Tennessee linebacker LaMarcus Thompson is used to change.
Thompson has had three different head coaches in the past three seasons with the Volunteers. That’s three chances to learn the same things a different way, because of the different coaching philosophies of Phillip Fulmer, Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley.
But the more things have changed at Tennessee over the years the more things have stayed the same for Thompson.
As long as he has been with the Volunteers his mission has been to tackle the man with ball, and Thompson hopes to do a lot of that on Saturday when Tennessee plays at Georgia.
Thompson, a 6-foot-1, 228-pound senior who played at Redan High School, said the change in coaches has helped to make him a better player.
“I think it has helped to make me more well rounded and helped me learn different concepts,” he said.
Thompson said the defensive changes really haven’t affected him over the years.
“It hasn’t been too much of a difference,” he said. “The only difference has been with the different coordinators and how to play coverages like cover two, because everyone does things differently.”
When it comes to run defense and making plays, the main role for Thompson remains to pursue the ball as recklessly as ever.
Tennessee linebackers coach Lance Thompson said Thompson is a quiet leader who has emerged as one of the Volunteers' top defensive players.
“LaMarcus studies the game and plays very strong to the point of attack,” Coach Thompson said. “LaMarcus has very good straight-line speed.”
This season is the culmination of four consecutive years of hard work for Thompson.
When he was redshirted his freshman year he spent his time learning, training and preparing himself to be a contributor when he finally got a chance to play.
Thompson spent the next two seasons as a special teams ace while playing as a back-up linebacker. He had 10 special teams tackles in 2007. He tied for the team lead in special teams tackles with 10 in 2008.
Thompson finally got a chance to start last year and made the most out of his opportunity. He started 11 games last year and had 35 total tackles, including 25 assisted tackles, seven tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries. He had seven tackles in a game against Florida.
Thompson had 19 tackles, 3 ½ tackles for loss, one pass broken up, one pass defended and one quarterback hurry in the first four games of this season.
“LaMarcus has been playing well, and he gives us great effort and toughness,” Coach Thompson said.
But as hard as Thompson plays, he will have an added boost against the Bulldogs.
Thompson said he expects to have plenty of family and friends at the game, because the majority of his family and friends don’t get a chance to go to his home games in Knoxville and Volunteers’ road games.
“It’s going to be great to get a chance to play at Georgia,” Thompson said.
Thompson said this season has been a learning experience from game to game for him and his teammates on defense.
Tennessee has had to endure some tough times like in the 48-13 home loss to fourth-ranked Oregon, but they’ve also had times when they’ve looked strong as a unit in victories against Tennessee Martin (50-0) and Alabama-Birmingham (32-29, two overtimes).
“We’ve got a young defense, but we’re growing from week to week and getting better,” Thompson said.
The same thing could have been said about Thompson as he learned to overcome the changes on the Tennessee football team.
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