As South Carolina defensive line coach Lance Thompson sat behind a table, peppered with questions for this first time in this role, the coaching lingo came pouring out.
They came rapid-fire: determined, effort, physical, discipline, standards, family, character. One almost feels as if he or she is getting the recruiting pitch, a successful one historically. But at one point, he zeros in on a core philosophy, almost as if the outlook comes into focus.
“As a coach, if you don’t enjoy working 16 hours a day, you ain’t going to be a good coach,” Thompson said. “As a player, if you don’t enjoy a coach being on you, you ain’t going to be a very good football player. Football’s hard. It’s like life. I tell them, ‘Hey, we’re preparing you for life. You’re going to be a better man, a better husband, a better father because you played football for us.’ ”
It’s an outlook cultivated by a career working with a range of high-profile coaches and bouncing around the region.
Thompson is an SEC nomad of sorts. He’s had three stints at Alabama, coached at LSU, Tennessee and Auburn and added two stops at Georgia Tech and one at Central Florida.
His last stop at Auburn included having to step up as defensive coordinator for the bowl when his boss, Will Muschamp, departed to take over South Carolina. Thompson proudly pointed out the 31-10 win was the first time in Gus Malzahn’s tenure the team didn’t allow an offensive touchdown, but he said moving up to a coordinator role or switching from linebackers to defensive line, as he will do this season, is just a different facet of the same thing.
“Coaching any position, it’s just teaching,” Thompson said. “When you’re a good teacher, you want to inspire a student to learn, to want to be the best they can be. The techniques the D-line plays, the techniques that linebackers play, the techniques the secondary plays, it’s not that much different.”
Whether he’s coaching linebackers, as he has at the past four stops, or the line as he did earlier in his career, one thing Thompson has always done is recruit.
The way he talks, with a sort of relentless energy and pace, it’s clear how he made a habit of reeling in four- and five-star prospects during his career, especially at Alabama (Da’Shawn Hand and Julio Jones were two highlights). Even sitting in front of a rotating cadre of reporters, he just rolled along, selling the program to anyone stopped over.
He’s recruited to powerhouses, but notably, he also recruited to Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets have to battle uphill against a Georgia influence across nearly every square inch of the state. But when asked about the dynamic, Thompson deftly turned the tables.
“What’s the name of this state that we’re in?” he asked the questioner.
The answer: South Carolina.
“We’re Carolina,” Thompson said. “We’re not working uphill against anything.”
He’ll be working to get more from a defensive line that hasn’t had enough of an impact the past two seasons. The group has seven former four-star prospects, but few have played at that level.
“I have a vision for what a good defensive line looks like and I’ve been around a lot of great defensive lines, Thompson said. “Recruited them and coached them. With a lot of kids nowadays, you’ve got to communicate the expectations and it’s their job to work to meet it.”
Lance Thompson bio
Hometown: Riverdale, Ga.
College: The Citadel
USC job: Assistant head coach/defense and defensive line coach
Last job: LBs coach at Auburn
Claim to fame: While at Alabama, named No. 1 recruiter by ESPN in 2014 and by Rivals in 2008.