Burnt Orange Breakdown: M. Thompson

May, 14, 2014
May 14
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Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series will take a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from them. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

[+] EnlargeMykkele Thompson
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesMykkele Thompson has played in a lot of games in his Texas career but has yet to make a big impact.
No. 2 Mykkele Thompson
Senior safety


Recruitment rewind: Texas was first to offer the San Antonio Stevens athlete and locked him up as early as possible with a junior day pledge in 2010. At Stevens, Thompson rushed for 2,859 yards as a senior and accounted for 5,322 total yards in his final two seasons as a true QB-WR-RB athlete. In fact, the part of his official Texas bio listing his high school accomplishments and best games is 626 words long. The dude came with a résumé, that's for sure. ESPN scouts expected him to play receiver at the college level.

Career so far: Mack Brown and Duane Akina planned to make Thompson a defensive back since he committed, and he's played in all 38 games of his career so far. He led Texas in special teams tackles as a true freshman and has now started 18 games at safety with somewhat mixed results. Thompson has 144 tackles, one career interception and one pass breakup. He's been in and out of the lineup at times but essentially has seen as much game action now as any member of Texas' defense.

Best-case scenario for 2014: A fresh start under new defensive coordinator Vance Bedford and secondary coach Chris Vaughn and a revitalized, more aggressive Thompson. He picked up a reputation in recent seasons that he's too reluctant to hit and make plays, a perception that's somewhat earned but easily reversed if Thompson comes out with his hair on fire this fall. Experience is supposed to breed confidence. Thompson has plenty of the former, and Texas needs him to play with a lot more of the latter.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Doesn't matter if he's a senior, Thompson can get beaten out for his starting job. If he doesn't impress Bedford and Vaughn, and they lose faith in his ability to protect the back end of the defense and make plays, they'll plug in someone else. Greg Robinson tried it when he took over as DC against Ole Miss, when he inserted Josh Turner over Thompson, but it didn't work. There's better depth behind the starting safeties now, and a young player can win this job if he shows the traits the new staff desires and Thompson doesn't take care of business.

Future expectations: This is it for Thompson, who arrived in Austin as an incredible and decorated playmaker on offense and has spent three years learning how to make a similar impact from the safety spot. He consistently earned praise from the new staff this spring, and that's encouraging. Some said in the middle of his Texas career he might've made a better cornerback, and maybe he'll see some snaps there in 2014. Still, this is his final year to put it all together and prove folks like Akina -- who believed in him all along -- were right.

Max Olson | email

Big 12 reporter

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