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October 31, 2012

Wednesday Notebook

Here's the some notes and quotes from Texas A&M's Tuesday media availability:

Ouch: There are few tougher players on the current Texas A&M football team -- really, on any Aggie team in recent memory -- than wideout Ryan Swope. Has fearless playing style has left him open to big hits from defenders, including some that are illegal. The toll those hits have taken was disclosed by Swope himself Tuesday afternoon.

"I've had four (concussions)," he said, when asked how many concussions he's had since he was at A&M. "Thankfully, they've all been minor."

Swope showed no ill effects against Auburn, catching six passes for 140 yards and a pair of scores as he approaches A&M's all-time records for catches and yardage. Swope, who could have left school early for the NFL draft last spring, said he has no regrets about returning.

"It's been a great experience. We go to all of these places to play and we experience all the new things," he said. "It's been incredible. I've had a great experience, and obviously we have five more games left, including a bowl game. It's not over yet and, as coach (Sumlin) says, we've got to finish strong. I know we've got a lot of character on this football team and guys that are hungry to win, and seniors that want to go out the right way. We've got to really put our foot on the pedal these last five games and give it everything we've got."

Offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury said the way Swope bounced back to play against LSU after being knocked out of the Louisiana Tech game by a cheap shot was impressive.

"That was bigtime," he said.

Get to the end zone: Senior wideout EZ Nwachukwu said Tuesday that, while the 63 points A&M hung on Auburn Saturday might have been the most that school had given up in 95 years and looks very impressive, it still didn't meet the standards Kingsbury is trying to set.

"He's always talking about us scoring 70, or 80 ... We're never satisfied," he said.

That was an assertion Kingsbury didn't deny.

"We want to score every time we get [the ball]. I think it's a big part of this offense, having belief in yourself and that you should, every time you have the football, be trying to score points," he said."We're not trying to run the clock or have moral victories. We're trying to put the ball in the end zone. I think they've thought was crazy since day one. They were a little suspect. They're still trying to figure me out, I think."

Not peak performance: So far this year, the Aggies have scored seven touchdowns or more in five of their eight games. Has the offense hit its maximum potential? The answer Tuesday was a resounding "no."

"I don't think we are at our peak and that just goes down to little mistakes and little things at which we can get better as an offense. If we do that, then we will be a tough offense to handle. It is just little adjustments we can make here and there," Nwachukwu said.

Coach Kevin Sumlin agreed with that assessment.

"We're not at peak efficiency. We always have room for improvement. We've got a lot of young guys out there. There are some things that we can do better," he said. "I think part of this time of year is trying to constantly improve. Our guys understand that there are some things we can do better. We're still working on technique. We've got some young guys out there. It's a new offense. But we're making strides."

Kingsbury said the offense has to be more consistent before it can be considered to be at its best.

"It's still week-to-week. The week before, we had four turnovers and lost and only scored 19 points. It's still week-to-week and it's a growing process. We haven't come close to what I think we can become with this group," he said. "It's still a bunch of young guys out there playing, so if we just keep getting better and protect the football. Things have to fall into place but consistency is key in this deal. We're still going to run a bunch of plays and do some positive things, but we've got to do them over and over. Not having penalties is a crucial thing."

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: At SEC Media days, Sumlin found a very cynical audience when it came to A&M's chances in its new league. "We don't have a quarterback, we don't know what we're going to do on defense and our offense won't work," he said jokingly about his reception in Hoover, Ala.

Flash forward three months and five impressive SEC performances later and A&M's head coach is a little more forgiving towards the team's preseason cynics.

"We're new guys. We're the new guys in the league. I don't see that as derogatory. You're always going to be skeptical about anything that's new or that you don't know about," he said in a discussion on whether or not the Aggies have proven doubters wrong with their offensive success. "I don't see it that way. I do see it as we do have something to prove. I've said that from the beginning. At SEC Media Day, we were in the best league in the country, playing football. As new guys to the league we do have something to prove. I think our guys understand that. As coaches, we understand that. I think right now our players understand it, too. I think that's why there's such an excitement level from our fans and there's also an excitement level from our players just because that's where we are. Every one of these games is new to these guys. I think last week was a prime example of being exited to play. The newness of this, in a way, has helped us because we're going to places that we've never been and our guys are excited to go there."

Cowbell Country: While the Aggie football team has never been to Mississippi State, Sumlin, Kingsbury and other members of the coaching staff who were at the University of Houston three years ago have been.

"This is one place where we know the hotel, how long it's going to take it's going to get to the stadium, what the food's going to be like," Sumlin said.

Kingsbury said the organized pandemonium in Starkville made an impression.

"Every stadium in the SEC is a great atmosphere and I think the kids are going to be fired up with the fans ringing those cowbells. It should be rocking. It's a cool experience," he said.

When asked about the excitement of playing in new places, junior defensive end Damontre Moore had a simple response.

"It's a business trip," he said, noting that the team doesn't see much besides a movie theater the night before and the field on gameday. "We see it as another opportunity to make our point."

Captain America, Darth Vader... Kevin Sumlin? There may be a few imitations of the Texas A&M head coach walking around tonight, as a number of A&M students (including point guard J'Mychal Reese) have decided to dress up as Sumlin for Halloween. Those imitators have not escaped the real coach's attention.

"Are you talking about the guys who are dressing up like me and Kliff?" he responded to a questioner. "Those guys look great."


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