After 15 grueling weeks of the football season without a break, the Rebels get a much-needed open week.
"It will help us to get fresh physically and mentally. We've been grinding constantly for a long time, and while it's been fun, it's a good time to step back and take a breath. We all need the break from the grind, a chance to do something different. The players can enjoy some time off and the staff will enjoy getting on the road recruiting to break things up a little," Thompson stated.
The bye week will provide some football work, however. Two days of practice - yesterday and today - culminating in a Black Shirt scrimmage - apparently involving everyone but "starters."
"We're going to let the guys have some fun and try to create some excitement," J.T. said. "We want them to enjoy it. We have a trophy for the winner. The coaches are already talking about it. This is my first one, so I am looking forward to it.
"Brad Villavaso will be the coach of the defensive team and it should be a lot of fun for all involved."
Thompson said he wants to get a close look at a lot of players who have played some in games and some who are redshirting.
"I'm anxious to see guys like Chris Strong, Allen Walker, Fon Ingram, Ted Laurent, the list is long," said John. "We've got some kids who are right on the cusp of being ready and this scrimmage will be a measuring stick to how far they have come this season. We can get a really good look at them for evaluation purposes, but the main thing is for everyone to have some fun, as I said."
Thompson mentioned Walker, who had 12 snaps in the Northwestern State game, and Strong, who was suspended last week but is back in good graces this week.
"He was in our nickel package and he played well. He's athletic and he can help our team. We need him to. Allen is close to being ready, but he's not quite as fluid as we want in games yet. He just has to keep coming every day and he'll get there," said John. "I think Chris is very happy to be at DT now. He is quick and powerful and he's getting comfortable.
"He was thrust into linebacker and this scheme very suddenly and it was tough on him. It would be tough on anyone, much less a true freshman. We didn't have the depth we needed at linebacker when he got here and we had to put him there. Chris hit a wall and wasn't playing very fast. He wasn't juiced about it. He was trying hard, but it wasn't working. We moved him down and there was an instant spark. He was having fun again. I think he will help us a lot in the last two games and I think his future on the DL is very, very bright."
Thompson said he's also excited about seeing the frosh safeties, Jamison Hughes and Fon Ingram, and freshman CB Jamairiey Atterberry.
"Jamairey needs time in the weight room and he needs to learn you cannot take a play off. Mainly, he needs strength. Johnny Brown has been an exception - he was physically ready when he stepped on campus. The others need time with Coach (Aaron) Ausmus," said J.T. "Jamison and Fon just need time. The hardest thing about being a freshman is being a freshman.
"I don't think the average person realizes the demands on these kids. It's 5:30 in the morning until 10 at night - with workouts, meetings, classes, practice, study hall - every day. That can be overwhelming to a kid just out of high school. Some adjust easily, some don't. It's a hard grind they adjust to, but the adjustment time is different for every kid."
Thompson is now getting focused on LSU, even though the game is a week and a half away.
"It's going to be a comprehensive exam. They are very solid - they do everything well. I am really impressed with their QB (Matt Flynn). I didn't realize how good he is. He's so composed, so accurate and he's a really good runner," Thompson assessed. "He does a little bit of everything.
"Then you look at their strong OL, their fast receivers, their multitude of backs and they are a very, very good offense. They don't just jump out at you on film, but you can tell they are very good and can do it all. Florida's film jumps out at you from a speed perspective. LSU's offense is not like that. They can power you or spread you out. They can run Flynn at you or come back with the speed QB in Perriloux. They can hand off to a bruiser like Hester or a speed guy like Williams. They are just good from top to bottom in every phase of offensive play."
John is not intimidated, however, and says his defense will not be either.
"We are going to get in there and mix it up with them. We are going to fight them," he closed. "I have not seen much that makes them vulnerable, no chinks in the armour, but we will battle them, I promise you that.
"We just have to be more consistent. We played poorly against Northwestern. We didn't play with the type of physicality we needed to. We will play more physical against LSU, I know that."
John Thompson -
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