When Rutgers' season begins at Tulane on Sept 1, there will not be a whole lot of starting experience at the defensive end position. One of those two starters could wind up being a certain player who has taken most of the first-team reps throughout the first half of training camp.
Fourth-year junior Marcus Thompson has been running one the one's and has an inside beat on starting at defensive end on opening day.
Last year was Thompson's first full full one as a defensive end. He started twice, appeared in 11 games and finished the season with 13 tackles.
This time around, Thompson is hoping to make more of an impact.
"I feel more confident with my hands," Thompson said. "I just have to work on my feet but so far so good."
Rutgers features the 'E' and the 'R' defensive end positions and Thompson is feeling right at home at the 'E.'
"I am more of a head up on the tackle player so the 'E' is better for me," said Thompson, who is currently tipping the scale at 251 pounds. "The 'R' plays on the tight end more and coming off the edge more. I like the E, there's more banging at that position."
During his Rutgers' career, Thompson spent some time at linebacker and fullback before settling in last summer at defensive end.
"He's playing faster," head coach Kyle Flood said of Thompson. "Marcus was a high school tailback, so this is like a different world he's living in now. Now that he's been living it for a full year, I think we're starting to see the benefits of that."
As a running back at Boyd Anderson High School in Oakland Park, Fla., Thompson did not envision himself in his current role.
"When I was in high school, I never thought I would be a defensive end," he said. "I played a little defense in high school. I started off as a defensive player as a freshman but then I played more running back. From there, that's what I played. But life is strange."
And what has it been like being a starter through the first half of August?
"It's been great and I'm getting more reps. I'm going against the first-team and I feel like I am playing the better players," Thompson said. "I feel like it's making me better as a player."
The depth chart has not been finalized but if the season were to start tomorrow, there is a very good chance Thompson would trot out with the first-team defense. And until the day of the first game arrives, Thompson is set on going all out each day of training camp.
"I've been giving it 100 percent. When I get done for the whole day, I'm tired and exhausted. I go right to bed and that's how I know I gave it my all."
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