Photo courtesy of Arkansas State athletics
A home state player, Terry Hampton originates from the southern Arkansas town of El Dorado.
Coming out of high school, his only Division I offer was to play in Jonesboro at Arkansas State. Most of the pointing can be toward his size at the time.
He was 5-foot-11 and only 254 pounds during his senior year of high school. More can be contributed to his knee issues which required surgery that year.
Even with the inadequate frame, Hampton still managed to grab a three-star rating. According to the 247 Sports Composite, he was the No. 122 ranked defensive tackle and the No. 1,753 player nationally in the 2018 class.
His career at Arkansas State was one where he couldn’t quite get the traction he wanted. Hampton played in 36 games, including 11 as a freshman under coach Blake Anderson. Beginning his sophomore year, he finally had the opportunity to start games.
Nineteen of his 36 game appearances with the Red Wolves are marked as starts. Once his junior season rolled around is when the stats exploded off the page, especially in comparison to his first two seasons.
Initially an interior lineman, Hampton moved to the outside as Arkansas State shifted to a three-man front. From there, his career took off.
In terms of career statistics, Hampton totals 61 tackles with 35 of those coming during his junior year. He only has 2.5 total sacks to his name along with 9.5 tackles for loss. With such a peak year in 2020, many wondered where that version of Hampton went in 2021.
With knee issues once again, Hampton was able to play in only six games. Following last season’s scare, he hit the portal and gained eight new offers. With one year of eligibility remaining, the graduate transfer chose Arkansas. The questions concerning Hampton center around his health — not his ability.
Play Recognition and Ability to Diagnose
While Hampton doesn’t have a lot of career sacks or tackles in the backfield, he can get off a block in the right way. Some of his tendencies may bite him a time or two, but they work. Once locked into a battle with an offensive lineman, Hampton uses his legs while his arms remain extended.
Hampton is most effective when he uses his arms first. Once in control of the blocking matchup, he can slide off in any direction. That is due to his feet remaining in constant motion and solid upper-body strength. Waiting on the ball carrier to find what seems to be a hole, he makes his move.
Hampton also uses this technique on passing downs. When the quarterback is forced to scramble his direction, Hampton slides right into where the running path is. As a smaller body for a defensive lineman, it’s refreshing that he’s an excellent tackler.
There were never many opportunities to tackle in space. Where he excels is in the trenches. Hampton does an excellent job reacting to the play and getting off blocks.
A picture-perfect example lies in a 2020 contest against Louisiana. Lined up on the left side, the tackle and guard both shifted toward the outside of Hampton. Realizing such, he took his first and second step attempting to sever the gap between their movement.
His smaller frame – now 6-1 and 295 pounds – came as a benefit. With minor shoving involved, he found a way to the running back, who ran right into Hampton’s arms.
There isn’t much to this — other than Hampton might want it more than his opponent. While not doubled a ton during his Sun Belt tenure, he was well respected. Most of the double-teams sent his way involved a tackle and guard combo.
The tackle would be the primary blocker and the guard was a secondary body. The lack of attention doesn’t please Hampton, so he takes over.
First, we must go into the mind of the offensive tackle on Hampton. When the blocking scheme calls for a double-team, his initial thought would be an equal blocking battle with his guard friend.
That isn’t always the case, of course. Once Hampton notices that only one player is pulling the weight, he acts. Swimming right between the two players into the backfield is what he does.
There isn’t much frame left to affect even when the second player wants to chip block. It goes back once more to his small frame advantage. That is the case as long as Hampton doesn’t instantly lose the battle.
Once a tackle has confronted Hampton, his tight end teammate might not find much to help with either. It is quite the opposite. Moving onto a new target to block starts with one step in said direction.
Hampton can consistently act upon those initial steps away from a double-team. He once again splits the two players to the dismay of his primary blocker.
Coastal Carolina was his primary test subject for this in 2020. It comes down to his pure sense of footwork of himself and his opponent. With the gift of acting off one foul movement, he can cause great havoc.
Beats Slow Feet with Quickness
Hampton has a knack of knocking down sluggish block motion and reach outs, sure. What he can truly covet when dealing with slow feet is his own small frame. Being around 6-0 forces bigger offensive linemen to bend when Hampton doesn’t.
If the larger guys remain stiff, he will just toy with them. Sliding around and removing the outstretched hands from the behemoths, it is best shown when rushing the passer off the edge.
He can beat the formation of the pocket toward the outside of a tackle. If a lineman worries too much about shrinking down to match Hampton, it can slow the movements below the waist.
In terms of block shedding, it comes down to his play recognition as previously mentioned. He also encompasses the reaction time to swim or ‘arm down’ extended hands when engaged. Against a bigger lineman, those blocking arms must come to his pad level.
Being a shorter lineman actually helps with leverage for Hampton. More offensive linemen can bend frequently in the SEC. It will be crucial to see how Hampton’s speed of block shedding can improve. Maybe even incorporating a spin move with his smaller center of gravity could be useful.
All his success technically and statistically in the Sun Belt is super. How he plays in college football’s best conference remains to be seen.
Darius Philon excelled as a shorter lineman at Arkansas and made it to the NFL. Hampton will have one season to be a plug-and-play guy on the defensive line. That’s one season to see if he can make the jump that Arkansas desperately needs.