Oregon Ducks Football - FishDuck.com in Eugene, OR - Ty Thompson

Did the Oregon Ducks Fail Ty Thompson?

Alex Heining Editorials

Our Oregon Ducks football team has had some major movement at the quarterback position over the past week. Bo Nix was a Heisman finalist just this past weekend, and it looked like former four-star quarterback Ty Thompson may have been in the driver’s seat to take on the next starting job at Oregon.

Unfortunately for Thompson, the Ducks’ staff thought otherwise and went to the transfer portal to nab Oklahoma’s signal caller in Dillon Gabriel, leaving Thompson to enter the transfer portal as a logical next step. For the Ducks, that’s just one of several other quarterback recruits that have come to Autzen in search of an opportunity to develop, only to be continuously replaced by transfer quarterbacks.

That begs the question: Was Ty ever given a fair shot? Or was he doomed from the start?

Ty Thompson - Oregon Ducks Football - FishDuck.com in Eugene, OR

Ty Thompson never started a full game with the Ducks and now looks to greener pastures through the transfer portal. Photo From the UO Athletic Department

Did the Ducks Fail Ty Thompson?

As a recruit, Thompson joining the Ducks in 2021 looked like a great match. He had the perfect athletic skillset to carry this Oregon offense the next few seasons, and while it would take time, he was clearly capable of being turned into an elite asset in this offense. However, after only earning a handful of opportunities to jump into games over the past few seasons and the majority of starts being earned by incoming transfers, it never felt like Thompson was given a shot on the field when it mattered by any of the coaching staffs he played under.

Granted, he could have shown more on the practice field or earned more opportunities himself, but there always felt like a certain sense of predisposition towards him entering the game from Duck fans after turnovers led to big lead changes or momentum swings in his limited action. That confidence killer could certainly have impacted his play on the field and may have been a contributor to a wealth of other factors that led to him leaving the Ducks for his final two seasons playing at the college level.

So do I blame Thompson for wanting to move on? Absolutely not. He doesn’t owe the coaching staff he played under in 2023 a single thing, and he certainly should be able to go find an opportunity elsewhere. With his clear athleticism and the development he demonstrated in 2023, I wouldn’t be surprised if he could start for his next program, and we should all wish him the best as Duck fans.

Now, on the other hand, do I blame Lanning and the Ducks’ staff for not playing him? Absolutely not. Coaches are constantly playing for their jobs and have to win every game of the season to have a shot at the postseason. You can’t do that with unproven players at crucial positions, and quarterback play is certainly the epitome of that ideology. While it would be fantastic to watch a raw young talent develop into a star, there just isn’t as much room for that with Oregon’s program in the state it’s currently in.

Unfortunately, this could also have an adverse effect on quarterback recruits down the road.

Ty Thompson - Oregon Ducks Football - FishDuck.com in Eugene, OR

Thompson earned playing time rarely and only played meaningful snaps in emergencies. Photo From Vasco Dixon

How Does Thompson’s Transfer Bode for Future Oregon Quarterback Recruits?

In short: not well.

While Nix had an outstanding season that capped off with a third-place Heisman voting finish, he has become a part of the “transfer trend” that Oregon’s embodied for nearly a decade. Vernon Adams Jr, Anthony Brown, and Nix highlight just a few of those seasons where an incoming transfer becomes a plug-and-play starter. These transfers surround youthful talent that is never fully realized and often ends up being cast off to another program. Some of us could even argue that Justin Herbert never realized his full potential at Oregon either, and it wasn’t until the end of his final season with the team that we saw a glimpse of what he’s been doing at the next level regularly. It felt almost as though the coaching staff finally let him sling it and run it the way he was always meant to, and he continued to do so weekly with the Chargers before his untimely injury this past weekend.

This isn’t about the NFL, though. It’s about our Ducks never having invested fully in a freshman or even sophomore quarterback over the past several seasons. While the team is in “win now” mode, which makes it difficult to develop talent at the most impactful position in the sport, Oregon’s going to have to start finding a way to change that culture. We can expect transfers to continue to want to play for the Ducks after how the talent has developed on the offensive line and for skill players, but keeping your talent internal is always going to be a better pitch to future recruits.

For now, the keys are proverbially passed to Dillon Gabriel.

Oregon Ducks Football - FishDuck.com in Eugene, OR - Dillon Gabriel

Dillon Gabriel led the Sooners to some spectacular wins over the past two seasons: Photo From @CollegeFBPortal on Twitter

What Does Dillon Gabriel Bring to the Ducks’ Offense?

As the Sooners’ former quarterback, Gabriel dominated both as a runner and passer. He takes chances downfield, finishes runs like a tailback, and has that escapability factor every coach looks for in a true improviser at the position. As a true southpaw in the Oregon offense, his athletic ability similarly matches that of Nix, who entered the transfer portal two offseasons ago. The key difference is his numbers and resume.

Gabriel has outgunned highly-ranked opponents in must-win matchups and has done so with outstanding passing totals. Accounting for 73 total touchdowns over the past two seasons with Oklahoma, Gabriel is a much more complete prospect in the transfer portal than Nix was. Now, does that mean we may have seen his ceiling at the college level already? Perhaps.

But I doubt it. With what Lanning and co. were able to extract from Nix, I expect a similar uptick in play as he enters Autzen as the 2024 clear-cut starter.

Oregon Ducks Football - Tyler Shough - FishDuck.com in Eugene, OR - Texas Tech

Tyler Shough led the Red Raiders out against his former Oregon team this year; perhaps Thompson ends up doing something similar… – From Fox Sports Video

Bottom Line: Thompson Deserves an Opportunity; an Opportunity with Another Program

In short, Ty never had a clear path to a starting role, and while he could have of course made one for himself, numerous coaching staff and scheme changes can’t have helped. Transfer talent seems to be the way for the Ducks of late, and we should see continued success with Gabriel despite Lanning’s efforts to recruit internally at the position.

To be fair to Lanning, he had his guy in Dante Moore who ended up changing paths after Kenny Dillingham left the program, which had the potential to leave the team’s future in turmoil. Luckily, Lanning was able to facilitate a commitment change in Austin Novosad, as he joins the starting quarterback conversation in 2025. If Novosad can sit behind Gabriel for the 2024 season and take the reins down the road, I think Lanning would only further cement himself as a complete coach who’s prepared to lead this Oregon team to a championship. Let’s see it happen.

Anyway, enough from me, Oregon fans. How do you think the Ty Thompson situation was handled? Was he given a fair shot? Does the trend of young quarterbacks leaving instead of playing bode well for Oregon, or can we continue to trust transfers to come in and save the program? Let us know your thoughts in the FishDuck Forum with decorum.

Go Ducks!

Alex Heining
Los Angeles, California
Top photo by: Vasco Dixon

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