LSU football: Corey 'Pawpaw' Thompson hopes sixth year comes injury-free
Corey Thompson claims to be a "90s baby," he says smiling.
He's one of few such 90s babies on the LSU football team, the only member of the current team who, in fact, was also a member of the 2012 LSU football team.
"Coach (Dennis Johnson) calls him 'Pawpaw,'" laughs Michael Divinity.
A week before LSU's season opener against BYU, "Pawpaw" is hopeful that he can, in his sixth year in Baton Rouge, finally play a complete season. He and Divinity are battling for the starting position at LSU's F-outside linebacker position, a spot that's 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, the nickel. In fact, LSU coach Ed Orgeron said this August that the Tigers play "85 percent" nickel defense. Still, the spot is one of at least a half-dozen starting positions still somewhat open as the Tigers begin enter their first game week: right guard, Buck-outside linebacker, free safety, nickel and the inside linebacker rotational player.
Days Till pic.twitter.com/5XdG3SMWe7— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) August 26, 2017
Against BYU's more pro-style attack, LSU may use the F-OLB position much more than normal. Divinity calls playing the rotational spot a "win-and-lose situation."
"At the end of the day, you've got to make what's best out of that situation when you get a chance to get on the field," said Divinity, a sophomore from New Orleans. "Every time I get on the field, that's one thing I'm going to do -- I'm going to make the best out of it."
Divinity was forced into a quasi starting role last season after an injury to Thompson during camp.
Thompson says he's fully healthy now, but then, later in the conversation, admits that he's still battling lingering issues with his ankle -- the latest in a long, long line of significant injuries suffered in the previous four years.
Thompson hasn't seen the field at all since 2015. He missed the second complete season of his career last year fracturing his ankle in preseason camp. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in LSU's 11th game in 2013, his sophomore season. The injury lingered, causing him to miss all of 2014.
Early in 2015, he strained his quadriceps, an injury that forced him to miss at least three games.
"I can't keep track of all of them," he said of the injuries.
The NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility this year for medical reasons. He jumped at the chance to return.
"I have yet to play a full healthy season, besides my freshman year," he said. "I wanted to give myself a chance to do that."
"Corey has been through a lot of things, adversity dealing with a lot of injuries," Divinity said. "This year he came back strong, rehab and everything. Came back great. He looks great."
Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda described the battle between the two as "a lot of competition." Aranda spoke earlier this summer about Thompson's versatile role and how the team may use him more in pass coverage.
Thompson says he welcomes that. He misses his days as a safety, where he spent his first four years before moving to outside linebacker with Aranda's hire.
"What I don't miss is the running though," said Thompson, a Texas native from just outside of Houston. "I don't miss that, but it's a lot more banging now, too. It has its ups and downs."
As for his age, no, he's not the oldest on the team, but he's up there. He'll be 24 in December.
"I'm the cool, calm guy," he said. "I keep my cool when I'm out there, play what I see, talk to my guys. Make sure everybody remains focused."
COREY THOMPSON: THE INJURY FILE
|2013||ACL tear||Missed late 2013 and all 2014|
|2015||Quad strain||Part of 2015 season|
|2016||Broken ankle||All of 2016 season|
UP FOR GRABS
At least five other starting position are open, coach Ed Orgeron said earlier this week. Here's a look at each.
Candidates: Redshirt freshman Lloyd Cushenberry, Freshman Ed Ingram, Freshman Saahdiq Charles
Vacated by: Maea Tuehema (transfer)
Scoop: Teuhema's untimely departure opened a job that still isn't closed, Orgeron said. It's got a new candidate. Charles, originally playing as a backup tackle, is competing with Cushenberry and Ingram. Cushenberry is still backing up Will Clapp at center, and he appeared to be the leader in the guard battle, but the two rookies are impressing coaches.
They said it: "(Lloyd) is a smart kid, very cerebral. Knows the whole offense just as well as I do. Ed is a powerful kid. You see this kid comes off the ball and he destroys people. Saahdiq, great athleticism, really moves well. All these kids are great," said center Will Clapp.
Candidates: Rredshirt freshman Ray Thornton, Freshman K'Lavon Chaisson, Redshirt freshman Andre Anthony
Vacated by: Arden Key (injury)
Scoop: Key rolled up a school-record 12 sacks from this hybrid edge-rushing position last season, but it feels more and more like he won't play in the opener. That leaves the spot in talented but inexperienced hands. Aranda suggested Thornton could play the role on running downs and Chaisson could serve as the pass rusher.
They said it: "They're battling. Chaisson, there's a lot of merit to having Chaisson on the field when you know it's a pass. Then there's a lot of merit to Ray being on the field when they're going to run the ball. So they're each working on their respective issues," said defensive coordinator Dave Aranda
Candidates: Freshman Kary Vincent, Redshirt freshman Xavier Lewis
Vacated by: Dwayne Thomas (exhausted eligibility)
Scoop: Vincent, a Texas rookie, should be "considered a starter," Orgeron said earlier this camp. He's standing by that, but the two could rotate. Lewis, a redshirt sophomore who served as the nickel in spring, has come on strong of late. He had his best scrimmage of camp last weekend, Aranda said, reminding the coordinator of Dwayne Thomas.
They said it: "We'll go throughout the week and check it out. We know Xavier is ready. We're going to see how well Kary can be ready. That's the factor," said head coach Ed Orgeron
Name. Position. Hometown.— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) August 25, 2017
Right Now! pic.twitter.com/3GaU4rj3Nt
Candidates: Senior Ed Paris, Freshman Grant Delpit
Vacated by: Jamal Adams (forfeited eligibility for NFL)
Scoop: Coaches also "consider Delpit" a starter, Orgeron said, but the grizzled veteran Paris is fighting to keep his spot. Ranked as high as the nation's No. 4 safety prospect, Delpit enrolled in the mid-year in January, participating in spring practice. He surged up the depth chart quickly, replacing an injured John Battle in the spring game.
They said it: "(Kary) has great speed. I think he's got a great desire to learn football. ... I know Xavier has a knack for blitzing. He has that feel, he can time it out. When someone tried to block him, he can set them up. I think we can find a role for him," said Aranda.
Candidates: Freshman Jacob Phillips, Freshman Tyler Taylor, Senior Jonathan Rucker
Vacated by: Kendell Beckwith (exhausted eligibility)
Scoop: This spot is the third rotational inside linebacker behind starters Donnie Alexander and Devin White. Alexander says he's healthy and fully recovered from offseason shoulder surgery, but he's been spotted in a gold jersey at practice, signifying limited contact because of injury. "Inside linebacker," Orgeron said when describing open positions Tuesday, "who's going to go in for Donnie?" Orgeron and Aranda insist that Phillips, Taylor and, even, fellow freshman Patrick Queen (at Rover ILB) will see rotational play. Tyler and Phillips seem to have the best shots behind Alexander.
They said it: "It's neck and neck between Tyler and Jacob. Both of those guys ... Rucker can play there too," said Orgeron.
This article is written by Ross Dellenger from The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.