First it was Brett Smith, now it’s Jason Thompson.
Wyoming has lost its top two quarterbacks heading into the 2014 season. Smith declared himself eligible for the NFL Draft on the final Friday of 2013. On the first Tuesday of 2014, Thompson transferred to Utah.
Thompson, who would have been a redshirt sophomore this season, wasn’t guaranteed the job for first-year coach Craig Bohl. But he was the most experienced player on the roster having played six games and starting one in 2012. He redshirted in 2013 to hone his quarterbacking skills.
Is it ironic that Thompson is going to Utah where his former coach — Dave Christensen — if the offensive coordinator? Probably not. To think that didn’t play a factor would be naive.
In fact, Christensen was officially introduced as Utah’s offensive coordinator Tuesday. Here are some links to what he said, and some stories by the fine folks at The Salt Lake Tribune.
But it also is true that Thompson was not a fan of Laramie. Christensen and his staff had to talk Thompson into coming back for the 2013 season, and Thompson said during fall camp he thought about leaving after the final game in 2012.
As former UW coach Joe Tiller said, Laramie isn’t for everyone.
Thompson, who is from Renton, Wash., also has family ties to the Utah football program. Two of his cousins — Matt Asiata and Shawn Asiata — were running backs for the Utes. Matt was a good one from 2007-10 and played well late this season for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. Shawn played for Utah in 2011.
Wanting out of Laramie, joining his former coach, a chance to play in the Pac-12 (he was offered by Pac-12 member Washington out of high school to play safety) all are likely factors in Thompson’s decision.
Would UW have been better if Thompson stayed? Maybe. He was the most experienced quarterback on the roster, but it was no given that he would have won the job, or kept it or been good at it. Thompson showed flashes of good athleticism and arm strength as a true freshman, but those skills are raw.
He needed a redshirt year to learn how to read defenses, work on fundamentals, etc. He still needs work in those areas. That’s not a bash on the kid, but he ran a Wing-T offense in high school. Athleticism will take you a long way in college football, but so will fundamentals and knowing the quarterback position — not to mention protecting the ball. Thompson still showed signs of turning the ball over too much in fall camp back in August.
What seems more of a head-scratcher about this is that Thompson will have to sit out a year at Utah to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. That gives him two years to play. He could have had three at UW.
So since the end of his senior season of high school in 2011 until the start of the 2015 season, he would have played in six total college football games. And, there is no guarantee he will play at Utah.
One, the Utes have a promising quarterback and junior-to-be Travis Wilson, a 6-7, 240-pound dual-threat guy. Unfortunately, Wilson has had some health issues from a post-concussion exam that may prevent him from ever playing again so his future is up in the air. Sophomore Adam Schultz played some last season. With Thompson added to the mix, Utah has six quarterbacks and has a verbal commitment from a seventh.
Two, if coach Kyle Whittingham is off with the hiring of Christensen as offensive coordinator, he may be gone after next season — along with his entire staff. Whittingham has changed offensive coordinators in each of the last six seasons and seven of the last nine.
But UW can’t dwell on that.
Bohl will address the media for the first time since his introductory news conference a month ago on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see what he has to say. Bohl and new offensive coordinator Brent Vigen visited Thompson and his family in Washington prior to Christmas and about the time Christensen was hired at Utah. He could have known that Thompson wasn’t coming back, and has been planning his recruiting strategy around that.
Whether he did or not, Bohl and his staff must recruit at least two quarterbacks, and maybe three in their first recruiting class.
True sophomore Tommy Thornton returns after he played in four games — in mop-up duty — last season as true freshman. He, too, needs to redshirt. Gillette product Austin Fort is expected to sign next month, and although he seems excited for the chance to come in and compete, can he realistically be UW’s starting quarterback in 2014?
I am not going to pass judgement because I’ve never seen the kid play a live snap. Some of you out there who follow Wyoming high school football may have. Would love to hear what you think.
If there was any doubt that a junior-college quarterback, or a guy that can transfer and play right away from a four-year school were needed, that all got erased with Thompson’s decision.
The last two true freshmen to start at UW led it to bowl games: Austyn Carta-Samuels in 2009 and Smith in 2011. Could there be a third in the mix?
They say bad things happen in threes. First it was Smith leaving, now Thompson? What’s next? Maybe that old saying is wrong. UW fans hope so. On the other hand, perhaps Bohl and his staff can go find a third true freshman quarterback to build the offense around — or any quarterback with eligibility left that can get the job done.
For more on this story, see Wednesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang and log on to wyosports.net. Check out all three places Thursday for coverage of Bohl’s news conference, which is at 4 p.m.,as well as UW men’s and women’s hoops coverage from their games with New Mexico.