Column: After familiar start, QB Ty Thompson showed growth at UO spring game

For the first 29 minutes and six seconds of game time on Saturday afternoon, things went about as poorly as they could have for Oregon Ducks redshirt sophomore quarterback Ty Thompson.

At the annual spring game with a chance to show his offseason improvement as the leader of the yellow team, Thompson completed just one of his first eight passes, and the single completion came on an underhand pitch that traveled less than a yard in the air. Things could have been worse, of course; of those eight pass attempts, three could have easily been intercepted. The very first play of the game was almost disastrous, with Thompson locking in on a running back flaring out to the right and throwing an ill-advised screen pass despite the fact that LB Mase Funa had jumped the route and was ready to take it for a TD the other way.

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Fortunately for Thompson — and every Oregon fan in the building who was desperate to see even a glimmer of hope from the Ducks’ former 4-star quarterback — the pass fell incomplete, and kept Thompson’s turnover record clean for the day.

The first four drives of the day for the yellow team were hard to watch. There were dropped passes, stuffed runs, and very little juice. With one final drive before the half, though, something flipped for Ty. Now in a position to run a one-minute offense and cobble together some stats before the break, Thompson showed something that we’ve never publicly seen inside Autzen Stadium: poise, confidence, and an ability to pick apart the defense.


“That’s football a little bit, right?” Dan Lanning said after the game. “You know, we had some bad balls early, some adversity early, didn’t complete some, some slow starts. And then to be able to get some shots there at the end, I think that was big.”


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The drive didn’t result in points, but QB13 had chunk yardage completions to Tez Johnson over the middle, Kyler Kasper down the sideline, and Kris Hutson over the middle, ultimately picking up 60 yards in 54 seconds.

What started out as a tough watch had quickly turned into an adequate performance from someone that looked to be settling into the position and getting comfortable in the pocket.


“I thought he played really good,” Bo Nix said after the game. “Ty’s just a very consistent guy. He’s not gonna get too high or too low. He’s gonna go to the next play and he’s gonna make the next play. He does a really good job in our offense of executing and I thought he showed that today. He made some incredible throws. He made some deep throws, touch throws, and some firm throws. I think he showed it all today.”

Going into Saturday, you could list Thompson among the players who arguably had the most to prove, and the most at stake.

That may seem odd to say about a backup quarterback who is not competing for a starting job this season, but with Bo Nix leaving after this year, the Ducks have a vacancy at the QB spot in 2024. Whether they will admit it or not, you can guarantee that Dan Lanning and Will Stein are already weighing their options, looking to see if the answer is on the roster already or if they will need to go back to the transfer portal well in order to find their future passer.


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That notion made Saturday a bit of an audition for Ty, and one that he’s gone through a few times at this point. As a true freshman, Thompson showed a few flashes in the spring game but was ultimately not impressive enough to beat out Anthony Brown for the starting gig. A year ago, Thompson was asked to go up against Nix in a QB competition, which in hindsight doesn’t feel like a fair fight.

There were a few times when Thompson could have put some confidence in the bank during the 2022 regular season, but after every time he left the field, fans were still lacking the confidence necessary to write his name down on the 2024 depth chart in anything but a very light pencil.

Saturday was going to be our last best opportunity to see what he could do.

Did I leave Autzen Stadium after the spring game feeling that the Ducks have a surefire difference-maker at the QB spot after Nix leaves? Not exactly. However, I left with an open mind about the possibility that Thompson can still be that guy, which feels notable considering that a couple of hours earlier I was ready to wrap up this whole experiment and start trying to figure out which passers at the Power 5 level might be unhappy with their situations and willing to enter the transfer portal following the 2023 season.



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Thompson has the benefit of more time on his side. By sticking around in Eugene this year and accepting the role of QB2 behind a Heisman Trophy candidate, he obtained the opportunity to continue his growth and development while biding his time.

Barring an injury to Nix this season — God forbid, knock on wood, throw a handful of salt over your shoulder — QB13 shouldn’t be seeing the field for any meaningful minutes until the calendar says 2024. It will then be at the annual spring game once again where we can dive into his abilities and assess whether or not he’s the man to lead the Ducks to a successful campaign.


Will he end up becoming the quarterback that Duck fans so desperately want him to be? I don’t know, it’s still too early to tell.

On Saturday afternoon, though, I left with an open mind about it, and the willingness to watch him continue to try.

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Story originally appeared on Ducks Wire