Last season wasn't quite what the Statesboro, Ga., native had in mind though as he battled through injuries and made just four tackles while playing in 10 games.
Now back 100 percent healthy from the high ankle sprain that bothered him the entire season, Thompson notes that he's ready to step up for the defense in 2006. "It's real exciting," Thompson says "I'm ready to get out there and prove what I can do. I went out the first game last year and it seems like a long time since I've played a full football game."
The most experienced of the group of returning interior players, Thompson has taken on a different role this season than in past years. Despite being just a junior he has become the leader of the defensive front. That means that when things are taught and worked on during summer workouts Thompson is the man doing the teaching. He says because of that he feels like he's become a better player in the process.
"It's a lot different as far as the leadership role goes," Thompson says. "I've never really had to be a leader. This offseason that's all I've done is be a leader for some of the younger guys and the guys trying to learn the defense. That's probably the biggest change. Other than that I'm just trying to put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best that I can.
"Whenever you're teaching moves and teaching the defense you're not only teaching it to them but you're going through it in your mind yourself," Thompson adds. "It's a little extra practice and teaches me to do the right thing--make sure I'm doing the right steps instead of just going out there and doing them the first time. We've been practicing them the whole summer."
Thompson makes a tackle against Mississippi State as a freshman.
A quick learner and smart football player, Thompson has had the luxury of working behind some quality leaders for the Tigers the last few seasons. Among them Jackson stands out because of his commitment on and off the field. Thompson says that he picked up things from the veterans to help him and also from his experience as a leader in high school.
"I pretty much got it from them," he points out. "I also had to be a leader in high school my senior year. It just kinds of comes naturally. You have to hold it back when you're a younger guy here because you have the older guys leading. You learn from them and it kind of comes naturally now."
The only known commodity among the group of players on the interior defensive line, Thompson says that he's anxious to see how the players perform this fall after a busy summer of voluntary workouts. Getting a chance to help teach the players on technique and the nuances of the defense, he says that guys like Chris Browder, Sen'Derrick Marks, Tez Doolittle and Pat Sims all have the ability to get the job done and all that's left is to step up to the challenge.
"I think we'll be fine," Thompson says. "C.B. (Christopher Browder) and Sen'Derrick haven't had a lot of playing experience, but they've had a lot of practice. C.B. has a lot of playing experience, but it's not that much different when you get in games. As long as they can learn what to do and apply it on the field then they'll be fine.
"Tez and Pat have worked real hard this summer, especially in the weight room. It's up to them whether they're going to step up or not and have a good season and a good two-a-days. We'll see what happens there. As far as Tez goes I think he'll really do it. He's been practicing real hard and been in his notebook a lot. Hopefully it will happen."