Over the last two NFL drafts, Mike Shanahan’s Redskins have selected three players out of the Southern Methodist program coached by Run-n-Shoot savant June Jones. The Run-n-Shoot is far from a traditional pro-style offense, and players are thought to have trouble adjusting to the NFL game.
So what inspires the attraction to former Mustangs?
After drafting Aldrick Robinson in 2011, it was revealed that head coach Mike Shanahan spoke at length with Mustangs’ head coach June Jones, with whom he had a professional relationship dating back 25 years (via PonyFans.com):
“I think that conversation to June solidified (Robinson’s) position to the Redskins, what his role would be, how he could help that team,” SMU wide receivers coach Jeff Reinebold said. “It’s so critical, when you’re a young player, to have someone like that who believes in you.”
“Mike Shanahan coached against June — they’re colleagues, if you will — so when June tells him this guy can play inside or play outside, he can make vertical plays downfield, he can play special teams … that meant a lot.”
“(Shanahan and Jones) competed against each other, and they have tremendous respect for each other. That phone call was critical.”
Shanahan and Jones first met on the football field in a 1987, in a game between quarterback coach Jones’s Houston Oilers, and offensive coordinator Shanahan’s Denver Broncos. The Oilers thrashed the Broncos 40-10 that day, but laid the foundation for a mutual respect that has grown over time.
That respect was enough to make Robinson one of twelve draft picks a year ago, in a class that re-defined the Redskins approach to the draft.
After a shaky training camp, Robinson spent most of the season on the Redskins’ practice squad, steadily improving as he grasped the offensive flow. In the final weeks of the season, Robinson was signed to the active roster in order to ensure that he did not get signed away by other teams.
While he did not appear in any games, Robinson impressed his coaches enough to warrant sticking around. He also validated his collegiate program for Shanahan, who returned to the SMU-well for two picks in 2012.
In Josh LeRibeus, the Redskins have a high-upside offensive lineman that can develop at either the guard or center positions. There are mixed scouting reports on the young man, but the Redskins are relying on the one that says he excels in the zone blocking scheme.
In the seventh round, the Redskins snagged Mustangs defensive back Richard Crawford. Shanahan revealed in his post-draft press conference that Crawford will be used as a cornerback, and is expected to make an impact on special teams.
Taken with the 71st overall pick of the 2012 Draft, LeRibeus became the highest drafted player from SMU since the NCAA instituted the death penalty 25 years ago. His selection is a testament to his own accomplishment, and the growing prestige of the program under Jones.
With all three players competing for roster spots in 2012, it remains to be seen how these players will adjust to the pro-style game. But if any of the three make an impact for the Redskins in 2012 or beyond, then we can thank the personal relationship between Shanahan and Jones for the additions.