Thompson's time off was valuable
Published: Thursday, April 10, 2008 at 11:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 10, 2008 at 11:58 p.m.
At the time, sitting out was the last thing Deonte Thompson wanted to do last season.
He arrived at UF with the thought of getting immediate playing time. What the freshman receiver got was five months of watching and learning.
“That's the greatest thing that could've happened,” Thompson said. “I wanted to play, but I redshirted. It's always a good thing because it's all for the better. It made me become a better football player technique-wise.
“Playing about one game and just (getting) two catches for the season — that's a wasted year. I'm coming back this year, feeling fresh.”
The most disappointing thing had to be when coach Urban Meyer would repeatedly use Thompson's name when he talked about which freshmen might play each week. But when game time arrived, Thompson could only be found on the sidelines.
“Every freshman wants to come in right away and play,” Thompson said. “When I got here it was a little depressing when I didn't play, but I got over it.”
With depth at receiver, the chances of him seeing playing time were slim. Looking back on it, Thompson concedes that he wasn't game-ready in the fall.
He wasn't used to reading defenses in high school. Thompson said he let his speed do most of the work. Unfortunately, it's not that easy in college when your routes are usually dictated on what defenses show you.
The spring has been good to Thompson, who put on a show on deep routes and in space. But like all inexperienced players, he's got cleaning up to do.
“He's still learning,” said junior receiver Louis Murphy. “He's still asking a lot of questions. He's just got to step up and make plays because he's in a situation where he's kind of been thrown into the fire (with Harvin injured).
“He's going to do good too because our offense is made for playmakers and the plays that they're putting in is going to give everybody a chance to make plays, so he should step up real good.”
Receivers coach Billy Gonzales said it was tough to keep a talent like Thompson off the field, but with the complexity of the offense, learning by observing will benefit him in the long run.
“I think Deonte's future will be extremely successful based on what we did last year,” Gonzales said. “The ability to learn the system (is important) and now that he knows (it), he's playing fast.”
It only seems logical that the faster Thompson plays the more dangerous he becomes. But by watching practice film, Gonzales said the almost 200-pound Thompson is playing more physically and learning not to rely solely on his speed to make plays.
Thompson said he's happy with his spring progression, but he won't be satisfied with himself until he steps out onto the field against Hawaii on Aug. 30 lined up for the first offensive series.
In order to do that, Thompson said he's still got to prove to his coaches that he's ready to assume a significant role in a receiving corps stocked with talent.
“Coach (Meyer) just always says ‘effort,’ so I just want to come out here every day and go as hard as I can go,” he said. “That's all he wants to see is effort, so I just keep doing that. I know the offense now, so that's it.
“I'm hungry. I want it this year, I gotta have it. I sat out last year. I wanted to play so bad, so now's my turn. Can't let it slip.”
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