Can Thompson Re-Write His Story This Spring?

Joshua Whitted Editorials

There will be plenty of intriguing storylines to follow when Oregon kicks off its spring game this Saturday.

Will Stein will be debuting his offense, newcomers will be donning the green and yellow for the first time, and as always, the depth chart is up for grabs, with a number of players battling for starting jobs.

But perhaps the most under-the-radar storyline is also the most important: how will Ty Thompson perform?

The former blue-chip recruit was once the highest-rated quarterback signee in program history. Now, many are writing him off as a bust. Is he still the quarterback of the future, or will the Ducks have to look elsewhere for their next starting quarterback?

The Rise and (Potential) Fall of Thompson

Thompson’s journey thus far has had its ups and downs. As a recruit, he was universally viewed as one of the best prospects in the country. He boasted all of the prototypical skills coaches look for in their signal callers, including a strong arm, a solid build and plenty of athleticism.

When he signed with the Ducks, many viewed him as a program-defining player — someone who would step on the roster and eventually develop into an elite college quarterback and future NFL Draft pick.

Thompson was a highly-touted prospect.

But that hasn’t happened.

After sitting behind Anthony Brown for a year, the Ducks brought in Auburn transfer Bo Nix, who, at the time, was nothing more than an average player. Many fans hoped and expected Thompson to beat out Nix for the job in 2022, but Nix ultimately won, leaving Thompson to ride the bench for another year.

Thompson losing to Nix wasn’t necessarily a bad sign in and of itself. Nix did develop into a Heisman-caliber quarterback, and was the engine behind one of the top offenses in the country, after all. Rather, it was Thompson’s on-field performance — albeit in a limited sample size — that raised significant concerns as to whether or not he has what it takes to live up to his immense potential.

Thompson played sparingly in mop-up duty in 2022, but he looked lost and certainly did not take advantage of his opportunities. He completed a hair over half of his 20 passing attempts, throwing two interceptions and no touchdowns. And when he was needed in crunch time after Nix went down with an injury against Washington, the staff didn’t even trust him enough to let him attempt a single pass.

Twenty passing attempts is hardly enough to make a break a player’s career, but fans are undoubtedly less certain of Thompson’s viability now than they were a couple of years ago. That’s why this off-season, and in particular, this spring game, will be the most important of Thompson’s career.

If the stage is still too big for him and he isn’t able to translate his physical gifts into on-field results, then this could be the last we hear of Thompson in any significant capacity at Oregon. In the era of the Transfer Portal, and with other blue-chip recruits either on the Ducks’ roster or on their recruiting board, Dan Lanning and company will not put an underperforming Thompson on the field. They simply have far better options.

This is a make-or-break offseason for Thompson.

However, if he does take steps to realize his potential and shows everyone why he was such a coveted prospect, then this year’s spring game can be a big step in cementing his status as the quarterback of the future.

Thompson hasn’t lost any of the attributes that made him one of the best quarterback recruits in the country not too long ago. He just hasn’t managed to put it all together. Some players never do, but for others, it just takes time and the right system to maximize their potential.

Whether Thompson will ultimately figure it out or not is to be determined. But what’s clear is his performance this spring, and specifically his performance on Saturday, will go a long way in determining his future with the program.

Joshua Whitted 
Grove City, Ohio
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck

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