It’s a shame we won’t be able to see Ron Thompson in the Spring Game, because if coaches are smart he’ll be one of Syracuse’s biggest weapons this fall. The 6’4″, 256 lb. tight end is recovering from surgery to correct blood flow in his hip. Seems like a slightly concerning procedure for a 19-year old to need, but as long as he’s back on the field this summer, no harm, no foul.
Thompson had the surgery back in September, and the coaching staff knew he might not be ready for the spring. But the program always expected him to play this fall. That can only mean big things for the offense, and an immediate security blanket for the new quarterback.
Whoever takes over under center will be short on experience. Luckily, the Orange has a terrific backfield with Jerome Smith, PTG and George Morris. But the passing game will likely be a work in progress. New offensive coordinator George McDonald will be calling the plays for the first time in his career. He’ll be working with Scott Shafer for the first time in his career. The quarterback will be starting for the first time in his career. There are sure to be speed bumps.
But Thompson can solve a lot of problems. He’s a huge target, with soft hands and a large wingspan – reasons he was a 4-star recruit. Check out some highlights of him working a Midwest showcase. His leaping ability over smaller corners is almost a joke. They stand no chance. Look at his hands on one of the final plays, a touchdown he has to reach out and snag. Check out his burst off the line to shake free from the defender. He can be flat out scary. He’s the total package.
He also has the experience of sitting and watching a full season, while sticking his nose in the playbook. McDonald says:
“He’s in every meeting. He’s asking questions. His notebook is filled with all the meeting notes. He’s done a great job being locked in mentally and staying in tune with the offense. He’s taken not a lot of physical reps, but a lot of mental reps.”
Think of Nick Provo’s senior season in ’11 (TE school record for receptions and yards), and you begin to envision what Ron can do in this offense. Granted, the playcalling will look different. But Thompson can provide the same intermediary outlet.
Instead of asking the offensive line to block longer for yoing wideouts to get downfield, and a first-year starting QB find his deep ball accuracy, it makes more sense to design plenty of 10-15 yard pass patterns for Thompson.
It’s too bad the staff couldn’t start that process on the field Saturday. But if Shafer and co. can’t find him a regular spot in the attack, they’re making their own lives harder than they have to be.