Hampton ‘Right, Finally’

C.J. Hampton landed at Ole Miss last spring with a stacked resume.


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Consensus four-star prospect. U.S. Army All-American. Hampton was listed as one of the country’s Top 10 safeties by Scout.com, and his recruitment included offers from some of the most tradition-rich colleges in the country. In the end, the Meridian, Miss., product opted for the in-state Rebels over Alabama.

Expectations were high for his freshman season. Though slotted behind four-year starter and All-American Cody Prewitt at free safety, Hampton seemed all but a lock to see the field regularly. He had enrolled early and participated in spring practices. He was ahead of the curve.

Then reality hit.

Though he appeared in every game, his contributions were minimal. He totaled all of 10 tackles on the year, with his best game a three-tackle performance against UL-Lafayette.

“For a young guy, it can get intimidating,” he said. “It’s not high school anymore; you’ve got to spend a lot of time on learning. If you don’t, you’re not going to play. That’s how it is.”

Committing himself to film study and learning was key. Prewitt spent his Ole Miss career making the calls and setting the Rebel secondary. Hampton, his primary backup, was tasked with doing the same. He needed a year, though, of real training. Sometimes sitting can be the greatest teaching tool.

Hampton went to work, including extended sessions with Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack and defensive backs coach Corey Batoon.

“All of last year was kind of tough. Playing free (safety), you’ve got to line everybody up all the time,” he said. “I’ve finally learned it now. Now I know dang near everybody’s position on the field.

“Really this offseason I spent a lot time making sure I know everything, and spent a lot of time with coach Wommack and coach Batoon. Got me right, finally.”

Hampton received the Jeff Hamm Award as the team’s most improved defensive player in spring practices in April. August camp has been more of the same. Though he’s running with the second team behind starters Trae Elston and Mike Hilton, he’s more firmly entrenched in his duties and his role. He’s ready for whatever is thrown at him.

“It’s been a good camp,” the 6-foot, 179-pound Hampton said. “I feel I’ve learned a lot, playing well. Just keep performing, and I think everything will be all right on my end. I put a lot of time in on learning. I sat in and watched a lot of film, learned it. I’m playing faster now, getting to the ball and making plays. I guess I’m doing my part now.”

How much he plays remains to be seen. Hampton, however, feels he’s in a pretty good spot.

“It’s up to the coaches, really. They say I’ve been playing well, they’re happy with me right now. We’ll see what’s going on,” he said. “I’ll get my amount of plays. Everything will be all right.”

Hampton said he’s well-versed in both safety positions, and he’s working in dime packages, too. He’s pretty much up for whatever helps the team win games. Ole Miss opens its season a week from Saturday against UT-Martin.

“I think we’ll be real good this year,” Hampton said of the Rebel defense. “We’ve got a lot of top-caliber guys. We’ve got the depth now. We’ve finally got the depth everywhere on the board, so that always helps a lot. I think we’ll be fine.

“Last year, that defense had its own DNA. We’re trying to form something new now. We’ll pick up where they left off at and try to make it better.”


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