Permanent stay at end suits Thompson

<p>Junior defensive end Marcus Thompson, middle, has started four of the Knights’ six games this season after earning only two starts a year ago. Kyle Flood, the Knights’ head coach, credits Thompson’s work with defensive line coach Jim Panagos for his renewed commitment to the position.</p>

Junior defensive end Marcus Thompson, middle, has started four of the Knights’ six games this season after earning only two starts a year ago. Kyle Flood, the Knights’ head coach, credits Thompson’s work with defensive line coach Jim Panagos for his renewed commitment to the position.


After playing three different positions in less than two years, Marcus Thompson has started four games this season for the Rutgers football team in his most recent one. It is part of a transition that spans two coaching staffs, four position coaches and three springs.

“It makes it much easier as far as the plays and being on the other side of the ball and seeing things differently,” the junior defensive end said yesterday. “I just focus on one thing, and that’s to perfect my position.”

The attitude is part of a conscious decision by Thompson this season, said head coach Kyle Flood.

Thompson, who once lined up at fullback, linebacker and along the defensive line, finally found his niche after playing a combined 17 games at end during the last two seasons, making his way back to the line for the first time since his freshman year.

The results are modest — five tackles, one for a loss and a quarterback hurry — but Thompson now has a foundation.

“It’s not Marcus’ fault that we tried him at a number of different spots,” Flood said. “That’s us not finding the right place for him quick enough.”

Thompson returned to the front four last year under former head coach Greg Schiano, recording a pair of starts and 13 tackles. But he said he lacked comfort there after playing defensive line for only the second time in his career — both with the Scarlet Knights.

He dealt with size issues, lack of technique and sporadic confidence.

But Thompson reaped the benefits of working with new defensive line coach Jim Panagos, doubling his career starts this season and becoming a regular in the Knights’ rotation.

“He’s embraced it, and he’s done a great job with Coach Panagos of learning all the little details of that position,” Flood said. “Any time you can stay at one position, get all the reps — he’s a physically gifted player — it always helps.”

Thompson said he added more than 30 pounds to his 6-foot-2 frame since training camp in 2011. The extra weight helped him regain the confidence that waned during three position changes.

“Pop Warner, backyard football, anything, it just came out naturally like that,” Thompson said. “I’m always loud wherever I go. Everybody can tell when I laugh.”

It makes him a likely pairing with the outspoken Panagos, whom many Knights credit for re-tooling a relatively inexperienced defensive line entering the season.

“The first day he came from Central Florida, he moved in here and said he wants everybody to play on the d-line,” said redshirt freshman defensive end Max Issaka. “He wants everybody to rotate. Last year it wasn’t like that. They had a set of people playing. [It] really changed the aspect of our d-line.”

Flood said he has yet to see sophomore running back Jawan Jamison not at full strength this season, despite Jamison’s heavy workload.

Jamison is on pace this season to carry the ball 316 times, 85 more rushes than he had last season.

“Any running back that carries the ball a significant amount of time during the game,” Flood said, “during the week is where you see the recovery.”

Flood cited the team’s two bye weeks, which break up the season into three four-game increments, as indicators of Jamison’s health. Flood said he might monitor Jamison more during the team’s final bye before it enters its last four-game stretch.

He said Monday the team’s offseason program could help, along with Jamison’s light high school workload. Jamison averaged 10 carries per game at the Bolles School (Fla.) and did not play in the second half of eight games in 2009 as a senior.

Flood announced redshirt freshman defensive tackle Al Page is out for the season following surgery on a lower leg injury.

After entering the season on the team’s depth chart, Page suffered the injury Sept. 2, a day after the Knights’ season opener at Tulane.

For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Tyler Barto on Twitter @TBartoTargum.


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