Corey Thompson arrived at West Campus Apartments to report to camp on Wednesday in a tank top, his uncovered arms dangling by his side.
“Cover those up!” a player playfully yelled toward him.
Thompson, a former safety, used the off-season to pack on muscle, beef up for his new role as LSU’s F-linebacker. Thompson, a senior, gained about seven pounds.
He’s not alone. Duke Riley, an outside linebacker last season, moved inside in new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s 3-4 scheme. Riley gained 10 pounds this off-season.
“Duke’s gained a lot of weight!” laughed fellow inside linebacker Kendell Beckwith.
The point: LSU’s linebackers are growing, literally, into their new roles.
For Thompson, the move – safety to outside linebacker – might be the most extreme of any of the position switches to unfold this spring. The F-linebacker is an outside linebacker and might be most similar to a strong-side linebacker in a 4-3 scheme.
Thompson, Tashawn Bower and freshmen Michael Divinity and Rahssan Thornton are playing the position, Thompson said. Bower and Thompson appear to be battling for the starting gig.
The position is responsible for covering the tight end or a backfield player in pass coverage. On running downs, the F-linebacker mans his side – the wide side – of the field. Thompson says he expects to be in pass coverage about “50 percent of the time.” He's comfortable in that role, of course - he played safety his previous three years at LSU.
“I would say, as far as coverage goes, I learned a lot from (secondary coach) Corey Raymond. I’ve still got that in my back pocket,” Thompson said. “It’s easier covering guys down closer to the line of scrimmage than it is at safety.”
The F-linebacker will also blitz, too, and the position is, often times, not on the field in some passing down situations or in the five defensive back-nickel formation.
“F” stands for “field.” The F-linebacker aligns to the wide side formation. If the ball’s on the left hash, the wide is to the right, and so forth.
“If we’re in the middle of the field, we line up to the formation,” Thompson said. “As an F, you need to be able to cover, blitz, stop the run – all of it.”
That’s why Thompson beefed up during the off-season. The senior ate “anything,” he said. Now at 222 pounds, Thompson needs extra weight to battle – whether it’s in coverage or shedding run blocks – hefty Southeastern Conference tight ends and 240-pound running backs.
“Oh yeah,” Thompson said, “Arkansas, Alabama, they’ve got some big tight ends.”
Easy does it
Derrius Guice looks around at the gaggle of LSU freshmen at their first preseason camp. He feels their pain.
Guice, a former Catholic High star, hasn’t forgotten those moments from his rookie camp last August. He didn’t feel good with things until the fourth day of camp. Those first three days were just the worst.
“You could never really get comfortable because you never know what (the coaches) were going to hit you with tomorrow,” he said. “They hit you with five, size (package) installs every day. Then you’ve got to know all of the concepts, the blocking concepts, the routes.”
Things are much different this year, said Guice, the sophomore backup to junior Leonard Fournette.
“This year, since I know everything, it’s a lot smoother," he said.