Redshirt Freshman Looking To Earn Playing Time

Defensive lineman Josh Thompson is ready to become a contributing member of the 2004 Auburn football team's front four.

Auburn, Ala.--One of the more impressive young linemen on the first day of Auburn's full contact spring training, Josh Thompson says he is happy to be in the mix.

A star throughout his high school career as a defensive lineman and linebacker, Thompson wasn't pleased to be watching games last season instead of participating in them.

The former Statesboro, Ga., High star arrived on campus last summer physically and mentally ready to challenge for playing time as a true freshman. After a solid start on the practice field he won praise from Tommy Tuberville and other coaches, however, an injury problem ended his opportunity of breaking into the rotation not too long after it got started.

"I had a chance to play last year, but I hurt my foot," Thompson tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "This is going to be a lot more fun this year having a chance to play in games. I hurt my foot near the end of my first week in two-a-days."

Thompson is healthy now and is currently second team on the depth chart at noseguard behind junior T.J. Jackson. He outplayed Jackson in Wednesday's workout, according to his position coach, Don Dunn.

Josh Thompson currently weighs 292 pounds and says that is close to his ideal weight of 295.

"Things are going really well," Thompson says. "I had a good offseason. I got into a little better shape. I have got my weight to a stable level where I can keep it up. I am trying to get faster and a little stronger. You can always get a little stronger."

In the weight room, Thompson is probably the strongest player on the 2004 Auburn football team. His development will be a key to helping the Tigers replace three inside defensive linemen from last year's team--starting noseguard Demarco McNeil, starting tackle Spencer Johnson and backup Dexter Murphy.

"I think the defensive line is going to come along real well," Thompson predicts. "Marco and Spence were real good players and they will probably go pro, but I think we will be okay. We have been working hard in the offseason. Coach Dunn and Coach (Terry) Price have been pushing us hard. I think we will be fine."

Thompson, who is listed at six feet tall but looks to be a bit shorter, has a low center of gravity, quickness and the kind of strength that makes him a natural at noseguard. "I like nose," Thompson says. "It fits me pretty good. I am not real tall. I am pretty stumpy, I guess."

Josh Thompson beats guard Ben Grubbs to the point of attack in Wednesday's practice.

The redshirt freshman says he is adapting to a change in defensive style as a collegian. "In high school we played a read defense, so we really didn't get up field too much unless it was like a jet call or something like that," he explains. "It is kind of the same here. We still have gap responsibilities here, but in college you get to make a move off the line to start with and try to get up field and try to change the line of scrimmage from the start. That is one way it is different.

"We also have a lot more pass rush moves," says Thompson, who adds, "and it is a lot more mental than it is physical in college."

Thompson notes that he has been working on technique this week in practice and will continue to do that to get ready for the first major scrimmage of the season on Saturday (9:30 a.m. practice) at the stadium. "The biggest thing I have been working on in practice is hand fit and after that footwork," he says. "We are working to get the fundamentals down and then we will begin working on the other stuff."

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