He followed a path taken by running back Travon Van, who came to Marshall as a nonqualifier and played one-plus seasons for the Herd. (Van is now at Montana.)
"When he was playing running back [at MU], his coach came in contact with me, because I was in the same situation he was, of being a 'prop,' " Thompson said. "So [Van] told me in my senior year to go out and just have fun. Don't go to a junior college, come straight here so I wouldn't mess up my eligibility. So now I've got all four years to play."
It will be interesting to see how coaches rotate the ends when it's time to give Jeremiah Taylor and Alex Bazzie a breather. Will Thompson end up a No. 3 end, jumping in on either side? Or will Thompson and Blackmon play together, as they have been recently? Or can Ra'Shawde Myers, a junior who wins high marks for technique, stay in the mix?
Blackmon, a 6-1, 242-pound import from Navarro (Texas) College, brings the experience coaches demand in a juco prospect, but acknowledges his room for improvement.
The pace of summer conditioning - he didn't arrive until June - was the first shock to Blackmon's system. The pace of the practice was the second shock, and the pace of the opposing Herd offense was the third. As a bonus, he had to to circumnavigate Gage Niemeyer, Jordan Jeffries and other long-armed, physical tackles.
"I've struggled. I expected to come in and at least maintain," Blackmon said. "I've struggled a lot with a lot of the calls and getting my up-tempo [plays] and getting my feet back under me. It was a grind, I can most definitely say that.
"I think I maintained well. I think I lost a few pounds, but it's all going to show in the end, when it's time to go to those bowl games, that fourth quarter, last play. It's all going to come in handy."
Cronin's assessment: "He's still in that stage where he's thinking. I'm guessing he's probably never worked as hard as he's working now. It's new, it's an adjustment, he hasn't been here working out with our guys as long as Gary, so he's going through an adjustment process right now.
"He's got to get going. I think he did better [Thursday]; we've got to check the film."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.