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Switzer-land in the summer

By the time the 2012 season is completed, George Washington tailback Ryan Switzer should have a pretty good tan going. Because the spotlight will doubtlessly be affixed to his every move.

Everyone will be keeping an eye on Switzer, the go-to player for last year's Class AAA state runner-up, which kicks off its season at 7:30 Friday night at Oakes Field against neighboring rival South Charleston.

  • Fans will be watching: As a junior, Switzer won the Kennedy Award last year as the top player in West Virginia, running for 2,796 yards and scoring 45 touchdowns for the Patriots, who fell 35-27 to Martinsburg in the title game at Wheeling Island Stadium. Only eight juniors have ever taken home the Kennedy Award, which has been handed out since 1947.
  • College coaches will be watching: The speedy Switzer, who passed up his junior year of track and will forego his senior season of basketball in order to concentrate on football, has already decided to accept a scholarship offer from North Carolina. But that won't stop all the talent hunters from checking out Switzer's dizzying array of moves and trying to change his mind before national signing day in February.
  • Opponents will be watching: The best way to slow down the Patriots, who own 26 straight regular-season victories, is to control Switzer. But few came close last year. He carried fewer than 16 times just once (nine carries for 169 yards in a one-sided first-round playoff win over Spring Valley) and lugged the ball as many as 34 times against Martinsburg in the title game. He's also again expected to kick off, punt and play defensive back.
  • As if all that isn't enough, the 5-foot-9, 175-pound Switzer has drawn some attention this summer for starting his season with a head of bleached-blond hair.

    "I may keep it all year,'' Switzer said with a grin.

    Moments after GW completed the preseason portion of its schedule Friday with a pair of scrimmage wins in the MSAC Grid-o-rama at Laidley Field, Switzer was asked if he's again ready for the long grind. If the Patriots return to the state finals, they'll be playing until Dec. 1, a full 15 weeks away.

    "I think so,'' Switzer said. "We went through the offseason conditioning, and we had 40 guys almost every day. I think we showed ourselves pretty well in the preseason.

    "We've got a lot of stuff to work on, but that comes with time. We're working some new guys in. We're going to have mistakes. I can't make mistakes - stupid mistakes that I made. But overall, come Aug. 24, we're going to be ready.''

    In last Friday's MSAC workouts, Switzer touched the ball four times against Parkersburg and sped for three touchdowns of 70, 39 and 31 yards. His other carry went for minus-4 yards (an option play to the short side of the field), so he wound up with 136 yards. Later against Capital, he carried eight times for 55 yards and two scores, those covering 1 and 6 yards.

    GW won 33-14 against Parkersburg and 20-12 against Capital, each scrimmage lasting two quarters with starters playing about half the time. The starters accounted for all of the Patriots' points.

    "I expect us to be clicking like that,'' Switzer said. "We're sharp in practice. Like I said, we have some young guys to work in, but we do have a lot of [returning] skill guys - guys who can run - which takes some pressure off me, and that's what I'm looking forward to seeing. You saw what we did in the first quarter against Parkersburg. When we get going, we can score quickly.''

    Steve Edwards Jr., GW's coach, also liked what he saw from his players over the weekend in their final tuneup.

    "Our big horses answered the call, and that's what they've got to do,'' Edwards said. "Ryan did what he does, and [fullback Dustin] Crouser had some nice runs and some nice linebacker play.''

    Switzer realizes that Friday's opener at South Charleston won't be anything like last year's 61-0 romp at Steve Edwards Sr. Field in South Hills, when GW burst into a 42-0 halftime lead against the rebuilding Black Eagles.

    This year, SC returns 14 starters, including a majority of its skill position players.

    "They're going to be mad,'' Switzer said, "but we're not looking to blow them out. We weren't looking to blow them out last year. We just look to come and play like we normally play. It's up to them to stop us, and it's up to us to stop them.

    "We just want to come out focused, and we want to make sure G-dub doesn't beat GW.''

    Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazette.com.

     


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