NORMAN, Okla.--Tyrus Thompson won’t talk about it but the pipeline from starting left tackle at the University of Oklahoma to NFL roster has been pretty strong in recent years.
2012 starter Lane Johnson was the No. 4 overall selection of the 2013 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, 2010-11 starter Donald Stephenson started seven games for the Kansas City Chiefs as a rookie and 2009 starter Trent Williams earned his first Pro Bowl berth in 2012 as a member of the Washington Redskins.
“I am not so much focused on the NFL right now,” said Thompson, the favorite to replace Johnson in the starting lineup. “I’m focused on here at Oklahoma, winning a national championship, winning all our games. You know I’m just focused on my time here right now, do the best I can here and when that time comes, that time comes. I'm just taking it day by day.”
It’s a good stance to take as the Sooners signed junior college tackle Josiah St. John in February, largely to ramp up the competition at both tackle spots and ensure Thompson isn’t just sliding into Johnson’s spot without winning the job on the practice field.
This is nothing new to Thompson. The redshirt junior had a heated battle with Johnson to man the position in 2012 before the eventual top-five NFL draft pick beat him out for the starting job.
Thompson had a solid 2012 campaign anyway, playing in all 13 contests, starting five games including starts at left and right tackle. Even though he wasn’t listed as the starter for the majority of the season at either position, he gained valuable experience that the Sooners hope will pay off this fall.
“I have had a lot of good reps,” he said. “I would say that experience really does help a lot, but once again every position is a battle right now. No one is handed anything.”
St. John is likely Thompson’s top competition at left tackle during preseason camp with Jake Reed and Derek Farniok also figuring into the mix. St. John didn't arrive in Norman until days before preseason camp but Thompson doesn’t feel like he has the starting left tackle spot already locked up.
“Everyone is competing for a job right now so I shouldn’t say that but I do have a lot of confidence in myself,” he said.
When the injury bug hit the offensive line last season, Thompson slid in seamlessly at right or left tackle. That opportunity to playing multiple positions and his overall game experience makes it hard to imagine Thompson standing on the sidelines when the Sooners’ first-team offense takes its initial snap of 2013.
“One big thing that I learned last year is that if you make a mistake, don’t hold on to that mistake because it’s going to mess you up for future reps,” said Thompson, who has played in 18 career games in two years at OU. “You let that mistake go and you keep playing, just like they tell [defensive backs]. That would be the one big thing I took from last year.”
Even if St. John, Farniok or Reed don’t emerge to push Thompson during preseason camp, the Pflugerville, Texas native has plans to push himself to further heights. Even though he won’t admit thinking about his NFL dreams, he has eyes on pushing himself to become the best tackle he can be, which could, ultimately, place his name alongside Johnson, Stephenson and Williams on a NFL roster.
“I am pretty confident in myself, but you can improve everything,” Thompson said. “No one is perfect in anything, even Joe Staley for the 49ers, as great as he is, I’m sure if you ask him, there’s things that he can improve on.”