Newcomer Looking to Play Early For the Tigers

One of Auburn's 2004 football signees continues to make progress as the Tigers prepare for the 2004 season opener.

Auburn, Ala.--James Swinton, a true freshman receiver from Tucker, Ga., High School, had three catches for 60 yards and the only receiving touchdown in Auburn's second major scrimmage of the preseason.

Swinton continues to make impressive catches in practice seemingly every day and last Friday's scrimmage was no different for the 6-1, 165-pound freshman.

He made a good play on what appeared to be a difficult to catch fade route from quarterback Brandon Cox for a 36-yard gain. "I had to look for the ball, and make a play on the ball," Swinton said. "Coach (Greg Knox) always wants us to make a play on the ball. There was no need to see the ball up there and just let it drop. So what I did was just say, ‘Hey, just get a hand out there and if you catch it, you catch it. If you drop it, you drop it. But at least you tried to make a play.'"

Later in the scrimmage, Swinton found a hole in the defense between cornerback Patrick Lee and strong safety Eric Brock, and Cox was able to find him for a 15-yard touchdown. Despite an impressive day from Swinton, receivers coach Greg Knox held him after practice for individual work after the rest of the receivers were gone.

"He's doing what he needs to," Swinton says of his coach. "He needs to help me get better and I love that about him. It's not hating the coach, it's loving the coach. He sees that I need to work on something, and that's what he's there for."

The freshman receiver has received plenty of attention from Coach Greg Knox this preseason.

Swinton and the Tigers scrimmaged for nearly two hours on Friday evening at Jordan-Hare Stadium and are scheduled to practice again Saturday and Sunday.

"The more he can work, the better he'll get," Knox says in explaining why he kept the freshman late for extra drills on Friday night. "He needs to polish up on the little things as far as playing college ball. He's still got to learn everything from the stance at the start to learning how to run routes, to being disciplined on his routes to being at the right depth at the right time, alignments, everything. He's got the whole package he's still working with and trying to learn."

Swinton was the only receiver to sign with Auburn this year, and was once considered almost a sure bet to redshirt this season because of his lack of size. However, Knox says nothing is certain at this point. Swinton has already moved to third team receiver in a matter of weeks.

"He's making progress," the receivers coach says. "Right now there is no redshirt. We're just going to watch him the next two weeks and see how he continues to progress and learn the offense, and if he's ready to play, he'll play. James is getting better. He's got a long way to go, but he's getting there."

Like most true freshmen, Swinton would rather play than go through the rigorous redshirt workouts with strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall. "If I get in, I'm going to do what I have to do and play hard, even if they don't throw the ball to me," Swinton says. "I'm going to block hard. I want to get in. If I do get in, I'm going to make something happen. If Coach gives me the opportunity, I'm going to use it. That's all I can ask for is opportunity."

For Swinton to play this year he will have to continue to develop like he has since the start of practice in early August. He has shown good physical ability, but Swinton must get a better grasp of the game mentally before he's ready for SEC football.

"The thing about this offense that's complicated to me is my alignment," Swinton says. "Sometimes I may break the huddle and I'm so worried about what alignment I need to get in that I may forget the play. I need to work on that and work on it hard, and learn that when the ball is on the left hash I need to be in the outside alignment or if the ball is on the right hash, I need to be on the inside alignment...or outside or base. So that's one thing I really need to focus on and study a lot more."

Swinton attributes most of his progress to staying after practice with Knox as well as learning from the other receivers. "The older guys have been like a mentor to me," Swinton says. "I'm loving them. They're great guys with great character, and I just wish the best for all of them coming up this season."

Swinton was one of the first commitments in this year's freshman class and wasn't highly recruited out of high school. However, he has been one of the more impressive freshmen since the start of practice.

"Coming in, I wasn't one of the highest-ranked receivers out there, but I knew what I could do," he says. "When you have that confidence, anything can happen."

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