Chew on This: Sweigart Could Be The Best of All
BY JAY GREENBERG
The top offensive tackle in the Ivy League, arguably in the FCS, has to love what he does to be so good at it, grunt after grunt.
“In high school, I loved defense more,” said Mitchell Sweigart. “Now after paying offense for four years here, I don’t wish to be on the other side of the ball.
“I think the most satisfying thing in life is moving another man against his will. So run blocking is extremely satisfying.”
There are perks, too. In bulking up 20 pounds since the end of last season–40 since his freshman year–Sweigart is licensed to eat.
“Every morning before work this summer I would stop at Turkey Hill, a convenience store [near Washington, Pennsylvania], get a gallon of chocolate milk, and drink that before 9 am,” Sweigart said. “That was about 2000 calories.”
“And then I would try to get another 4500 before dinner. Any after-dinner snack was a bonus for the day.”
Holy Jenny Craig! And not an ounce of guilt. It’s cottage cheese for the rest of us, while Sweigart’s metabolism turns it all into muscle–and holes big enough for Charlie Volker and all the members of his extended family. Now up to 290 pounds, Sweigart still probably needs more to sell his draft worthiness to the NFL scouts dropping by the football offices and practices to ask about he, Kurt Holuba and Chad Kanoff. But after 300, it will all be gravy.
“If he puts on another 10 pounds before Pro Day, I would think that would be enough to keep people’s eyes on him,” said Andy Aurich, the offensive line coach.
“Absolutely, Mitch has a chance, based on the people coming through, he is on everybody’s radar now.
During camp, Holuba practically needed sonar to get low enough to gain a step outside, or inside, Sweigart, maneuvers mutually beneficial to their upsides. “That is a great matchup for Mitch,” said Aurich. “ Holuba has the tricks.”
Here is what Holuba has had to contend with:
“Mitch has tremendous feet, is very efficient with his movements,” said Aurich. “That allows him to move a lot faster than a normal player at that position.
“He is very, very athletic; at a different level than we have seen in previous years. He can change direction really well and, on top of that, he has gotten stronger. So there isn’t a point of his game where there could be a weakness.
“He is an extremely smart player, knows what everybody is doing. When I talk to him he can paint a perfect picture every single time of how [the defense] was aligned; what front it had. He always is in the right spot, no matter what is happening in front of him.”
Nothing much happened to Kanoff once he set up to pass last year, in part because of the protection, in part because he has learned to get rid of the ball. Princeton’s quarterbacks were sacked only 18 times in 10 games.
With Kanoff, a classic pocket passer, becoming the man for 100 yards in the injury absence of John Lovett, protection might be more important than ever. Or, maybe not, because of all the tricks up the Tigers’ sleeve. All of them have a good chance of working because of the wealth of talent and depth along what might be Princeton’s greatest O-line of the Ivy League era.
If it isn’t the best, certainly it is the deepest. There are a highly-unusual nine guys returning who saw appreciable time in 2016, including Sweigart, first team All Ivy; right guard Erik Ramirez, second-team all Ivy. Gifted right tackle Reilly Radosevich was honorable mention as a freshman, which deserves more, actually, than just a mention, because these positions are difficult to master.
“Whatever Reilly was still learning about technique last year, he was able to more than compensate with tremendous balance,” said Surace.
The only graduation loss on the line was center Mason Darrow, who is expected to be capably replaced by the much-improved senior Dick Bush.
“He has always been very talented but he used to beat himself up,” said Surace. “Trying to be perfect with the call, he would slow things down with mental errors. It just took him getting up to speed knowledge-wise until he became confident in himself.
“It’s hard for a center here. We are operating at an extremely fast speed.”
At left guard, juniors George Attea and Jack Corso are pushing each other for playing time. “George is a better version of himself, compared to last year,” said Aurich. “He has done a good job focusing on his deficiencies, looks more athletic and has more power, and I would say the same about his backup, Corso, who played a lot for us last year.
Ramirez’s backup, sophomore Andre Guest, has All-Ivy potential. Junior Stefan Ivanisevic, who will backup at guard, can also slide to tackle, and his freshman kid brother Niko, looks like an eventual starter at center.
“Niko is playing mostly center and handling it very well,” said Surace. “He is one of the most advanced guys mentally at that position since Joe Goss (’14 a four- year starter). Ryan Huth and David Hoffman are large guys who need a year in the weight room but they are doing a very good job during their freshman years.”
No jokes, please, about having an offensive lineman by the name of Brett Holder. The sophomore will get playing time behind Radosevich and sophomore center Alex Deters will get on the field this season, too. There is so much depth along the offensive line that Niko Ivanisevic, Huth and Hoffman were a three-man recruiting class by design. They will have their time, but for now, they got here in time to watch Sweigart every day.
“His technique is flawless; he always knows that he is doing,” said Radosevich. “Him being my mentor was instrumental to whatever success I had last season. I can’t thank him enough.”
Neither could Surace when injuries sapped the depth for the Harvard game and Sweigart, on an IV for a virus during the week, went all the way without substitution. So he is tough, in addition to everything else.
The last Princeton offensive lineman to be drafted was Dennis Norman in the seventh round by Seattle in 2001. He played six seasons. His contemporary, Ross Tucker, lasted five.
“We have had really high level linemen here in my time (from 2010) and Mitch is the best one,” said Surace. “That is saying something. “To follow up Spenser Huston (’16) with Mitch, has put us in a very good spot for the last seven years at left tackle.”
Growing up as an Eagles fan in the Lancaster area, Sweigart used Jason Peters as a study. When he went to Heinz Field to watch Seth DeValve play for the Browns in the 2016 season finale, Sweigart couldn’t take his eyes off Cleveland’s Joe Thomas, the consensus current top tackle in the NFL.
“So good, it was hard not to watch him,” Sweigart said.
“In high school you think you are a pretty big guy for your age and these guys are 80-90 pounds heavier than you and are moving so well. Their sheer size and athleticism is awe inspiring.”
And he might prove one of them. Pass him the potatoes please.
After giving up 464 passing yards in it’s opening game win over Western New Mexico, San Diego (1-1), the Tigers first opponent Saturday on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium, was torched for another 369 on Saturday night by the University of California-Davis in a 35-7 defeat. Included were passing touchdowns of 75 and 33 yards and a 71-yard run. “We have to find a way to stop the big play,” said Coach Dale Lindsay.
Lafayette, tied 10-all at the half, was worn down in the second half for the second consecutive week, this time by Sacred Heart, 38-24, dropping the Leopards to 0-2. They are the Tigers’ second opponent.
Georgetown, the Tigers’ third non-conference foe this season, won its opener at Campbell, 16-10, on a 32-yard touchdown fumble recovery with 1:32 to play.