Corey Thompson feels like a seasoned veteran at outside linebacker.
He’s been playing the position for over a year, moved from safety by defensive coordinator Dave Aranda last spring.
The thing is, he hasn’t played in a game.
“I still don’t have game experience yet,” Thompson said.
Thompson is a sixth-year senior and will be 23 years old by the time his career at LSU is complete, but he’s yet to enter a game at his “new’ position. Such is life for the Texas native whose career has been plagued by injury.
He’s currently healthy — “finally,” he said — and is playing this spring as LSU’s starting F-linebacker in Aranda’s 3-4 scheme. The F-linebacker is an outside linebacker position most akin to the weakside linebacker spot in a 4-3. The position is not always on the field, often times exiting for a fifth defensive back.
Thompson hasn’t seen the field at all since 2015. He missed the second complete season of his career last year after fracturing an ankle in preseason camp in August. He tore an ACL in LSU’s 11th game in 2013 while starting at safety as a sophomore. The injury lingered, causing him to miss all of 2014.
The NCAA approved a sixth year of eligibility for medical reasons. He only learned that news just before spring practice in early March.
“It’s been a long career. I have been fortunate enough to get a sixth year. I can finally play my senior season,” he said.
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Thompson is the only sixth-year player on LSU’s roster. Some of those from his signing class in 2012 — Kwon Alexander and Danielle Hunter, for instance — have been playing in the NFL for two years.
He thought he would be in the same position, headed toward the NFL after the 2014 season.
“In high school, you are thinking three and out,” he said. “Then it goes to four, then fifth year. Then I get hurt in camp, and now I get to have a sixth year.”
Thompson hoped to return for the game against Florida last season, but he admitted to never reaching 100 percent health. He never dressed out for a game, despite returning to practice in a limited role.
Now, here he is, the old man on the team and the leader, emotionally and physically, at a quasi-starting spot. Depth is slim at F-linebacker. Redshirt freshman Ray Thornton is working some behind Thompson, but Thornton has recently been moved to buck, the hybrid edge-rushing position, because of a lack of depth there. Devin Voorhies and M.J. Patterson are working at F-linebacker, too. They combine for zero starts.
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Asked about Thompson, outside linebackers coach Dennis Johnson uttered the word “leadership” three times in a five-second response.
“Leadership. Big leadership. A lot of leadership,” Johnson said. “We’re excited about Corey coming through and doing a lot of good stuff.”
Thompson is excited, too. On Sept. 2, he hopes to be playing in his first game at that new position of his.
“The game is different from practice,” he said. “It will be different. I have had a lot of game experience over the years (at safety), so after the first couple snaps, I should be good.”