"When I got here, there wasn't anybody more lost than I was," says the 6-foot-6 tight end from Wisconsin who transferred to the University of Florida from Southwest Mississippi Community College in January so he could participate in spring drills. "Blocking, pass catching, everything ... it just was so much all of a sudden coming at me. I kept blowing assignments."
But toward the end of the spring, the blown assignments became fewer and fewer, the pass routes became easier to run and he found himself feeling quite comfortable in the offense.
"I guess the best way to put it is that it just became football again to me," he said. "I didn't have to think about everything I was doing, I just knew how to do it."
Thompson is looking forward to making a strong contribution on the playing field in the fall. He's weighing in at a very solid 265 now and he runs a 4.8 40-yard dash (timed on grass and wearing cleats, not track shoes). He's a daily participant in conditioning and weight lifting, plus he's a regular at the voluntary pass drills in the afternoons.
"I just want to get out on the field and do my part to help the team," he says. "I'm really excited about the season."
The scene around the practice fields is hectic with Coach Ron Zook's annual football camp taking place. Among the top high school players in the state who are attending is Dixie County's Paul O'Hara, a 5-11, 205-pound running back/safety who has started since he was in the eighth grade.
While O'Hara has bigtime ability as a runner, there is a lot of speculation that he'll be more heavily recruited as a safety. Dixie County lost 18 seniors to graduation so O'Hara will be running behind a smaller, inexperienced line in the fall, so he may see more opportunities to shine as a safety.
An eye-opener at the camp was Carlos Everett of South Sumter, the younger brother of Gator linebacker Earl Everett. Everett will be a junior at South Sumter in the fall. He was timed on slippery grass in the rain at 4.5 seconds in the 40 Thursday, wearing the wrong cleats. He fractured a finger during a pass catching drill in the afternoon. He won't know for at least a couple of weeks if the finger will require surgery.
Word is that linebacker Howard Lingard, who has asked for his release so he can transfer, has targeted the University of West Virginia. Lingard had talked about the possibility of a transfer to either South Florida or Central Florida, but as of Thursday afternoon, it appeared that West Virginia is now a done deal.
Scuttlebutt has it that Lingard was struggling with the academics at UF plus had some difficulty picking up the defense.
Cornerback Reynaldo Hill is working hard in the summer, ready to make a solid contribution on the field in the fall. He's gained 15 pounds since his arrival at UF, up to 187 from the 172 pounds he weighed when he arrived in Gainesville last August. He's benching 325 now and the bulk of the additional pounds seem to have settled in his upper body. He says he's feeling stronger and more confident about playing press coverage at the line of scrimmage.
"I feel good about the fall," said Hill, who intercepted nine passes as a senior in high school at Stranahan in Fort Lauderdale. "I hope I'll get the ball thrown in my direction so I have a chance to make some plays. I feel like if they throw it my way, I've got a chance to make plays and really help the team."
Hill has been timed under 4.3 in the 40-yard dash but he said he feels quicker this year than last.
Another who is showing that work in the weight room pays off is wide receiver Dallas Baker, who is up about 15 pounds now to 204. He is looking very solid in pass catching drills with quarterback Chris Leak. Baker is 6-3 with a long lean frame. With another year in the weight room, he will likely be able to play somewhere in the 220-range without losing any speed.
Leak worked very hard Thursday throwing the 15-yard out patterns which most scouts say is the toughest throw in football. As hard as it may be for some to believe, he seems more accurate than last year. He also had at least three outstanding throws of 50-plus yards on deep post patterns during the afternoon workouts.
We'll have photos tomorrow for those of you that thirst for live action on the field...