Carolina on Switzer's mind
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- College football recruiting is all about building relationships.
And nowhere was that bond stronger for George Washington's Ryan Switzer than the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
That's why the 5-foot-10, 172-pound Parade All-America running back signed a binding national letter of intent with the Tar Heels on Wednesday morning in the GW gymnasium on National Signing Day, which is the first day high school recruits could officially sign with colleges.
"It's a relief off my shoulders to finally sign,'' said Switzer after all the pomp and circumstance that included a couple-hundred members of the student body, family, friends and former coaches in attendance, with cake afterward. "Now I can look forward to my future at Carolina.''
Switzer's past is impressive, rushing for 5,175 yards and 72 touchdowns his final two seasons at GW. He won his second straight Kennedy Award, given to the state's top player, after this the 2012 season and was only the sixth player in the 66-year history of the award to win it multiple times. He also became just the 15th player from West Virginia to be named to the Parade All-America team.
UNC almost never got past the line of scrimmage with Switzer.
"I wasn't even supposed to take the visit,'' he said. "I had my decision between Florida State and Penn State. [The North Carolina coaching staff] convinced me to take a trip down to Chapel Hill and I just immediately got that gut feeling this is where I needed to be.''
Even with looming NCAA sanctions staring the Tar Heels in the face.
North Carolina was placed on probation last March for violations under former coach Butch Davis. The Heels have 15 fewer total scholarships to award over the next three seasons, but were only banned from the 2012 postseason. They'll spend the next three years, however, on probation.
Larry Fedora took over UNC in December 2011 and led the Tar Hells of the Atlantic Coast Conference to an 8-4 record and tied for first place in the Coastal Division in his first inaugural year in 2012.
"The biggest thing for me was the trustworthy coaching staff,'' said Switzer, who expects to graduate from GW in April and enroll for summer school classes that start at UNC on May 12. "We had to ask some questions like anybody would, but they explained everything and they didn't hide anything.
"It wasn't severe enough to keep me away, no. The fact that Coach Fedora told me when we sat down that whether I got hurt and never played a down of football for them that my education is paid for. Really nowadays that's the most important thing. So I'm going to be able to get a great degree and continue my future.''
Switzer's skills seemed a perfect fit for Dana Holgorsen's offense at West Virginia University, especially with the graduation of all-purpose back Tavon Austin, but the GW star didn't connect with the coaches.
"West Virginia offered me, but out of my 19 [offers] they were my 17th offer,'' said Switzer. "They didn't push for me hard. They really didn't recruit me and I never got a good feel for them. I'm happy where I'm going.''
The Heels collected wins over Virginia Tech (48-34), East Carolina (27-6) and North Carolina State (43-35) and pushed Louisville (39-34), Duke (33-30) and Georgia Tech (68-50) to the brink in losses. All those teams competed in bowl games this past season. Fedora went 33-19 in four years at Southern Mississippi, winning the 2011 Conference USA title game.
"The bowl ban is off when I get there,'' Switzer said. "They'll have a few scholarship reductions. That really doesn't matter. They've got a whole new coaching staff, great guys, and it's a great school with great facilities. I'm going to be able to continue to play and we're going to win championships.''
Switzer should get plenty of opportunities as the "A-back'' in Fedora's offensive system, which will put to use the his sprinter's speed and shifty moves by catching passes as the slot wide receiver, running the ball from different formations and returning kicks.
Tracy Lampley, a 5-9, 168-pound speedster, played a similar role under Fedora at Southern Miss, racking up 3,752 all-purpose yards, just short of the top five on the school's all-time list, and scored 13 times in four different ways in three seasons.
"Usually that guy, without game planning, gets around 12 to 15 touches a game so the ball is going to be in my hands,'' Switzer said.
"If I go in and work I should be starting and playing really early. The offensive system fits me great. It's going to give me a great opportunity to be really special and do a lot of things for them.''
Switzer's future never looked brighter.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.