Saturday, March 24, 2012
Molding for the future
By William Wilkerson
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Tyrone Swoopes is a 6-foot-5, 220-pound blob of clay just needing time and direction to mold into the elite quarterback Longhorns fans hope he becomes.
At least that's the assessment of Elite 11 coach Yogi Roth, who stole the analogy from fellow coach and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer after Saturday's regional camp at Cowboys Stadium.
"Trent said it best. We saw the clay," Roth said. "You just want to mold it, put your hands on it and build him into the dominant player that he can be."
Swoopes, from tiny Whitewright, Texas, began to take form as the camp wound down. That subsequently came as the competition heated up for an invitation to the Elite 11 national camp in Redondo Beach, Calif.
But a slow start, which featured a scattering of off-target throws in drills he'd never done before, kept him from getting an invite. That went to Dallas Skyline's DeVante Kincade, who was solid from start to finish.
"I was kind of dead at the beginning but as it got going I picked it up a little," Swoopes said. "I guess it was because I haven't touched a football since football season."
One might find that odd, especially considering the enormous expectations that have already been placed on his broad shoulders. He's been compared to Vince Young so many times he'd probably turn around if 'Vince' was yelled in his direction.
But when you are the big man on campus in a school of only 275, you are going to be asked to wear many hats outside off the football field. He's currently in a track and field state of mind focusing on what he needs to do to improve in Whitewright's relays and also in the long and triple jump. He played basketball prior to that.
"I've been doing other things," Swoopes said. "I think that's why I started slow."
Swoopes knows he's got to pick up a football more often and continue to hone his craft. Especially after Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo told the quarterbacks at the camp that he rarely ever went anywhere without a football growing up. Romo said he would even throw the ball into couch cushions when it got dark and his friends had to go home.
"I need to pick up the ball more and start throwing more than I have," said Swoopes, who totaled 3,661 yards and 42 touchdowns as a junior.
All that considered, Swoopes evolved as the camp progressed and performed his best in crunch time.
That transition from lackluster to lively started when the quarterbacks were broken into four groups based on their performances to that point.
Swoopes was placed in the second group.
Earlier in the camp Romo told Swoopes to make sure he wasn't lazy in his release and to make sure to really follow through in his delivery. Swoopes appeared to take that to heart and quickly moved over to the first group after a few throws to route-running receivers.
That performance helped Swoopes become one of six quarterbacks to compete in the final drill of the camp, a two-minute drill that featured an assortment of short, intermediate and long throws as the player made his way down the field with Roth counting down the game's final seconds.
"What we saw in the two-minute drill is that his mind can play as fast as his athletic ability," Roth said. "He's never dropped back in his life. All of a sudden he's dropping back, I'm screaming at him and he played really poised. I was really proud of him. I think he had a really strong chance to make it to Southern California if he was that way all day."
Swoopes will still have that chance. Just because he didn't get a ticket today doesn't mean he won't be one of the 24 quarterbacks that get invited to the Elite 11 in July.
But in order for that to happen, Roth said he'd need to see improvement between now and then.
"The biggest concern is, when we see him next, will he improve?" Roth said. "You want to find guys that are coachable. It was very evident that he was coachable."
It was also very evident that he didn't crack under pressure, which is something he can already feel from the Longhorns fan base.
"I feel the pressure but I think I will be able to handle it pretty well," Swoopes said. "I think because my mom, dad and my family have kept me level-headed, and give me good advice about how to handle it all. I think I will be able to handle it."
Once he shook of the rust of not having thrown a football for a few months, he handled Saturday just fine.
You could say the clay did a little molding of its own.