SE Limas Sweed Has ‘Deep' Thoughts

It says something when a TE is seven yards shy of being a team's leading receiver, as was the Longhorns' case last season. And while versatile senior David Thomas will factor even more into this year's offense, SE Limas Sweed knows it's time for the wideouts to make their move.

It was the kind of move that Horn fans anticipated last season. Maybe not at first but by, say, the bowl game? A consistent down field threat never materialized in 2004 as Texas hitched its wheels to sturdy and powerful RB Cedric Benson, as well as to virtually untouchable QB Vince Young, on the way to Rose Bowl championship.

If Texas is to return to Pasadena, the site of this year's BCS national championship game, Sweed knows that his crew has got to do more than throw a down field block.

"I feel like we've made a tremendous improvement since last year," Sweed said. "We've been working in practice on the deep ball, and the short balls. Our rhythm is good. As far as me, I feel like I have to come out every day and practice hard."

Young insisted WRs attend seven-on-seven drills three times a week during the summer months. In time, the record attendance (more than 60 Horns participated at length) allowed the team to conduct 11-on-11s. Backup QBs Matt Nordgren and Colt McCoy were also regular participants.

"Having another year under my belt is a tremendous asset," Sweed said, "so coming into this season I'm very confident. I've been practicing all summer with Vince. The seven-on-sevens is how we got our rhythm down. We (WRs) stayed after seven-on-sevens to work with Vince and that helped us out a lot."

FL Nate Jones now has a year's experience following a relatively unproductive freshman season. He tantalized UT fans with his receiver-gone-wild, three-TD showing in the 2004 Texas High School Coaches All-Stars game but then managed just 73 yards on seven receptions against the big boys last season.

Following a nondescript year from both Jones and Sweed, it's understandable that most of the preseason buzz at WR centers on a couple of pass catchers who have yet to play a down for the Horns: FL Jordan Shipley and 22-year old freshman Quan Cosby. (It's worth a trip to Denius Fields just to watch Shipley and Cosby blaze effortlessly down the field and then make their break on the ball. And I honestly think freshman WR Jermichael Finley will be added to that mix this season.)

"Jordan is a very fast guy with great hands," Sweed said. "Sometimes defenses will be keying on him, and that will allow me to get one-on-one coverage on the back side."

Young's mobility and his ability to make off-schedule plays is not only Texas' biggest wild card, it also frees WRs to be playmakers down field.

"I think the scrambling ability of Vince Young helps the wideouts so much because it limits the coverages," head coach Mack Brown said. "If defenses have to come up to get him when he starts to scramble, it leaves them (WRs) much more open. So (defenses) can't play man coverage and run off with them."

Sweed notched seven starts in 2004 and accounted for 263 yards on 23 catches. Those are hardly world-beating numbers but 12 of those grabs came during the last four games of the season, indicating that Sweed is on the upswing.

"As we develop the deep ball, we can do a lot more things," Sweed said. "If we develop the deep ball, that helps the running game. We know what we can do, so we're ready to go out there and do it."

Brown pressed the issue with Sweed and company during the last week of spring drills. Both he and VY had a couple of heart-to-hearts with Sweed, telling him not so much what he needed to do but rather what he had to do for Texas to play at a championship-level in 2005. I asked Sweed to what extent that emphasis has been carried over into the first week of August camp.

"Coach has been saying that he wants the wide receivers to come out and play and catch the deep balls and the short balls," Sweed replied. "That's what we've been doing as a group, coming out there, catching the deep balls, catching the short balls and blocking. We're doing whatever the coaches are asking us to do."

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