Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Swope stepping into spotlight as top target
By David Ubben
Receiver Ryan Swope has become one of Texas A&M's most talented weapons on offense.
The comparisons are inevitable, and already in progress.
Texas A&M receiver Ryan Swope first heard them from teammates near the end of last season. At some point in their careers, any less-than-towering receiver who happens to play in the slot and is, yes, white, will hear the same.
"Man, he totally reminds me of Wes Welker!"
Swope's OK with the comparisons.
"He’s actually one of my favorite players to watch. He’s a competitor, and I just love seeing how he plays the game," Swope said. "He’s not the biggest guy you’ll ever see and to be compared to a guy like that is really special. I really look up to him and love watching him play the game. He really plays fearless."
Fact is, other than their stellar on-field production, the two don't have much in common. Welker checks in at 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds.
Swope is a former Texas All-State running back with three more inches and about 25 more pounds on his frame. He uses it, too. His compact frame makes him one of the most difficult players in the league to tackle.
He showed it on Saturday, slipping out of a tackle and racing another 50 yards for one of his two 68-yard touchdown catches. He beat the defense over the top for his other one.
"Saturday was a good day," Swope said.
In Saturday's win over Baylor, Swope maybe never looked more like a running back who happened to have great hands and feet that have refined their ability to run sharp routes.
He finished with 11 catches for 206 yards and a school-record four touchdowns.
"I feel like [Texas A&M receivers] coach [Troy] Walters has done a great job of teaching me how to really run a route and explode out of my break," Swope said.
His teammate, 6-foot-4, 220-pound Jeff Fuller shrugged off an NFL paycheck a year ago to come back for another season at Texas A&M. Swope, however, has outpaced Fuller with 40 catches for 619 yards and six scores to Fuller's 32 catches, 351 yards and two touchdowns.
"It's a real special combination," Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman said of the Aggies new top pass-catch combo. "It's become that way because of the way they both practice; they practice at game speed. When you do that the game is not too fast. Things don't change so the timing and the tempo of the play exists in practice and carries over to the game. It allows them the opportunity to be on the same page on game day."
Fuller has been slowed by a nagging hamstring injury suffered in preseason camp. He also suffered a concussion in a win over Texas Tech earlier this season. While Fuller has fought through those injuries, Swope has more than picked up the slack.
"Defenders have to keep an eye on Jeff and it kind of opens things up for me inside in the middle," Swope said. "Not only that, but we’ve got such an explosive backfield with Cyrus [Gray] and Christine Michael back there doing what they do. You can’t ever pinpoint one guy on the field, you have to keep an eye on every guy, and I’ve just, we’ve spread the ball around."
Texas A&M can do anything it wants offensively, but even with an early-round NFL draft pick and two of the Big 12's best running backs on the field, Swope has made a strong case as the Aggies' top talent.