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Sunday June 26th

Ryan Switzer shies away from spotlight on UNC football team

<p>North Carolina wide receiver Ryan Switzer (3) waits for a position group photo to be taken at UNC Football Media Day on Wednesday, Aug. 12.</p>
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North Carolina wide receiver Ryan Switzer (3) waits for a position group photo to be taken at UNC Football Media Day on Wednesday, Aug. 12.

After a stellar freshman campaign resulted in him claiming All-America honors as a return man, he entered his sophomore season talking about winning the Heisman Trophy.

But a return to normalcy in 2014 has prompted Switzer, now a junior, to take a more discreet approach this offseason.

“Some of it was a result of what I did my freshman year, and then some of it was the result of the expectations I set for myself,” said Switzer of the self-induced pressure from a season ago.

“I don’t regret anything I said or that I did. I just added a little bit more stress that I probably didn’t need to worry about. This year, I’ve gone about it a little bit differently.”

Switzer’s ambitions for his sophomore season weren’t outlandish. He tied an NCAA record with five punt returns for touchdowns in 2013 and established a new school record with a single-season average of 20.9 yards per return.

His success left him three shy of the NCAA career mark for punts returned for touchdowns. But after averaging only 4.6 yards per return in 2014, Switzer enters this season just as far away from the national record.

“It’s obviously hard to go from five returns to no returns,” said junior receiver Mack Hollins. “But it’s not something where he’s like, ‘I’m not going to have any returns anymore.’ He’s like, ‘The next time I touch the ball, I’m going to be returning it.’”

“Unfortunately he didn’t have any (in 2014), but this season he has the same mindset of, ‘When I touch the ball, I’m going to return it, and I trust the 10 guys who are in front of me blocking to help me do that.’”

Switzer says he spent part of his offseason watching film of his returns from a season ago and admits he could’ve taken fewer hits by not returning a majority of the punts he fielded.

“But that’s a part of growing; that’s a part of maturing,” he said. “It’s now a part of my game that will help me instead of hurt me.”

Although he says his expectations might have discounted the season he ended up having, Switzer continued to develop on offense in 2014.

After moving to the position as a freshman, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound receiver led the Tar Heels with 61 catches and 757 yards as a sophomore. And so far in practice, he has continued making strides.

“(Switzer) is starting to understand coverages and starting to understand not just his spot but where he fits and the role,” said receivers coach Gunter Brewer. “Sometimes it’s not just about that position. It’s about how that position might open up someone else and how someone else opens him up.”

While breaking the national record for punt returns for touchdowns or winning the Heisman Trophy might not be as feasible as they once seemed, Switzer still earned a spot on the All-ACC preseason team as a return specialist.

And although he hasn’t vocalized it, the expectations remain.

“The older I’m getting, the more I learn that people don’t have to know what you’re thinking and they don’t have to know what you’re doing,” he said. “It’s kind of best that way. I don’t have to go around proclaiming my self-ambitions. I can just go out and do it.”

“It’s a little more sweeter that way.”

@patjames24

sports@dailytarheel.com



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