Kendal Thompson is already setting the bar extremely high for next season, when he expects to become Utah’s starting quarterback under newly hired offensive coordinator Dave Christensen.
“The right quarterback and a new coordinator can take a team a long way,” the former OU quarterback said in an interview with The Oklahoman. “You look at Auburn and what they did this year. They didn’t win a single SEC game last year, and you get Gus Malzahn and Nick Marshall in there, and they’re in the national championship game.”
Thompson, who will graduate from OU in May with two seasons of eligibility remaining, visited Utah two weeks ago and committed this week. He said graduate school application deadlines and a desire to begin learning his new offensive system forced him to make the decision faster than he’d originally planned.
Louisville and Vanderbilt were his other favorite schools, and both wanted him to come visit.
Thompson, the son of former OU quarterback Charles Thompson, said the decision to transfer from Oklahoma became pretty clear after the Sugar Bowl, when redshirt freshman Trevor Knight was spectacular in leading the Sooners to a 45-31 upset of Alabama.
Senior-to-be Blake Bell, who started eight games for the Sooners in 2013, decided to change positions to tight end rather than transfer, but Thompson said that was never an option for him.
“I’m a quarterback, and that’s it,” he said, adding that Bell’s decision actually made his more difficult, because he would’ve gone into next season as the clear No. 2 quarterback.
Instead, the former Southmoore standout decided to get a fresh start elsewhere under Christensen, who was previously Wyoming’s head coach and before that, was Missouri’s offensive coordinator, leading prolific attacks with dual-threat quarterbacks like Brad Smith and Chase Daniel.
Travis Wilson, Utah’s starting quarterback last year, has been cleared for non-contact participation after missing the last three games of last season with a intracranial artery injury.
Charles Thompson said, though, that his son has been told that “once he gets off the plane in June, he will come in at least sharing first-team reps, and will be given every opportunity to be the guy from Day 1.”
An intense position battle won’t be anything new for Kendal Thompson, who was in the thick of the Sooners’ quarterback derby through last spring until breaking his foot on the first day of fall camp.
Knight was named the starter initially, but Bell took over after two games. Thompson played late in the Sooners’ Nov. 16 rout of Iowa State, and started the second half of Bedlam after Knight was injured. He threw an interception on the first play from scrimmage and was eventually replaced by Bell in that game.
“I didn’t wanna go to a school where they were gonna just hand me the job, because that means the level of talent there isn’t really up to par,” Thompson said. “I’m a competitive guy. I’ve been through a battle before — one that I think I was doing pretty well in — so I know what it takes and I know what I have to do to win that battle.
“Just hopefully this time — I don’t wanna jinx myself — but hopefully I don’t break my foot the first day of camp.”