Former RB Swope excels at WR for Aggies
Making the transition from high school running back to receiver at Texas A&M wasn't easy for Ryan Swope.
He was helped by Ryan Tannehill, who arrived in College Station as a quarterback, but played almost exclusively at receiver his first two seasons.
Tannehill returned to quarterback last year. But the things he taught Swope about receiving have helped the junior become a top target for the 17th-ranked Aggies, with the pair hooking up for four touchdowns last weekend.
''He helped me and molded me into the wide receiver I am today,'' Swope said. ''I give a lot of credit to Ryan. When I came in here as a freshman he really helped me read defenses.''
Swope was a star running back at Austin's Westlake High School where he ran for 1,826 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior to follow up a junior year where he finished with 1,336 yards rushing with 14 scores.
He occasionally caught short passes in high school, but never lined up full time as a receiver. Tannehill had 112 receptions for 1,596 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2 1-2 seasons before taking over at quarterback in the middle of last season. He decided to take Swope under his wing while still at receiver and that bond has continued.
''I didn't have a whole lot of experience at that position,'' Swope said. ''He helped me through that. It really showed Saturday. He had a feel for me and I for him, and the chemistry was really there.''
Swope had a season-high 11 receptions for 206 yards and four touchdowns, both career-bests, in Saturday's 55-28 win over Baylor.
Tannehill said Swope's experience at running back makes him a dangerous receiver.
''He knows what to do when he has the ball in his hands,'' Tannehill said. ''He can make guys miss and get up field.
''He has great balance. He's our fastest receiver and he has great hands. He's not afraid to go up and make a play. He's not afraid to go over the middle, too.''
Swope leads the Aggies, who face Iowa State on Saturday, in yards receiving (619), receptions (40) and receiving touchdowns (six) this season. He's already scored more touchdowns in 2011 than he did in his first two years combined and he is 206 yards shy of matching his career high of 825 yards receiving from last year.
He's picked up the slack at the position this year while Jeff Fuller, who led the team with 1,066 yards receiving in 2010, has struggled with a nagging hamstring injury.
''It's a huge luxury to have the playmakers we have across the board,'' Tannehill said. ''It's a potent offense that doesn't have to focus on one person to move the ball. I think the fact we're able to do that really helps us spread the ball evenly and puts a lot of pressure on the defense across the field ... and once we get Jeff back at 100 percent that brings even another factor for us.''
Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman recruited Swope to be a slot receiver, despite his never have played the position. He's watched him grow into the position since making the switch, and like Tannehill believes his past as a running back has benefited him.
''The nice thing about him in that position is you want a guy good with the ball in his hands,'' Sherman said. ''In college football today it's important in those slot positions to have a hybrid guy that's played some running back and can catch the football and do something with his hands. What he did in high school demonstrated that he'd be able to play that position for us.''
Swope said he loves former Texas Tech and current New England receiver Wes Welker and tries to play the game like he does. When asked if Swope reminded him of Welker, Sherman was quick to point out that at 6-foot and 206 pounds, he's bigger than the 5-9 former Red Raiders standout, but he does see some similarities between the two.
''He's that type of player and that type of competitor,'' Sherman said referring to the hardworking Welker.