Last season as a true freshman, after going through spring drills, the 6-foot, 192-pound Hampton was a part of a secondary and most importantly a defense that was among the nation's best. The 16 points per game allowed by the Rebels was the best in Division I football.
Hampton played in 13 games, with 10 tackles, four of them solos. This spring it was all about stepping up even more and improving to be able to contribute more this upcoming season.
“It was a big spring for me,” said Hampton, a Meridian High School product. “Cody (Prewitt) taught me a lot last year, and the coaches taught me a lot more this year. So adding it up, I had a pretty good spring this year.”
Now two spring trainings in, Hampton is truly beginning to understand football and life at this level of competition.
“Just take assistance and try to learn the playbook as best you can,” he said of how things have gone to date. “The spring is all about learning. You just learn it and keep going. Pay a lot of attention and spend a lot of time in there (in the film room)."
He attributes Prewitt with being his mentor and getting him through last spring and last fall.
“Cody was on me hard last year. He basically wanted me to learn it,” Hampton said. “He said I was good enough, but that I’d have to learn it first. So I learned it. I still talk to Cody now. He helped me and still does.”
Hampton said he believes he’s come a long way since he left Meridian for life in the Southeastern Conference.
“I’m smarter, I think,” he said. “I’m back in my old playing style. My coverage skills are good and everything is good and just has to add up at a certain time.”
The right time, that is. Hampton said there is talent in the defensive secondary despite some personnel losses after last season.
“We had some great corners last year. But Tee (Shepard) and Tony (Bridges) are both great. They’re 6-2, 6-3, so it’s hard to throw over their heads. They’re great guys also, so I think that’s a good decision with both those two guys.”
Hampton said he felt like the spring game went well for the defense.
“They split us, but everybody still had a good game,” he said. “Everybody stayed on each other, and everybody pushed each other to be good. That helped us out a lot. And that will help us out in fall camp.
“All of us had a good spring. We all worked together, and we called each other out on mistakes. We’re a lot better.”
Between now and then, Hampton wants to continue to get better.
“I want to improve on everything. I sat out a lot last year. This year my main thing is being back how the old C.J. was. Taking the coaching, being responsible, making good decisions. Just play ball and everything will be alright.”
Hampton said the younger players, like himself, are paying attention to the veterans and following their lead.
“Guys like Issac Gross, Trae Elston, Mike Hilton, C.J. Johnson, all those older guys. They’re great leaders,” Hampton said. “We just listen to them and feed off their energy.”
Spring Of Learning
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