With Keytaon Thompson, we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Keytaon Thompson (99) is hoisted after his touchdown grab against Clemson (Photo: ACC Media Services).

In only two games, we’ve seen Keytaon Thompson throw the ball to quarterback Brennan Armstrong and catch a touchdown pass from Armstrong. What’s next? 

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound junior transfer from Mississippi State came to Virginia this summer as a quarterback from the Bulldogs’ multiple offense. When Mike Leach showed up as MSU’s new coach and brought a gun-slinging quarterback from Stanford with him, the writing was on the wall for Thompson.

He was stuck, being a dual-threat quarterback who could beat you with both his legs and his arm. Didn’t quite fit into Leach’s famed “Air Raid” offense.

Thompson gave Armstrong a run for his money in fall training camp, but in the end, Armstrong’s command of the offense from having been Bryce Perkins’ backup the previous two years won him the starting job.

Still, offensive coordinator Robert Anae said it wouldn’t be smart keeping a talent like Thompson standing beside him on the sidelines holding a clipboard. Afterall, Thompson did some pretty cool things at Mississippi State during his career, including scoring on three touchdowns runs to lead the Bulldogs past Louisville and Lamar Jackson in the Taxslayer (Gator) Bowl. He rushed for 147 yards on 27 carries and passed for another 127 yards in that game, the first start of his career.

So in the opener versus Duke, Anae called for a throw from Thompson to Armstrong, who ran a fly route down the sideline. It was incomplete, but made Duke’s secondary think.

Down in Death Valley this past Saturday, Thompson was spotted open in the end zone by Armstrong for a 3-yard touchdown late in the third quarter as the Cavaliers hung with No. 1 Clemson before bowing, 41-23.

Virginia Offensive Coordinator Robert Anae takes questions after Wednesday morning’s practice.

Anae has liked what he has seen from Thompson, who remains backup quarterback to Armstrong, but who can also line up as a receiver, or possibly a running back.

“He’s big, fast, physical,” Anae said. “We’re still starting down that road (as a wide receiver). He’s only been in for a little while. I will say his mindset has been firm and his play has been steady.”

Anae said that Thompson works hard and trains well on the field, but the OC likes what he sees off the field as well.

“The biggest thing I’m excited for is he’s working on his master’s degree,” Anae said. “You know, if we get young men in our program, their development off the field is every bit as important to me as their development on the field.”

Thompson (who wears No. 99 and is somewhat conspicuous doing so) and his offensive colleagues have been prepping all week to face NC State’s multiple defense. The Wolfpack are playing a 4-2-5 stack defense, and sometimes a 3-3-5.

“Every week, the beauty of college football is everything from week to week is unique,” Anae said. “So how fast can our guys grasp the (State) defense? How well can they understand what’s going on as they’re doing their stuff? All of that is [on display]. So yeah, we’ve got a monumental task this week, but nothing changes. If we can block and secure the football, those kind of things eventually produce real good outcomes.”

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