USC QB hits his mark as senior

Published 5:10 pm Saturday, November 21, 2009

Experience can breed success and that was the case for United South Central senior quarterback Riley Swearingen.

Swearingen, a three-year starter, put together one of the most statistically impressive seasons in the area this season for USC. Swearingen threw for 16 touchdowns and had just four passes intercepted. He totaled 1,194 yards passing and completed 49 percent of his passes as he helped lead the Rebels to an 8-2 season. It was the first winning season for United South Central since 2002.

“I was a lot more confident coming into the year because I knew I had a bunch of my starting linemen coming back from last year,” Swearingen said. “Things clicked a lot faster.”

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Three years ago the Rebels changed their offense to a spread formation in part to better utilize Swearingen and his talents. He led the team in rushing this season with 597 yards and eight touchdowns.

“We went to the spread offense with Riley’s arm,” said USC head coach Brad Huse. “We had a quarterback who could run it and also some running backs who could run the ball. You spread them out to run the ball and then we could also pass the ball.”

Swearingen played behind a line of mostly two-year starters and the line gave him time to scan the field and find open receivers. Huse pointed out that Swearingen passed to five different receivers nearly every game.

“Years before I just kind of picked out one guy and then throw to him whether he was open or not,” Swearingen said. “This year I worked a little more on who was open instead of who I wanted to be open.”

Finding those receivers became easy as the season wore on, even though the receiving corps lacked experience. USC returned just one receiver with experience this season, but Swearingen quickly found 6-foot-7 Kyle Bauman as a prime target. Bauman caught 21 balls for an area-leading 461 yards and 10 touchdowns, but he wasn’t the receiver with the most receptions on the team. Eric Lackey caught 24 balls while William Huper and Matthew Wood both caught 11 passes.

“As a group it’s probably one of the better groups of receivers that we’ve had,” Huse said. “If you look at his stats he throws to five different receivers every game.”

Swearingen made tough throws look easy at times whether that be rolling out or throwing across his body. His arm strength was a big part of that and allowed him to make big plays at times.

“He’s got a special arm that’s for sure,” said USC assistant coach T.J. Schmidtke, who served as a quarterbacks coach.

Swearingen cut down on his interceptions significantly this season. After throwing nine last year he threw just four. Part of the reason was the improved play of an offensive line which featured four seniors and another part was his ability to read defenses improved drastically.

“He really did grow from last season to this season,” said assistant coach Pierre Stencel.

It wasn’t just his arm that helped lead the team to a share of the Gopher Valley AA Conference title this season, but also his legs. His speed and elusiveness freed him from the throes of a pass rush and helped turn broken plays into big gainers.

His accuracy was phenomenal for a high school player as well, Schmidtke said. Swearingen has the ability to throw the ball 60-65 yards and in just the right spot, Schmidtke said.

“Riley put the ball right where they had a chance to catch it every time,” Schmidtke said. “He made everyone around him better.”

Swearingen leaves as the school’s all-time leader in passing yardage with 2,839 yards and holds the two best single-season performances in passing.

Swearingen was an all-conference player last season and is also an all-conference basketball player. He said he’d like to play football at the college level, though he hasn’t set his mind on one school yet.