- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- A season ago, Texas A&M receiver Ryan Swope set school records in catches (89) and receiving yards (1,207) and had 11 touchdown catches, a career year by all accounts.
As he enters the season, the possibility for even bigger numbers exist as the Aggies transition to an uptempo offense predicated on getting the ball to playmakers, one of which Swope will certainly be.
The possibilities -- 100 catches, 1,400 yards and another double-digit touchdown year -- seem endless. But Swope, who bypassed a chance to leave school early and enter the 2012 NFL draft, said he didn't come back for numbers.
"I'm not really too concerned with how many catches I'm going to have and how many yards," he said. "I'm real concerned about the team as a whole and how we're going to perform on the field. It's just important to this team. There's so much leadership and a lot of character on this football team that we've got a good group of guys that are hungry to win football games."
The senior receiver will be a key cog in the offense, particularly one that's trotting out a redshirt freshman quarterback (Johnny Manziel) that hasn't yet played in a college game. Swope's role isn't merely catching passes.
"He's kind of a security blanket," offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury said. "If (Manziel) ever gets in trouble, he knows Ryan's going to make plays and he'll be there for him. That's been huge and Ryan's done a good job of talking to him anytime he gets into one of those situations, settling him down and having a calming effect on him."
Head coach Kevin Sumlin said that with young quarterbacks who are growing and learning, a team will often rely on its veterans at receiver to help.
"Obviously he's made big plays here in the past, and we're going to need his leadership," Sumlin said. "He can create a quarterback-friendly environment for our team. That's what perimeter players are about, particularly early in a quarterback's career. If the ball's around you, you need to make a play on it. As a quarterback grows and gets more comfortable, that ball gets closer and closer to the middle of your numbers. But early in this deal, if it gets around you, you've got to make plays.
"He's a guy that's done that in the past and I look forward to him to doing that this year."
Swope's leadership hasn't been solely on the field, either. The 6-foot, 206-pounder, who was voted by his teammates as one of the Aggies' four captains, took it upon himself to mentor Manziel over the summer, well before Manziel had won the starting quarterback job. The topics covered included football and life in general.
"As a freshman, sometimes, you don't have confidence or you don't know how the college football scheme really works," Swope said. "I felt like it was the right thing to do, kind of take him under my wing and just boost him. I think he's done a great job of just handling that confidence and that pressure. He's really helping our football team. He's being a leader out there and doing the small things that'll help us win football games."
Those small things are things Swope has done and continues to do for the Aggies now. His focus, like many others, is on winning, and helping the Aggies make a mark in their first season in the Southeastern Conference.
"I think the biggest thing for me, the reason I came back, is to win football games," he said. "I feel like it's a great opportunity with a great coaching staff to do great things. I've learned so many new things, techniques from (receivers) coach (David) Beaty, coach Kingsbury and coach Sumlin that have just improved my game tremendously. The biggest thing was I wanted to come back, play in the SEC, compete and win football games."
4dSam Khan and Greg Ostendorf