‘Yams' has played over 1,000 snaps along the Tigers' richly talented defensive line that's had plenty of big personalities.
Da'Quan Bowers, everybody's All-American, emerged into one of the team's most vocal leaders during his productive, award winning 2010 season. Thompson's interior mate, Jarvis Jenkins, was a three-year starter. The local guy has enough personality to make a run at the Mayor of Clemson after his days in the NFL are done. Thompson's former backup at nose guard, Miguel Chavis, was a respected senior and one of the most team's most intense players.
All three have left vacancies along the defensive line's two-deep depth chart.
Thompson returns with fellow seniors Rennie Moore and Andre Branch, who were among the most energetic personalities on last season's team.
If Moore's not the No. 1 favorite player on the 2011 team for interviews, he's 1-A. Branch is a super confident, but goofy bandit who's looking to carve out his niche in the recent history of defensive end talent.
Before, Thompson hadn't been asked to assert himself as a louder presence. There really weren't many opportunities, and that was just fine by him.
"I'm not much of a vocal person," he said. "You know, unless I have to be. I just pretty much lead by example, for the most part."
In his first three seasons, Thompson has started 25 games, during which he's made 131 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
Under the tutelage of defensive tackles coach Dan Brooks over the last two years, he's seen a marked improvement in his play on the field.
"Coach Brooks has been around the game a long time. He's had a lot of great players and he knows it," Thompson said. "If you just soak in what he gives you, and just take from it, I feel like you don't have a choice but to get better."
As a senior, Thompson will be looked at to step into a more assertive leadership role.
"I think it's just whatever needs to be done, to get the job done. Some days I have to be vocal. Some days I've just got to go out there and work hard," he said. "All the boys see me working hard and just follow behind."
He's patiently bought his time for the opportunity.
"I was always ready for it," Thompson said. "It was just a matter of waiting my turn. I feel like I have the respect from all the other players to take control of that role. I just keep doing what I do."
Not to be outdone
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