By SPENCER McLAUGHLIN
Contributor, 750 The Game
Quick, name the last “traditional” quarterback recruit that played and started for the Ducks. Meaning, a kid who was recruited out of high school, waited his turn behind a more experienced and talented QB, and took over once his time came to a close. GO!!
The answer is Tyler Shough. He sat behind Justin Herbert as the heir apparent for multiple seasons before getting the chance to start, albeit in a wacky COVID season in the Fall of 2020. He showed flashes of real potential, but wasn’t able to rapidly improve and was ultimately benched for Anthony Brown in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Iowa State. Oregon won the Pac-12 and ended the season with a 4-3 record.
Brown’s veteran status made him more appealing to Mario Cristobal and his staff and he was the team’s starter in 2021, which was his 5th season of college football. Ty Thompson first put on an Oregon uniform that year, and Brown had some Duck fans clamoring for an appearance from the 5-star freshman midway through the year as the offense sputtered.
2 years later, Ty Thompson is in the transfer portal. He will depart Oregon as the school’s highest-rated high school recruit at the position of all time, while having made zero career starts.
Welcome to Eugene, Dillon Gabriel. The former Oklahoma signal caller, previously at UCF, will be the Duck’s QB1 for their first game of 2024. That’s the world now whether you like it or not. He’s the second transfer QB to immediately, and permanently, surpass Thompson on the Oregon QB depth chart.
I’m rooting for that kid wherever he goes. How could you not?
He remained loyal to the school that he committed to amidst a coaching change AND a pair of seasons in which it was clear he would be a backup to Bo Nix. He worked to get better, too. When called upon for mop up duty last year, it was a tough watch and didn’t yield any results to make Oregon fans hopeful about his starting prospects. This year?
He ends the season 24-31 (77%), 297yds, 4 TDs, and 1 interception. In 2022, his final stats were 11-20 (55%), 72yds, 0 TDs and 2 INTs. He looked substantially improved and potentially poised to maximize his 5-star potential. But if you’re Dan Lanning and the Oregon staff, it’s hard to argue against their decision here.
Those numbers are undeniably better, and the eye test told Oregon fans the same thing about Ty Thompson. But can you make a decision based on snaps in games that were well out of reach? Even if Thompson is ready to start, there would be some growing pains. As Oregon goes to the Big 10, they probably feel they can’t afford to wait for those mistakes to be corrected–because they don’t have to.
In steps Dillon Gabriel, who unlike Thompson is a known commodity as a quarterback. He led Oklahoma to a 10-2 record this year, has played in big games, and threw for over 3600 yards with 30 touchdowns while completing almost 70% of his passes.
Oregon coaches and fans could hope that Thompson has a season like that in 2024, or they could go with a guy who they know for certain is capable of producing at that level.
If you’re reading this and feel bad for Ty Thompson as he seeks a new home, I’m right there along with you. I hope he goes somewhere (Oregon State/Washington State?) and is able to thrive. He’s done his waiting and worked to put himself in that position.
This has all the feelings of a “business decision” from Lanning and OC/QB Coach Will Stein. Those don’t always make fans feel right on the inside, but it doesn’t make them the wrong move for the ‘progrum’.
Let the (1 year) Dillon Gabriel era begin.
Spencer McLaughlin is an Oregon Ducks football contributor to 750 The Game. He also hosts the “Locked On Oregon Ducks” and “Locked On Pac-12” podcasts and has work featured throughout the season here.