Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Stalled WR Swope breaks out vs. Arkansas
By Sam Khan Jr.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Ryan Swope worked and waited patiently for his chance to shine. When Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury made the play call, Swope knew it was his time.
The senior receiver then made a double-move that froze the Arkansas secondary enough for him to blow by it, receive an on-target pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel and sprinted to the end zone for an 80-yard touchdown. It was his biggest play of the season to date for the Biletnikoff Award watch list member.
Ryan Swope's 80-yard reception vs. Arkansas last weekend was the longest catch of his Texas A&M career.
That play gave the Aggies a 27-10 lead just before halftime, a lead the Aggies would only increase from that point on before going on to beat Arkansas 58-10.
"It was just a little double-move and it was a great call by coach Kingsbury," Swope said of the play. "When he made that call I knew it was my time to flip the switch and really just take over the ballgame, not only as an individual, but I thought Johnny made a great pass and the line gave him great protection and it was a great play that kind of got us rolling."
And while the play got the offense rolling that day, could the same be said about what it could do for Swope's season?
Coming off a record-breaking season -- Swope set Texas A&M records in catches (89) and yards (1,207) in 2011 -- this figured to be a year to see Swope produce similar, if not better, numbers as the Aggies installed a new, high-tempo, wide-open, Air Raid-style offense that Kingsbury and head coach Kevin Sumlin employed at Houston. Swope's start to the year wasn't exactly explosive; prior to Saturday he had just 12 catches for 95 yards and a score.
Part of that can be attributed to the development of Manziel, which is ongoing. Having made just four career starts, Manziel is still grasping the offense and learning to stay in the pocket and find open receivers downfield rather than relying on his legs the majority of the time.
Swope, one of the team's four captains, has been patient and on Saturday it paid off.
"It's not like he hasn't been open," Sumlin said. "The key was for him was to keep playing and keep working and let our offense progress from pass protection, to our quarterback being able to see it, to feeling comfortable in the pocket. So that was a good thing to see."
The role Swope plays, lining up in the 'Y' position (which is essentially the slot position on the right side of the field), is one that saw considerable production year-in and year-out when Sumlin and Kingsbury were at Houston.
On average, Houston receivers that played in the 'Y' position averaged 87 receptions for 1,147 yards and 11 touchdowns a season from 2008-11. And those receivers ran the gamut from the larger, almost tight end-types like Mark Hafner (6-foot-3, 235 pounds) to some smaller in stature, similar to Swope, like Justin Johnson (6-0, 215 to Swope's 6-0, 206). The numbers they produced at Houston are similar to what Swope accomplished himself last season for the Aggies.
With Swope's speed, hands and experience, his potential in the offense is significant.
"I think it's huge," Kingsbury said. "Knowing what he's done here in the past and knowing what type of player he is, we wanted to give him a shot at that position and he's done a great job with it. We'd like to get him the ball more and more and I think as Johnny gets more comfortable with the offense, you'll see more of that."
Sumlin emphasized that Swope will have to repeat the performance before defenses start making adjustments to compensate.
"We got the ball down the field last week," he said. "That should help us offensively. I don't know that it's going to change people's schemes defensively that much more. You have to do it more than once for people to really think you have something."
And catching the ball isn't the only thing Swope hopes to excel at. Like the rest of the receivers, he takes much pride in his ability to block in the running game.
"That's something I take pride in and all the receivers really take pride in," he said. "[Receivers} coach [David] Beaty really emphasizes to go out and play the best game possible and that really involves blocking. I really enjoy blocking. It's one of the things of I like to do. It kind of gets me fired up and it's a good way to start the game, throwing a good block. It's a good way to set the tone of the football game and let everything kind of roll from there."