Scouting the Cats | Offensive line: Swindle schemes to be the best

jsmith3@herald-leader.comAugust 16, 2014 

  • Scouting the offensive line

    The main man: Junior right tackle Jordan Swindle has been called by coaches and teammates not just the undisputed leader of the linemen, but also the undisputed leader of the offense. He started all 12 games last season as a true sophomore and has become a strong vocal leader.

    The supporting cast: Swindle might by the voice of the line, but he's not the only returner with experience. In fact, the Cats return four of their five starters from last season including left tackle Darrian Miller and left guard Zach West, who improved dramatically in the offseason, coaches said. Center Jon Toth also is back and has put on more than 25 pounds of muscle and has been called one of the offense's most improved players. Red-shirt freshman Ramsey Meyers likely will step in at the right guard position.

    Outlook: Kentucky feels good about its nucleus of returning players on the offensive line, but is still searching for more bodies in the trenches. The Cats still are actively seeking someone that can fill the back-up tackle spot likely to be filled by Teven Eatmon-Nared or Kyle Meadows. UK red-shirted a lot of size and talent last season and is looking for added help from guys like Nick Haynes and Meadows. It may be a bit of a mix and match, especially early in the season, but coaches said they feel better about where they're at this season. "Are we there yet? Nope. No we're not," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "We need some more bodies. But I am pleased with those guys that I think we're counting on to be backups."

    JENnifer SMITH

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    Tennessee-Martin at Kentucky

    When: Noon Saturday, Aug. 30

    TV: SEC Network

Jordan Swindle is like the world's most annoying little brother.

Well, except that he's 6-foot-7 and weighs 306 pounds.

Ask any defensive linemen that faced Swindle last season and discover why.

Think of the smaller sibling holding a finger centimeters away from your face and taunting: "I'm not touching you!"

That's Swindle on the field.

"I'll be blocking a guy down the field, and I don't know where the ball is, so the ball could be past me, but I don't give up," Swindle explained with a sly grin.

"I don't stop until the whistle blows, so sometimes the guys get a little angry."

A defensive linemen will say: "The ball's over there."

And Swindle will reply: "I'm sorry. I can't look where the ball's going. I'm not going to stop and look where the ball is.'"

The UK offensive lineman admits he might talk a little bit of what some might call trash.

"I mean, I say some stuff every once in a while," he said. "We'll have words, but nothing crazy."

Swindle, a junior right tackle and undisputed leader of the Kentucky offense, relayed these exchanges to a crowd of media while looking part cherub.

His hands were folded neatly on a table while he donned a three-piece suit accented with a lavender bow tie that he tied himself.

Swindle looks every bit the part of professor, not the snot-nosed kid brother pestering defensive linemen until they want to break something.

"I feel like sometimes I have to do it," he said of getting into the minds and chests of opposing players. "If they don't like it, sorry. I have to do it sometimes."

But that's the thing about Swindle.

It's the "sometimes."

It's that sometimes he's part clean-cut choirboy (who has had two straight semesters of a 4.0 grade-point average in kinesiology).

Then sometimes, he's nothing short of a grade-A crazy person.

"He has this inner beast," Swindle's offensive line coach says of the returning starter from St. John's, Fla.

"At lunch, he's a quiet, soft-spoken guy and at the line of scrimmage and out here on the field, he's definitely not that way," John Schlarman explained.

Quarterback Patrick Towles, who roomed with Swindle their freshmen year, said he'd come in from hanging out and find his roommate sleeping peacefully like a baby at 8 p.m.

Next day on the practice field, Swindle was a baby only in that he couldn't be pacified.

"He does have kind of a mean streak, but he gets it done," Towles said. "He does whatever he needs to do to get it done."

Fellow offensive lineman Cole Mosier can't find the words.

"He has a switch he can turn on during practice where he just turns into a total beast mode," Mosier said. "He just goes out and yells at people. ... I try to model myself after him, but I'm not as vocal as him."

Few are. There's the Jordan Swindle from practice last week that was chest bumping quarterbacks screaming at them to "Get juiced! Get juiced! Get juiced!" before team scrimmages began.

And there's the Swindle that center Jon Toth, his current roommate, knows as "just a relaxed kind of guy."

It's that delicate balance between insanity and clarity that makes teammates want to follow Swindle, offensive coordinator Neal Brown said this summer.

During the offseason, Coach Mark Stoops, who called Swindle the "unquestioned leader of the offense," appointed several leaders to oversee individual groups of players.

Swindle's team rarely lost.

Players just want to follow him, Brown said.

"In our off-season program, his team did very, very, very well," Brown said. "He's a really smart kid, really knows how to communicate. He can be a vocal leader, but he can only do that because he has the respect of his teammates because he's shown how hard he works."

In team meetings, videos are shown throughout the season of players who are getting better and players who are struggling. Even as just a sophomore, it was clear that Swindle was improving every day.

"They saw him repeatedly on the positive tape," Brown said. "He's not a guy that's talking out of both sides of his mouth. He's not asking anything that he's not doing at an extremely high level."

When Swindle missed a few days of practice with a minor injury, it was clear the offense wasn't itself.

Once Swindle was back, the offense had that juice he was screaming for, red-faced with eyes wide and wild.

"He's kind of the heart and soul of what we are, up front and on the whole team," Brown continued. "He gives us energy. He's the leader."

Swindle's position coach said just a season ago it could've gone in a much different direction.

At this time last year, when things would go wrong, Swindle turned that negative energy inward.

He was "a guy who at times would show bad body language and maybe not be a positive presence out there in the way that he'd handle himself," Schlarman explained.

But now that guy is the leader.

And that guy strives to be the most annoying offensive lineman a defender will face all season.

"It's good that he's found the balance there," Schlarman said. "Probably wouldn't be good if he carried some of his mentality on the field to the real life and it probably wouldn't be real good if he brought that soft-spokenness to the field."

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com.

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