August 16, 2018 | ° F

Thompson sparks energy in trenches

Photo by Tian Li |

Defensive end Marcus Thompson (48) has three sacks this season in as many games, along with four tackles for loss. Head coach Kyle Flood said Thompson is one of many energy guys this season along the defensive front seven.

Even among his friends from home, Marcus Thompson is known as the energetic guy of the group.

The senior defensive end said his buddies from Oakland Park, Fla. — Kevin and Keeven — have been on campus for the last month, giving him advice and helping him stay focused.

As for being the lively member of the group, Thompson says his friends can confirm that.

“Anywhere we go they’ll be like, ‘Marc, man, let them know!’ … because as far as it comes to anything energy wise … they come to me for the energy,” Thompson said.

Photo: Tian Li

Sophomore kicker Kyle Federico (1) has been inconsistent this season, going 4-for-7 on field goal attempts in three games.

The Rutgers football team will need all the energy it can get from Thompson and the rest of the front seven, who will face one of the most productive running units this season.

Arkansas is the 11th-best running team in the country, averaging 294.3 yards per game. The Razorbacks are the only team this season to feature two halfbacks averaging more than 100 yards per game.

The Scarlet Knights defensive line will have the first opportunity to get a hit on Arkansas running backs, and head coach Kyle Flood thinks their energy can affect the whole defensive unit.

“It becomes infectious, and I do believe that starts up front on defense,” Flood said. “When you have a defensive line that can run sideline to sideline and will play from snap to the echo of the whistle, you have a chance to really play defense at a high level and it spreads to the linebackers and spreads to the defensive backs.”

Thompson agrees with that sentiment, and his play early in the season illustrates it.

Thompson has recorded one sack in each of the Knights’ first three contests and leads the team with four tackles for loss.

So as far as setting the defense’s tone, Thompson wants to resonate with the guys who line up in the trenches.

“Shoot, we’re the first people to get hit, the first to lay a lick,” Thompson said. “If we don’t keep our contains or keep our gaps, big plays could spill out. Basically, we have to be the heart of the defense. We have to be the heartbeat.”

As far as jumpstarting that heartbeat, Thompson’s production and history all point to his ability to affect the team’s early energy.

Just ask Kevin and Keeven.

“It’s really exciting. That’s just the way I am,” Thompson said. “It could be any one of us who say, ‘Let’s get it going,’ but you just know 100 percent of the time you’re going to get that from me. Especially in the game, I’m not going to be a low motor or not talking or not being vocal. You’ll always get that from me.”

Flood said sophomore kicker Kyle Federico will remain the Knights’ starter for now, though he will evaluate practice film from both him and sophomore Nick Borgese.

Federico has missed at least one kick in each of Rutgers’ first three games. He is 4-for-7 this year on field goal attempts.

“I think right now, we’re going to have to look at all of the practice tape and make a decision, because it has not been a situation in the games or in practice where I feel like either guy has taken control of the job,” Flood said. “I don’t feel like any guy has stepped away from the job.”

With sophomore                 running back P.J. James set to receive more of a workload Saturday, Flood said he is not worried about Glassboro, N.J., native’s wear and tear.

“I think when a running back gets into a game and for lack of a better term, they appear to get hot,” Flood said. “You have to give them an opportunity to change the game. Paul did such a good job in the offseason, I don’t have any of those concerns.”

James has struggled with injuries since high school, but so far has not had any major dings.

“I’m fine,” James said. “I’m a little sore here and there, but that’s after every football game you play. But physically, I’m fine.”

For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Bradly Derechailo on Twitter @Bradly_D. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow   @TargumSports.

By Bradly Derechailo

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