plunge from the 10-meter platform into the outdoor pool below. The more skin that slapped the water and the bigger the splashes, the more hoots and laughter that came from the players in and around the pool watching the show.
Though the veterans weren't required to jump, some climbed the steps and helped the rookies splash down – as defensive lineman Taylor Thompson eventually did with freshman nose tackle Mike O'Guin, 300 pounds and timid at first.
Pool Day, which marked the end of two-a-day practices, is a mainstay in the June Jones book of team building. It's part of the formula Jones used a season ago in leading SMU to its first bowl in 25 years. The Mustangs need to draw on the same fearlessness and chemistry as they face up to something quite rare on the Hilltop – high expectations.
SMU hopes to take the next step this season, which begins Sept. 5 at Texas Tech, after thrashing Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl in 2009 and going 8-5. The season marked the biggest one-year turnaround in the Football Bowl Subdivision after consecutive 1-11 seasons.
"It changed everything," said athletic director Steve Orisni.
The Mustangs are aiming for the Conference USA title – though Houston is more commonly considered the preseason frontrunner.
"We should not only be able to do it again, but we should be able to do it better," said junior safety Chris Banjo. "I like that we have turned people's heads around. But at the same time, we can't get complacent. We can't fill our heads up with that 'We're good now.' We haven't really done anything. We're trying to do something special this year. We know we can do it now, so we have no excuses."
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