EXCLUSIVE: Cover32/RAVENS Path to the Pros: RYAN SWITZER

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Dec 5, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Ryan Switzer (3) catches a pass during the fourth quarter against the Clemson Tigers in the ACC football championship game at Bank of America Stadium. The Tigers won 45-37. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Cover32/Ravens staff has chosen two players from all of the draft-eligible NCAA football athletes, ones that could potentially fill Baltimore Ravens needs, and are following their journey to Sundays in this series. First selection:UNC’s Ryan Switzer.

“When I think about the Baltimore Ravens, I think of a strong organization. I think about the Ray Lewis days. [He is] One of the most recognizable figures in all of football history. They win. You’re going to get their best effort. A winning tradition, a line of Hall of Famers and great players.”

Ryan Switzer’s perspective of the Ravens resonates respect. The University of North Carolina letterman, a 4-year major contributor to the football team at Wide Receiver and Punt Returner, is now eligible for the draft and is well along the road to Draft Weekend.

“It’s been pretty exciting so far,” Switzer told Cover32/Ravens. “I’ve obviously never been around this much NFL personnel [At the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama], never met with this many teams. It’s been a good experience, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve gotten to tell my story to a lot of different teams. I’ve felt comfortable and confident in the interviews that I’ve had.”

Born and raised in West Virginia, Switzer had an immense amount of speed-related success in High School. He played Wingback, and had over 70 touchdowns during his final two seasons. He was a state track champ in the 4×100 and 4×200 relays during his Senior year, and he also had two state basketball championships on his docket. At Carolina, the Parade

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Shown here returning a punt TD against Miami, Switzer is a big-time player in big-time games.

All-American immediately made a mark, returning 5 kicks for touchdowns during his freshman year, an ACC record. He wound up just one shy of tying the NCAA record for return TDs, which is held by Wes Welker and Antonio Perkins. Consider that he had 5 returns called back for various, if not dubitable, penalties. He easily could have had the record.

Switzer is not just a returner, though; he is the all-time most prolific receiver in UNC history, setting the record for receiving yards and receptions. He had a whopping 96 receptions this past fall. His trademark became the big play; the deep reception. In his college career, vs. ACC opponents which include Florida State and current National Champion Clemson, he caught 11 passes over 50 yards long; 7 over 60. He averaged well over 11 yards per catch (20 YPC as a Freshman!) and became known as a gamebreaker who could either find an open hole in a secondary and motor to daylight, or blow a hole over the top.

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Observing Switzer with his teammates clearly shows his love for them and the game. — photo by Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Having observed practically every one of his college games, plenty in person, I can say that Switzer is a fun-loving, outspoken, team player. He is not brooding or melancholy; he is a sparkplug and a jubilant teammate. This is very clear from watching him celebrate with his compadres on the field.

Admittedly, he is a little different than what the Ravens have voiced wanting at wideout; they have mentioned seeking a veteran WR. A pass catcher. Yet, I think the underestimated explosion that Switzer brings, along with durability and well-developed catching skills, would answer the Steve Smith-sized vacancy-question.

Switzer told Cover32/Ravens that his skills in these areas are relevant. “I think I bring a lot of things to the table. Not just as a receiver but a returner as well. The main job of a returner

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

is to give the ball back to the offense. That’s the most important thing that I bring, I make good decisions back there. I’ve been doing it for  long time now and I’ve gotten comfortable back there. It doesn’t even have to be a touchdown, but getting ten yards, ‘getting the offense another first down’ is what we call it. In the NFL, you’ve got to be able to make plays when the ball is in your hands and not do the minimum. It’s something I look forward to doing.”

Apparently, I am not alone in my thoughts about Switzer. This week in Mobile, Alabama, he has had a large number of discussions from NFL personnel representing different teams. “I’ve gotten to tell my story to about 15-20 teams so far. It’s just been a whirlwind since I got here on Monday.”

Comparisons have been fast and many; ranging from the obvious in Wes Welker, to the opaque in Steve Smith, Sr. Smith was not so fast to equate the two, as was demonstrated in a conversation on Twitter:

But, Switzer displayed his respect in his return tweet to Smith:

And Smith displayed his class as a result:

“I just wanted to make sure that he knew how much I respected his game and how much I appreciate what he has done for the game fo football, the passion that he brought to the game year in and year out,” Switzer said. “It was a neat exchange, he wished me the best of luck which was pretty cool. That’s something I’m going to remember, maybe one day down the road I can meet him and pick his brain, and see how he got to where he is, what made him successful. Hopefully looking forward to that sometime soon.”


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The Verdict

In 2016, the Ravens had issues in the return game.

In 2016, the Ravens had issues with drops.

In 2016, the Ravens had issues with explosive plays being imminent.

In 2016, the Ravens lost a future Hall of Famer to retirement, and possibly another starting-calibre WR to free agency.

It is because of these items that I have chosen North Carolina WR/KR Ryan Switzer as my targeted player, whose #path2thePros we will follow.

Switzer said, regarding his Christian faith, he is learning to become patient and trust this process. “He’s trying to make me become a more patient man, I’ll tell you that. Right now, I really don’t have much say in where I go. I really am not in control much, other than the effort and attitude that I can have each day, and my combine preparation. He’s allowing me to trust Him ,and it’s what I’m having to do. He’s obviously the man with the plan and I’ve gotta follow it.”

Follow it he will, and follow him we will. All the way to the promised land of the NFL–and hopefully, Charm City.

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