Tyrice Thompson’s nickname is “The Elevator,” which, for a time, belied a football career at Arizona State that appeared to be stuck on a low floor. The 6-foot-5, 226-pounder was a player without a position, having been recruited as a receiver, moved to H-back, and tried at defensive end.
With every position switch, Thompson’s doubts about whether he could play Division I-A football grew.
“Tyrice had struggles for a long time,” ASU coach Dirk Koetter said. “He thought a lot about if he was good enough to fit in, and if he was a Pac-10 player. But he has really matured, on and off the field.”
It took time, but Thompson, a junior, has finally found his niche, becoming a reliable special-teams player and — in recent weeks — contributing at his original position, wideout. He had his first career reception in last week’s game at Oregon State.
“I’m a role player to the fullest,” Thompson said. “Whatever you tell me to do, I’m going to do it full speed. I won’t ask any questions. I’ll just do it. I’m back at wideout, and that’s what I love to do.”
Thompson plays on five special-teams units: kickoff return and coverage, punt return and coverage and fieldgoal block. What’s more, he has developed into a team leader, Koetter said.
“He went from a guy who you never thought would be a leader to a guy who has done a very nice job,” Koetter said. “He has been a (game) captain twice this year.”
With ASU’s injury problems at receiver, Thompson — though officially listed as an H-back — lines up in the slot whenever the Sun Devils opt to go to a three-receiver formation.
Once unsure of his value as a player, Thompson has seen his worth to the Sun Devils, like any elevator, rise.
“No one wants to work hard and not see the rewards of it,” Thompson said. “It feels great. I work here every week to do my job, and when I get in, I’m ready and prepared for my teammates.”
Linebacker Robert James is out for Saturday’s game against Washington State because he is still experiencing complications from a concussion. A CT scan and an MRI exam revealed nothing unusual, and James will see a neurologist today.
“He is still having headaches,” Koetter said. “I feel bad for him. It has been a rough couple of weeks for Robert. He does not feel well at all.”
Receiver Terry Richardson (knee) is out, and wideout/ cornerback Rudy Burgess (ankle) remains doubtful.
One of the themes the ASU coaches have pressed with the players this week is that, with the last three regular season games spread over 16 days, the Sun Devils can turn their season around in a short time.
“We’re going to play 25 percent of our games in that time,” Koetter said. “Everyone has their judgment on how our season is, but we’ve still got a lot of our season left.”