Incoming freshman quarterback Ty Thompson may not get the starting job this season, but he should eventually become a superstar quarterback for the Ducks. If he’s able to get comfortable before his upperclassman years within the Oregon program, I not only see him having a couple great seasons, but the potential to lead the greatest era of football in school history(assuming COVID-19 regulations clear up and we return to sports normalcy this season).
The recruiting that head coach Mario Cristobal has spearheaded while leading the Oregon program has created a quarterback cycle that we Oregon fans can get used to moving forward with late into the 2020s. Building around a star quarterback, developing them over a season or two, and pushing towards a real championship run. Justin Herbert’s final season did only culminate in a Rose Bowl victory, but it validated the system that Cristobal has implemented. We did see Tyler Shough transfer out of the program and the Oregon team flop as a whole in 2020, but I’m going to let that one go considering the circumstances of COVID regulations and a shortened season.
Even with COVID hopefully being a more minimal factor by the time we see the Ducks suit up next season, there are a lot of other factors to consider. With the amount of attention on the program now, we can only hope the right stream of coordinators are controlling the roster and lineups when the time comes for Thompson’s upperclassman(assuming he doesn’t declare for the draft early) seasons. Nevertheless, should everything line up perfectly for Cristobal, and the stars align at the right time for the Ducks in Thompson’s seasons as an upperclassman, I can see his career culminating in a championship run.
In the end, I feel this will come down to Cristobal and the program taking one of two options when playing Thompson as Oregon’s next star quarterback.
Option 1: The Herbert Treatment Repeats
As we all saw at the end of 2019, it felt like Justin Herbert was finally allowed to be himself in the often stagnant Ducks offense, as if Cristobal and the coaching staff had been playing it safe the whole season. His rushing ability contributed greatly to the Ducks late successes in the Pac-12 Championship and Rose Bowl, scoring three touchdowns on the ground in his final game as a Duck.
This was no accident.
It’s clear there was a plan in place to keep Herbert in a select part of the playbook which forced the Ducks into timid offensive play calling for the better part of the season. Cristobal cannot allow this to happen with Thompson. The type of recruit that Thompson is why his implementation into the offense must work for the program to expect more quarterbacks like him long term. The Ducks have been recruiting extremely well at nearly every position, which is reason enough to want to join a program for kids looking to play at the next level.
The Ducks offense just needs to keep up their end of the bargain and keep allowing for their star players to be themselves, and that includes quarterbacks. Herbert’s injury in the past may have played a role in Cristobal’s decision on his utilization in the offense, but that can’t become a theme for quarterbacks like Thompson and others in the future.
Option 2: Potential Realized
This is the option I think we as Oregon fans fever dream over. As stated earlier, Cristobal may have inhibited(at least partially) the viability of Herbert’s role in the offense while at Oregon. Since he’s reached the next level, his play has been nothing short of spectacular with the Los Angeles Chargers, making it clear his potential as a Duck may not have been fully realized under Cristobal’s coaching staff.
In this scenario, history does not repeat itself, and Cristobal lets Thompson flourish under whoever ends up offensive coordinator in Thompson’s upperclassman seasons as a Duck. This surely would give the Ducks the best chance to get back into the College Football Playoff and finally give a true encore performance to Mark Helfrich’s 2014-2015 team and the Chip Kelly era as a whole. To be able to reasonably expect this however, the defensive side of the ball still needs to improve before we can put the rest of the load on Thompson’s back.
Kayvon Thibodeaux’s high draft position at the next level in the ensuing NFL Draft will likely contribute greatly to Cristobal’s incredible recruiting classes, and sure-up the defense to evolve from what we saw this past COVID-ridden season. If Thompson’s talent is paired with a more seasoned skill group and the right offensive coordinator on the other side of the ball, I think an elite veteran defense would push the Ducks over the top, and aid them in finding their way to the promise land just like Marcus Mariota did in his Heisman season.
Should Cristobal and the Oregon staff pull this off, the sky is the limit for Thompson’s raw ability to become a generational quarterback for the Ducks. But this doesn’t answer the big overarching theme of what Thompson means for Oregon, potentially elevating the program to the likes of which we’ve never seen: can the Ducks win a championship if they can make it there?
I say yes. Happy Easter, Oregon fans!
Santa Barbara, California
Top Photo Credit: Twitter
Alex Heining is a third-year student at the University of Oregon. He’s working towards a bachelor of arts degree as an English major and media studies minor in journalism. Growing up in the Los Angeles area of southern California, Alex ended up a Duck through family ties, a quality football program, and the beautiful green of Lane County. Currently finishing his first science fiction novel, he wants to end up in the sports world of journalism on the west coast. Particularly, covering high school football, recruiting commits, and all things Ducks.
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