By JONATHAN BAGLEY
Southern Methodist University linebacker Chris Bordano said this year’s team is focusing on the first three games. SMU may want to focus on more if they don’t want to repeat last season’s five-game losing streak.
After winning their first two games, SMU lost its next five. If they were playing Major League Baseball they would be fine, but in college football, five consecutive losses equals a losing season.
But last year is a memory that has been erased by the hiring of new head coach Mike Cavan. Cavan was second in the voting for Division 1-AA coach of the year.
“We are starting all over,” Cavan said.
Cavan said SMU needs discipline to succeed, and the 70 football players that spent the summer on campus working out showed him the team understands the commitment needed to win games.
“We’re really excited about this year,” Cavan said. “I’m excited to get started.”
Last year’s record is deceptive of how good this team is. Navy and Utah, both bowl teams, barely beat SMU.
The first decision Cavan will have to make is which quarterback to use: the thrower or the runner. Last year it was the runner, Ramone Flanigan. Flanigan is second on SMU’s all-time offense list with 6,460 yards going into his sixth year of eligibility.
“Flanigan has mobility, but he feels he has to make every play on offense,” Cavan said. “I’m not looking for that.”
Cavan said he wants a passer that will use the other offensive players. Cavan has recruited a freshman that will redshirt and has a senior that will compete for the quarterback spot.
Passing, however, is not the direction Cavan wants to head.
“I believe you have to run to win championships,” Cavan said. “It doesn’t mean you’ll see us run 60 times, but it is the mentality we want to have.”
Cavan said SMU will feature an I-formation which will evolve to a 60 run per game offense.
The first step in the evolution of the Cavaneoic era will feature a senior and a sophomore. Senior Donte Womack was the WAC’s seventh leading running back with 887 yards. Womack was a second-team All-WAC selection.
He will be backed by Rodnick Phillips, who excited crowds with his 28.1 yard return average, including a 99 yard return against New Mexico. Phillips 20 extra pounds and four extra inches over Womack should give SMU’s running attack a change of pace which may keep defenses off balance.
The defense returns a formidable nucleus, featuring middle-linebacker Bordano, a Butkus award candidate. Bordano is also the likely choice to succeed Shay Muirbrook as WAC defensive player of the year.
“He has great speed and great size,” Cavan said. “He is a fierce competitor. He severed his thumb, had it sewn back on and was working out two days later.”
And Bordano is a team player.
“I don’t think I shoulder any of the defensive responsibility, honestly,” Bordano said. “We have a good secondary, linebackers and defensive line. It’s distributed evenly.”
The football team has received a vote of confidence from administration. A new $53 million dollar stadium is to be built, moving the team from the Cotton Bowl.
“The school showed they are committed to winning,” Cavan said.