Wide receiver Kendal Thompkins was expected to have been a star by now.
Thompkins arrived at the University of Miami five years ago with six other Northwestern High School teammates, all fresh off an undefeated national championship season.
Most of the 2008 Northwestern graduates left their mark on the program, with four of them now in the NFL. Quarterback Jacory Harris threw for 8826 yards. Linebacker Sean Spence completed 307 tackles. Wide receiver Tommy Streeter caught for 967 yards. Thompkins, meanwhile, has been limited to eight catches and appearances on special teams.
But the redshirt senior does not want to talk about the past. He is too busy focusing on this upcoming season, he said.
Thompkins’ fellow receivers have noticed the recent improvement. So, too, has coach Al Golden, who placed him as one of the starting receivers on the most recent depth chart.
“Kendal has had a spectacular camp, arguably one of the best summers of anybody — I would say in our Top 5,” Golden said. “For someone that hasn’t had consistency, he’s been one of our most consistent players day in and day out.”
Added junior wide receiver Allen Hurns: “I’m proud of him. He’s always had the ability to do it, but now he’s put it all together.”
Dismissing any suggestions that his effort has at times been lacking, Thompkins said that his focus has never changed from before. He said he has always been a hard worker and that the results are just starting to show.
One difference he did point out, though, was that now he is a veteran among the receiving corps.
“It’s been fun, being an older guy,” Thompkins said. “The young guys look up to you, so you’re trying to be a leader out there and lead these guys by example.”
Perhaps more than any other motivation, Thompkins realizes that it is his last year with the Hurricanes.
“He knows that it’s his last go-round,” Hurns said. “He’s been here for five years and he hasn’t played much, so I think it really got to him, that it’s his last year.”
Thompkins is not the only highly touted wideout who is trying to make the most of his final season. The same is the case for redshirt senior Davon Johnson.
Like Thompkins, Johnson is from Miami. And like his teammate, Johnson has struggled thus far to make an impact for the Hurricanes offense.
“It’s your last year, so you become more hungry,” Johnson said. “There’s no more ‘I can do this next year.’ ”
Over the past four years Johnson has had even fewer opportunities on the field than Thompkins has. Johnson returned two kickoffs last year and has not caught a ball since his freshman year.
Last spring, the Miami coaching staff even approached him about converting to a defensive back. Johnson said he thought about it for a few days and then agreed.
By this summer, though, Johnson was back at wide receiver.
“I’m more comfortable at [receiver],” Johnson said. “It’s first-hand nature to me.”
Thus far it seems to have been a good reversal.
Golden said that he noticed that Johnson has been more relaxed on the field, and it has been showing in his practices.
“Davon is in better shape,” Golden said. “He’s playing fast. I think he’s starting to enjoy it a little more. He’s got to come through for us on special teams. He is creating a role for himself on this offense.”
There is still time for both players to leave an impact on their team and impress pro scouts. Both players said their goal is to make an NFL team next year.
There, Thompkins could once again be competing against some of his old Northwestern teammates, who he said are some of his best friends.
“The biggest piece of advice I give to the young guys is to take advantage of your time,” Thompkins said. “You ain’t got no years to waste.”