It's hard to do much but be impressed by any high school football player who accounts for more than 300 yards of total offense and scores five touchdowns, and it was plenty impressive to watch Tyrone Swoopes of Whitewright do his thing against rival Leonard. Whitewright dropped the contest 40-36 on a late score, but it was hard to place that blame on Swoopes, who rushed for 277 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries (7.3 yards per carry), while also throwing for two more scores. He also had a hand in three two-point conversions, accounting for all 36 Whitewright points.
The first thing you notice about Swoopes is just how impressive he is on the hoof. Swoopes is one of the biggest players on his team, is legitimately at least 6-foot-4 and probably weighs between 225 and 230 pounds. Simply put, he looks like a college outside linebacker out there, somebody somewhat rangy and athletic, but also with muscular bulk.
The second is the way that Swoopes runs with the ball. He's fantastic in the quarterback run game, with the ball-handling skills, the feel and the vision to excel as a zone-read runner. He handles the mesh well, and doesn't pull it until he's sure of his decision. Once he does, he accelerates quickly into a lane. He's both graceful and spontaneous — he changes direction on a dime and is wonderfully shifty. A high school football field is 53 1/3 yards wide, and he probably used every bit of that over the course of the night. Rarely did he plant his foot and accelerate in a straight line, and to say that he weaves as a runner would probably be pretty accurate. He's also not afraid to finish runs behind his pads, making the people in front of him pay for tackling him.
His best run was a 56-yard touchdown that showed off his tantalizing skill set. Swoopes got the edge, trucked two defenders then ran past the rest of the defense. The latter part wasn't quite as impressive … Swoopes certainly has speed, but he's not a burner.
As a thrower, there's plenty to build off. Swoopes threw a 45-yard touchdown on a post route, one he absolutely murdered to the receiver. He has just tremendous arm strength that can make every throw. He certainly lacks polish here, though it was encouraging to see him stick in the pocket to try and make plays with his arm in some key situations. He didn't have happy feet, which was good to see. Just before the half, Swoopes stood in the pocket and delivered a pass on-the-money for a key score. His patience on that play was impressive — he didn't rush anything and let a receiver drag across the back of the end zone.
If the long dart was his best throw, Swoopes showed a better glimpse of his terrifying run-pass potential on a two-point conversion late. Forced from the pocket, Swoopes stepped up like he was running, getting a defender to commit, then lobbed the ball over his head for a touchdown. It wasn't the prettiest ball, but it showed some of the rough choices Swoopes can put a defense in.
Of course, with Swoopes, the most popular thing is to list what he isn't. He isn't as fast as somebody like a Vince Young, though with his long strides (and the obvious Texas commitment), you can see why somebody would want to make that comparison. He isn't overly polished. The passing game is going to need work.
But in cutting him down, you're looking past the obvious plusses. It sounds trite, but a quarterback with NFL size and an NFL arm, when combined with Swoopes's (transcendent) running ability, is a catch for any program. Texas landed a player who not only has elite tools, but somebody whose best football is obviously ahead of him.