Even after a season that saw him break A&M records for receptions and receiving yards, senior receiver Ryan Swope decided to come back to A&M for his senior season. That’s good news for new offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, who will be relying on a senior like Swope to help bring along his young quarterbacks this season.
The Aggies took the field for the first time on Saturday, and Swope said the energy was good for the first time out.
"It was a good day,” said Swope. “We got there early and started working and it sure was hot today but we had fun with it. Guys were working and competing. We were just out there having fun enjoying it. Came out there with the music on and there was just a lot of energy out there today. There's so much character on this football team, and it shows a lot today. We're just all out there making each other better and just competing, it was a good day."
Mike Sherman’s practices had a good tempo, but Swope said that the practices under the new staff are on a whole different level.
"Tempo is something that we're all trying to adjust to. That's for sure. It's a lot quicker than what we're used to, but at the same time you look up and the defense is still trying to get back in position,” said Swope. “It's just huge to really emphasize that tempo and get things rolling, because we need to have that edge on that defense. We've got to work like that so we get in condition and it just comes natural."
Perhaps no group on the team will have as much to adjust to as the receivers. Even in the first twenty minutes of Saturday’s practice, you could already see the receivers working on things that we haven’t seen before. Even so, Swope says that becoming conditioned to the tempo is the top priority right now.
"The tempo is the biggest thing,” he said. “We've got to get out there and go 100% every play, coach always emphasizes coming off the ball fast and I feel like if we start practicing that early it's going to come natural. We'll become conditioned and mentally we'll be right for next season. But it starts now, just getting in, conditioning during practice just working hard and competing."
One player that Aggie fans will be keeping a close eye on this spring is junior college transfer Derel Walker. Swope talked about what he’s seen from the newest A&M receiver.
"Walker, he's a great competitor,” said Swope. “He's kind of a natural. When he first came in he kind of had a natural ability at the receiver spot. He's real fluid with great hands. He's going to be exciting to watch. We're going to take him under our wing and just work with him. He's competing out there and he's working hard and I'm excited to see what he does."
Another senior leader on the offense is running back Christine Michael, who Swope says is a vocal leader for this team. Kevin Sumlin noted after practice that Michael was sneaking into drills even though Sumlin told him to sit out, something Swope noticed as well.
"Christine, he's a special guy. I've got a great relationship with Christine and he brings a lot of energy to practice. He's always focused. He's a guy that you want on the field at all times, he's a great vocal leader and he really just brings a lot to the table out there and he's fun to practice with. He's a guy that you tell him to go sit out and he's going to sneak over there and get in the drills as much as he can because he wants to be a part of everything. We need that kind of leadership from him and it's going to be exciting to see what he does this next year,” he said.
Coming into this year, Swope sits within striking distance of Jeff Fuller’s records for career receptions and yards, but to reach those goals, someone is going to have to throw him the football. Swope talked about the four-way battle the Aggies have going at quarterback right now.
"It's fun watching those guys compete, both Matts, Johnny and Jameill are all out there competing, but not only that they're all best friends,” he said. “They're having a good time with it out there and it will be interesting to see who ends up with it. I think it's pretty open right now through the spring. I think we'll make a decision some time over the summer, but it's anyone's game. Guys have to just go out there and just push each other and make each other better. They're really doing that, they did that today and I could really tell that they're having fun with it."
Even with a new coach and a new offensive system, there’s one change at Texas A&M that looms above the others. And it’s the backdrop of everything the Aggies do this spring. Literally. SEC logos adorn the fances surrounding the Coolidge Practice Fields.
"It's a pretty cool feeling,” said Swope. “We take a lot of pride in (the SEC). Obviously we were in the Big 12 and making that change to the SEC, it's going to be an exciting year. Texas A&M University, we take pride in that and we're excited to start new things here."