Swanson is raising eyebrows and bar

Football: In his first year starting at quarterback, South Carroll's versatile senior vaults to third all time in total offense with a chance at the state record.

High Schools

November 21, 2003|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

T.J. Swanson has raised more than a few eyebrows by bursting onto the scene to rank among the state's passing leaders.

But to those who witnessed the South Carroll quarterback's poise and athleticism during spring camps and combines, his status comes as no surprise.

After a season during which he intercepted six passes and earned second-team All-Metro honors as a cornerback, Swanson already was being recruited as a defensive back by Division I-AA programs when he reported to the Maryland Coaches' Association Elite Camp in Prince George's in May.

But Swanson turned heads at the combine with his superb showing in agility drills. He clocked a 4.7-second 40-yard dash, and his vertical leap was measured at 34 inches.

And at 6 feet 3, 210 pounds, Swanson was an inch taller, 25 pounds heavier and possessor of an extraordinary physique that resulted from an offseason weight-training regimen.

"College coaches saw him on that day and started to consider him as a quarterback recruit instead of a defensive back recruit," said Sheldon Shealer, co-editor of an area recruiting magazine who watched Swanson at the camp. "Still, though, he entered the season as a `wait-and-see' QB since this was his first year as a starter and his senior year was the first time colleges could see him in action."

Swanson's prowess has carried over into his senior season at fourth-ranked South Carroll (10-1), where he has passed for 2,144 yards and 25 touchdowns and rushed for 612 yards and 12 more scores entering tonight's Class 2A West region title game with visiting North Hagerstown (11-0).

"College coaches always take a good look at a QB who can still make a play when his receivers are covered, and Swanson has that ability," Shealer said. "He's combined heady decision-making ability with a decent arm and good feet."

Swanson's 2,756 yards are third on the state's all-time, single-season total offense list behind Keith Ricca (3,394 yards) of St. John's at Prospect Hall and North County's Mike Evans (2,996).

Ricca's season ended last week with his team 7-3, and Evans graduated in 1997. But Swanson has potentially three remaining games - tonight's contest and then perhaps the state semifinal and championship games - to gain the 639 yards that would make him the state's all-time total offensive leader.

"I definitely would like to go after that record, but it's more important to me that we win our next game," said Swanson, who led the Cavaliers to their first playoff win and their first 10-victory year.

"T.J.'s as big as a linebacker, tough to tackle and he's vastly improved his accuracy and his ability to read defenses," said Cavaliers coach Gene Brown. "I personally think he throws as good a ball as [Maryland quarterback] Scott McBrien. Of course, McBrien's playing against a different level of competition."

An A student in honors courses and a full NCAA qualifier with a 1,090 SAT score, Swanson has been contacted by I-AA programs such as Richmond, Towson, Georgetown, Princeton, Dartmouth, Wagner and William & Mary. But none has offered scholarships, and he hasn't heard from the big-name schools he would like.

"A couple of colleges have called, asked for transcripts, said they'd like me to come for a visit," Swanson said. "I'll just stay focused, keep playing hard, see what happens."

After watching Swanson torch his Walkersville Lions - 556 passing yards, 121 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns (eight passing, three running) - in two losses, Hal Grau called Swanson "the finest quarterback" he's faced in 35 years of coaching.

"We tried to bring pressure to him, but he was effective as a runner," Grau said. "You might think he's a pure passer, but he's very elusive."

Having been an assistant at Urbana when Zack Mills - who went on to start for Penn State - led the team to its first of four straight state titles, Linganore coach Rick Conner knows what makes a good quarterback.

"It's T.J.'s great arm strength: He throws the ball well vertically and horizontally as well as over the middle of the field," said Conner, whose Lancers defeated the Cavaliers. "He's a big kid, which allows him to see over the line of scrimmage. He simply has all the tools."

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