By SPENCER McLAUGHLIN
Contributor, 750 The Game
Welcome back to the offseason news cycle! I know that Oregon still has one game left in its 2023 season against Liberty in the Fiesta Bowl. But that game is not what’s at the top of Oregon fans’ minds as we inch closer to Christmas. Several Duck players have already put their names into the transfer portal, and they won’t be the last ones.
There have been some familiar names who announced they’ll be leaving Oregon this offseason, among them CB Trikweze Bridges and WR Kris Hutson. I suspect there will be a surprise name or two that decide to seek out a new home, that always seems to be the case in this new era of college football. Last year’s biggest surprise was, arguably, former 4-star LB Keith Brown, an in-state recruit who appeared poised for increased playing time left in the spring. Meanwhile, the Ducks’ linebackers had a good year, headlined by Jeffrey Bassa garnering All-Conference 2nd team honors.
Dan Lanning and his staff know what they’re doing in the portal.
Their track record is not a perfect 100% for bringing in high impact players, but nobody’s is. Over the last two seasons, Oregon has brought in a bevy of transfers who have been major contributors for the Ducks. They’ve done so at a variety of positions ranging from QB to DB and seemingly everything in between.
The name at the top of everyone’s mind surrounding the “progrum” in Eugene is Oklahoma QB Dillon Gabriel. The one-time UCF Knight will, barring an injury, break Bo Nix’s record for career starts by a quarterback in college football next year. He has not yet committed to the Ducks, though several signs seem to be pointing in that direction.
The transfer portal has minimized the impact of high school recruiting, particularly at the quarterback position. Yes, recruiting good players still matters because they’ll make up the lions share of a team’s roster. The “old school” way of finding impact players still works to build a competitive roster, it’s just not always as efficient. With so many quarterbacks available and ready to make an impact, the incentive to develop a younger player and endure growing pains is greatly reduced.
Ty Thompson committed to the Ducks back in 2021 under Mario Cristobal, and was a headline recruit of the highest-rated class in Oregon history. Bo Nix came in just after Dan Lanning did in December of that same year, and quickly demonstrated why. He played at a Heisman level for two seasons with Thompson waiting for his shot.
Despite his obvious improvement based on what we’ve seen from Thompson on the field, that shot may never materialize.
For some Oregon fans, that might not sit quite right with them. And I understand it from both ways. If you’re Dan Lanning, why would you plan to potentially peak with an elite quarterback in 2025 when the rest of the country is all in on 2024?
Ty Thompson has looked MUCH better than he did in 2022 and showed real glimpses of having starting QB potential when he took the field this year. But Lanning and the rest of his staff see far more from him than we do, and they’re going to do what’s in the Ducks’ best interests to compete in 2024. That’s the way this works now. If you’re not a rebuilding program, which Oregon isn’t, there isn’t much logic in operating on a QB timeline that might not line up with your team’s.
We will see what happens, I hope Thompson gets a shot to start somewhere one day be it at Oregon or somewhere else. Whether or not he’s on Oregon’s roster in 2024 will likely depend on the next few weeks.
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.