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WASHINGTON STATE Ursuline's Swogger waits in the wings



Published: Fri, September 13, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The redshirt freshman hopes to compete for a starting job next year.

By BRIAN RICHESSON

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

Josh Swogger's time will come.

When you move across the country, you must be patient. It takes time to adjust.

When you're playing behind a Heisman Trophy candidate and another player with experience, you must be patient. The team is in their hands.

If you're Josh Swogger, the former Ursuline High standout quarterback, you must prepare for your future at Washington State University.

"I love it out here. Pullman [Wash.] is starting to grow on me," Swogger said.

But it wasn't always that way.

"It was a little culture shock out here, just going from coast to coast," said Swogger, who contemplated playing at the University of Louisville. "It rains a lot more out here, and it's cool; I'm used to the hot and humid weather of Ohio."

Which is where Washington State will find itself Saturday as the No. 10 Cougars (2-0) invade Ohio Stadium to face the No. 6 Buckeyes (2-0). Swogger, however, was not scheduled to make the trip to Columbus.

Learning the ropes

A 6-foot-5, 242-pound quarterback, Swogger is a redshirt freshman easing his way into the system.

"They're doing their best to keep me off the field this year and then next year let me compete," said Swogger, who helped lead Ursuline to the Division IV state title in 2000.

"I'm glad because there's no way I'd see the field if I didn't redshirt."

The Cougars are set at quarterback with senior Jason Gesser, a Heisman hopeful, and junior Matt Kegel, a cousin of former Washington State and NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf.

"I'm just sitting back, waiting in the wings," Swogger said.

"I'm running the scout team [he was OSU's Craig Krenzel this week] and learning from that.

"If I wasn't on the scout team I'd be watching Jason and Matt take all the reps," he said. "At least I'm getting the reps and a chance to throw the ball."

Extra time

Not only is Swogger a redshirt freshman, but he also gray-shirted after graduating from Ursuline in 2001. A gray shirt gives a student-athlete more time to develop physically and academically away from a full-time class schedule.

Swogger, who was born in Sharon, Pa., and also lived in Hartford and Vienna, took a semester off from Washington State, so instead of joining the Cougars in August 2001, he joined them this January and was able to participate in spring drills.

"Just because I was so far away from home," he said of gray-shirting. "I wanted to take time to spend with my family. Plus, it gives me an extra half a year."

In addition to running the scout team and watching film, Swogger spends most of his time in the gym. He's already added 15 pounds to his frame and hopes to increase his speed and footwork.

"I've got to be here all the time and stay in the weight room," said Swogger, when asked what he must do to improve. "Just learn the playbook and put myself into the mental situations [on the field]."

Swogger also plans to benefit from the players around him, including Gesser, the Pac-10's best shot at its first Heisman Trophy winner since Marcus Allen won it 21 years ago.

"I can't even explain how big of a mentor he is for me," Swogger said of Gesser. "He just took me under his wing and showed me the ropes -- what to do on and off the field."

Swogger knows his time will come. He plans to compete for playing time with Kegel next season.

"He'll probably start," Swogger said, "but next year is his last year, and then everything's up for grabs."

richesson@vindy.com




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