Senior wideout Ryan Swope came into his final season at Texas A&M known nationally as the Aggies' top receiving threat. After a frustrating opener against the University of Florida where his chances to make plays were effectively shut down by a swarming Gators defense, Swope went back to the drawing board.
"I wanted to focus on my route running, so I went and looked at the film to find things I could improve on," he said Tuesday. "I just took it to the next level. I just came out prepared to win the game, and we were hungry and did our assignments."
The hunger didn't translate into immediate progress, as the Aggies and SMU were scoreless at the end of the first quarter. In spite of some frustration, Swope said the coaching staff kept an even keel between quarters.
"The coaches were real positive," he said. "We trust them and when the offense gets going, it's going to be hard to beat."
Swope played a big role in getting the offense going, catching Johnny Manziel's first career touchdown pass on a 29-yard catch and run to get A&M on the board in what would turn into a 48-3 rout. Swope would catch four other passes on the day, working to get himself open as Manziel scrambled out of the pocket.
"We work on that every day in practice," he said. "With Johnny back there, he can extend the play, so we have to be award of long extended plays and working on getting open. The coaches do a good job of teaching us that comes down to being a football player and finding a void in the defense."
Swope may find himself open more often -- or at least facing more single coverage -- thanks to the emergence of redshirt freshman Mike Evans. When discussing Evans, the senior captain said the change in the younger player over the past few months has been obvious.
"We've seen in practice what we saw Saturday. He's got a lot of height and he practices like that," Swope said of Evans. "He's partied hard before, but this past spring we started seeing a whole new guy, making plays, blocking hard and doing the little things."
As one of the team leaders, Swope's words carry more weight than most. But he said he tries to ensure his teammates keep their focus and leaves other matters to the coaching staff.
"We try to keep the focus on the football field," he said. "We keep that tied together with what we were told to execute and leave it at that."