UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas -- J.J. McDermott sure doesn't seem rattled by the fact that he's starting Saturday's home opener against UTEP at 6 p.m. at Ford Stadium.
He says it doesn't feel any different to him from any other week of practice. Maybe that's because not much has actually changed at practice this week. McDermott and Kyle Padron have split snaps as both prepare for UTEP's defense. But when the offense heads onto the field for the first series, McDermott will lead them instead of Padron.
"I'm trying to prepare like I have been the past six weeks or whatever," McDermott said.
Padron threw two interceptions in his first two series and was benched in favor of McDermott in Sunday's loss to Texas A&M. The turnovers were a big reason head coach June Jones made the switch.
"Both he and Kyle have done good jobs with the scheme part of it," Jones said. "I think J.J. has done a good job of taking care of the football. He has bought into 'where can I go quickly if I get pressure.' He got a lot of pressure last week and a couple of times he didn't even have a chance. But he stood in there, took the licks and tried to make the throws."
The Mustangs won't likely see as much pressure or as many sets, but McDermott knows the offense still has to execute. And in analyzing his own performance from Sunday, McDermott felt there were things he could have done better.
"I feel like I missed some people that after looking at the tape it was pretty simple stuff," McDermott said. "There was a pass to Cole [Beasley] up the sideline that I overthrew that would have tied the game and a couple others I missed. I'm just trying to eliminate the mental mistakes and get the ball to the open guy."
McDermott was referring to a wide-open Beasley, who would have had an opportunity to tie the score at 20 (and maybe get the lead with the PAT) in the second quarter. SMU ended up punting and A&M scored, eventually running away with the game.
Dan Morrison, the soft-spoken assistant head coach who works closely with the quarterbacks, said one thing that helps with a starting change to McDermott is that his personality is similar to Padron.
"They both have a calm demeanor to them," Morrison said. "They both have a sense that they are in control of things. They understand what's going on. You don't get too many glitches where the lights go on and all of a sudden then misread the signals or make mistakes in play calling. Neither one really does that. They are both a little older and their voices and demanor are similar. It's not a quiet kid going to a loud rah-rah kind of guy. The players I talked to said everything is status quo in there."
Morrison said Padron has more mobility, but McDermott can see things and read thing quickly. Morrison said they are both working at getting the other thing better (McDermott on being mobile and Padron on reading).
"They both have strong arms and they are both reactive," Morrison said. "The ball just sailed on Kyle a little bit on that last interception. It might have been an incomplete pass at other times, but those athletes made plays. That's part of the learning process in that kind of environment."
Morrison said the coaching staff is curious to see how McDermott handles the start and if he can hang on to the football in key situations.
"He's getting his opportunity," Morrison said.