Even before the home opener against North Texas, the RS-freshman faced what may have been the unrealistic expectation of immediately becoming a big-time receiving target. Initially, some of those stratospheric hopes stemmed from his uncanny resemblance (in both style and stature) to dearly departed SE Roy Williams, who now is the Detroit Lions' leading receiver in his rookie campaign.
But in the past couple of weeks, Sweed has gradually emerged as a playmaker. Before the Oklahoma game, Sweed had recorded only four catches on the season. It was not until the following week against Missouri that he had his first multi-reception game when he caught three passes for 27 yards. Since then, he has added another eight grabs, including four this past Saturday for a game-high and career-best against Oklahoma State.
More importantly, his catches came during critical moments in the game, all extending drives that led to touchdowns.
His first catch came late in the 2nd quarter, with Texas desperate to cut into the 35-7 Oklahoma State lead and enter halftime with some momentum. With only seconds left on the game clock, Sweed snagged a 17-yard completion to set up Youngs 5-yard TD pass to TE Bo Scaife. His most eye-opening grab, of course, was the 37-yarder on the stop-and-go pattern along the Longhorn sideline. It was the longest reception of his young career and the key play in the 78-yard TD drive that brought Texas to within seven points of the reeling Cowboys.
What has changed to enable Sweed to put up more numbers? According to Sweed, he just needed more touches.
"In the last game, coach called the plays and gave opportunities, so I just took them," said Sweed. "Make the best of every opportunity you get."
Much of the time, though, his work goes undetected. Fans rarely focus on what players are doing away from the ball but, for coaches and scouts, this aspect of the game is key. Last Saturday, Sweed had a hand in most of the Longhorn scoring drives without actually touching the ball. In fact, the wideout is probably Bensons new best friend after helping to pave the way for the running back's career-high five touchdowns. What's more, Sweed's clearing block helped spring RB Ramonce Taylors 48-yard touchdown run that finally tied the contest at 35-all.
Sweed, of course, had good models. Last season, as soon as the mobile Young stepped into the quarterback role, downfield blocking by the receivers became integral to the success of the running game. Add a Heisman-hopeful to the backfield, and WRs are more likely to throw a block than to snag a throw in this year's offense.
Head coach Mack Brown got used to the blocking success of his trio of senior receivers last season and wanted this years squad to follow suit. Early on, Brown informed his young receivers that professional scouts placed a premium on Williams', B.J. Johnson's and Sloan Thomas' ability to block.
"They watch the films of Roy, B.J. and Sloan blocking last year. Dont you think you are going to come in here and not block," Brown cautioned the new wideouts.
So far, the Texas head coach has been impressed with their progress.
"They have really come around in a lot of different ways, but they block so hard because we run the ball more this year than we have in the past," he added.
Sweed takes pride doing whatever he can to give the Horns a win, even if it means temporarily stepping out of the spotlight.
"Its a team game," Sweed said. "So it is whatever the coaches need."