New Faces, New Places: Hal Mumme Raids SMU

Cooper Neill

The quixotic Air Raid innovator brings his offense -- and his eccentricities -- to Dallas.

June Jones has never been one for conservative offense. The sixth-year SMU head coach was a quarterback for run and shoot innovator Mouse Davis at Portland State, and took his college offensive coordinator's offense with him to coaching stints with the Atlanta Falcons and Hawaii before coming to SMU in 2008. After a one-win campaign in his debut, Jones' offense took root. In 2009, SMU quarterback Kyle Padron was fifth nationally in passer rating as SMU passed for 282 yards per game. Through 2010 and 2011, the Mustangs threw for more than 270 yards per game and ranked in the top 25 nationally in passing, and SMU won two Conference USA division titles and appeared in three bowl games.

Production plummeted in 2012, though. Southern Methodist threw for just 235.3 yards per game, completed only 53 percent of pass attempts, and completed 16 touchdowns against 15 interceptions. The Mustangs offense was held to 14 points in a Mayor's Cup loss to Rice, 17 points and 133 yards passing in a loss at Central Florida, and a mere three points in a defeat at Texas A&M.

For lesser coaches, this would merely be a hiccup, an exception that proves the rule. Lesser coaches would return to the same offense the next season and expect the results to bounce back. June Jones, though, is not a lesser coach. The run and shoot Svengali picked up the phone, and he called a similar offensive innovator, a man who, like Jones, has toiled in the nether regions of college football.

June Jones called Hal Mumme.

Hal Mumme is widely considered the creator of the air raid offense. As head coach at tiny Iowa Wesleyan in the early 1990s, he created the wide-open, pass-first offense with offensive coordinator Mike Leach. Mumme and Leach moved to Valdosta State in 1992, adding former Iowa Wesleyan receiver (and now West Virginia head coach) Dana Holgorsen. After a successful tenure there, Mumme was named head coach at Kentucky. He brought his road show with him, adding now-California coach Sonny Dykes and top Golden Bears assistant Tony Franklin.

Mumme went 20-26 in four seasons at Kentucky, turning quarterback Tim Couch into a Heisman finalist and the first pick of the 1999 NFL Draft. But a 2-8 fourth season and a recruiting scandal forced his ouster, and while his protege Leach used the Air Raid to propel Texas Tech to great new heights, Mumme floated through college football's subterranea for years. Southeastern Louisiana for two years. A horrendous four-season stint at New Mexico State. Four years at Division III McMurry, in which Mumme successfully guided the program up to Division II. When he abruptly announced his departure from McMurry in January, he had reportedly accepted the open offensive coordinator position at James Madison. He then abruptly left JMU in February and (after 24 hours of rampant speculation) reappeared in Dallas with June Jones.

Jones had already nudged his offense toward the air raid in 2012 with the hire of former Houston offensive coordinator Jason Phillips. Between Jones, loyal run-and-shooter Dan Morrison, Phillips, and Mumme, SMU is home to one of the most intriguing collectives of passing offense minds in football.

There's not a lot about the run and shoot that isn't already a part of the air raid. Both are reliant on four-wide, single-back formations. While the run and shoot relies more heavily on wide receiver reads, both offenses implement similar route packages. And both offenses use screen passes and draw plays to keep the defense honest. When asked for the differences by a reporter following his first day of spring practice at SMU, Mumme admitted he'd "stolen about half of [the air raid] from [Jones]."

In the short term, Mumme will be tasked with adjusting the SMU offense to improve Garrett Gilbert's effectiveness. The former Texas quarterback completed just 53 percent of his passes last season, with 15 touchdown passes balanced against 15 interceptions. SMU found success on the ground with fullback Zach Line and an occasional draw play by Gilbert, but Line graduated. Hal Mumme's not particularly interested in running the ball, anyway.

Mumme will also likely bring some situational no huddle offense to Jones' traditionally huddle-happy concept. Because there are so few personnel shifts in the air raid -- virtually every play is a four wideout, one back package -- the hurry-up game can be implemented without significant substitution issues. Mumme and his disciples have used this to their advantage in the past.

As for the long term, we have learned not to predict anything with Mumme. He's 61 years old and has a history of leaving jobs after five years. We will enjoy the experiment while it lasts, however long that may be.

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