After sitting out the 2016 season as a redshirt, Ray Thornton is anxious to get on the field, wherever that may be.
Put him at F-linebacker or line him up at Buck — he’s trying to learn it all if it lands him a place to play.
LSU’s redshirt freshman linebacker spoke to the media for the first time Wednesday, finally clearing the team’s “no-freshman-interviews” policy since arriving on campus. The Tigers usually allow freshmen to talk at media day at the end of camp, but the event was canceled last year after the historic flooding that hit the Baton Rouge area.
“I’m just focused on me being a better person on the field and getting better,” Thornton said. “I’m not really focused on the depth chart. I feel like, if it’s for me to play, I’ll be out there and do my thing. I just want to be prepared.”
Thornton was a highly praised prospect from Killeen, Texas, coming out of high school.
A consensus four-star defensive end and the 61st-ranked player in the nation according to ESPN, the 6-foot-3, 228-pounder shifted to outside linebacker with the Tigers.
Thornton said he was used to shifting positions throughout high school, so “flip-flopping,” as he put it, at LSU isn’t an issue for him.
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Once on campus, Thornton said it was former linebacker Tashawn Bower who taught him how to build on that versatility, which prepared him for the situation he’s in now.
He said he prefers Buck linebacker because it allows him to play more physical and get in opponents’ faces but is comfortable playing wherever defensive coordinator Dave Aranda needs him.
“I did play D-end, and I did stand up sometimes,” Thornton said of his high school career. “A lot of times, it just prepared me as far as getting into pass rushing and stuff like that and transitioning from certain moves we have to make and certain techniques we use to fit our defense and play certain plays. There’s really no big difference.”
Thornton was blunt in his own assessment of his play, saying teammate Andre Anthony was a better pass rusher than him but that he works better against the run.
He also wants to develop his skills in pass coverage more as well, if nothing else, to provide another weapon in his arsenal moving forward. However, through the first few days of practice, he said he hadn't done much dropping back.
Andre Anthony was alone.
The absence of Arden Key for at least the first few weeks of camp is a major opportunity for Thornton and the other young outside linebackers looking for extra reps in practice.
Thornton said he’s about on par with everybody else in his development, but there are a few things he wants to work on while he has the added opportunity.
The biggest area of focus Thornton is working on in the early portion of camp is improving his vision.
“Biggest thing I’m working on as a player is, I would probably say my eyes,” Thornton said. “I look at a lot of things and I see stuff before it happens, but I focus on the wrong things and it puts me out of position sometimes.”