One player who hopes to make the transition from high school to college football in that realm is Randall Swoopes from Clarke Central High School. At 6-3, 308 pounds with 4.9 speed in the 40-yard dash, he is the prototype for today's defenses that are built with strength in the middle and speed to the outside.
That is the reason that many colleges from across the South have converged on Athens in pursuit of Swoopes. "I have visits set up with Auburn, Georgia and Vanderbilt," he tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "Georgia is January 11, Vanderbilt is January 18 and Auburn is January 25. I don't really have a favorite, I'm just trying to wait."
Although he grew up in Athens and regularly attended Bulldog games this season, he says that doesn't necessarily make Coach Mark Richt's bunch the frontrunner at this time. Developing a keen interest in Auburn over the course of the last two seasons, Swoopes says the future is bright for the Tigers and he wouldn't mind being a part of that.
"They are a winning program," he notes of Auburn. "They are on the rise. They are a real young program and they can only get better." While most high school seniors take a look at depth charts and players in the program before making a decision, Swoopes says that's not something he'll really consider. "Not really," he reiterates. "I think playing early has something to do with the depth chart, but it depends on you as well."
Also looking at several SEC schools for his final two visits, the four-year starter has been a force on both sides of the ball since he first set foot on the playing field. Despite his team's dismal 3-7 record this season, he finished the year with 82 tackles and five sacks despite facing constant double teams. On offense he dominated from the left tackle spot with 80 pancake blocks. He admits to having a better junior season when he totaled over 90 tackles and added seven sacks.
Also a member of his school's basketball team, Swoopes is the epitome of a power forward as he averages eight points and eight rebounds a game for the 10-3 team. Expected to have a good shot at qualifying, Swoopes says he plans to major in Sports Medicine in college.
Tiger Ticket Extra: The defensive tackle position is one of concern for the Tigers heading into the 2002 season. With current Tigers DeMarco McNeil and Spencer Johnson hobbled with injuries much of the 2001 season and sophomore Marcus White's future in doubt because of neck injury, bodies are needed on the Plains and in a big hurry. In addition to Swoopes, the Tigers are also in the running for top tackles across the South including Kedric Golston, Tommy Jackson, Deljuan Robinson and LaRon Harris. Expect Auburn to sign at least two and maybe three tackles in this year's class to give some much-needed depth on the interior.
Copyright 2002, Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine/football newsletter and AUTigers.com