HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A season ago, Marshall went from being one of the worst defenses in the country to being one of the best. One new member of the Thundering Herd defense who had a surprising year was defensive end Gary Thompson.

Now, Thompson says he is doing whatever he can to get better for the 2014 season, including adding weight to his 227-pound frame.

“I’ve been able to hit the weight room every day and now that camp has started, every other day,” Thompson said.

Thompson has gained nearly 15 pounds since the Military Bowl victory over Maryland in December, and the added weight will help him be a more complete defensive end.

“It will help me on the runs because I’m undersized,” Thompson said. “[I can now bring down] bigger backs and handle the 300-pound linemen.”

Marshall defensive ends coach Sean Cronin said every pound of muscle Thompson can add will be beneficial toward being a solid defensive end.

“Gary is a shorter guy and he holds the edge of our defense,” Cronin said. “He needs to be strong and he needs to be able to block out and hold the edge of our defense. He’s already an exceptional guy in terms of speed, so for him to put on the weight, it just shows that he’s trying to become more of an all-around player.”

Thompson put that speed on display in the Herd’s game against East Carolina in 2013, when he nearly got to Pirates quarterback Shane Carden, then intercepted Carden’s desperation pass attempt to avoid a sack and took the ball into the endzone.

Despite impressive plays such as those, Cronin says Thompson has yet to blossom into the defensive end he can possibly be.

“He’s not even begun to tap his potential,” Cronin said. “He has to have a great spring. He has to do better in practice and really come along for us because he’s nowhere near the player he’s capable of being.

“Part of it is he needs to get bigger and stronger, and he’s done that part of it, and now out here at practice he needs to become a dominant player on the field.”

Cronin emphasizes the transformation into the kind of player he thinks Thompson can be will not happen overnight.

“He’s just a young player and a lot of times it takes D-linemen a couple of years to develop,” Cronin says. “He’s still developing, even though he played a lot for us last year, he can play a lot better than he’s played. That’s what I look forward to, it’s exciting to think of what he’s capable of.”

— Braxton Crisp

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