Many Utah fans had no idea who former Wyoming transfer Jason Thompson was until Utah's 45-10 win over Colorado State in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl. He played quarterback and special teams during the game and showed off his versatility. His versatility is something Utah fans got to see on full display this spring. Thompson is listed as the co-starter at free safety.
Thompson hails from Renton, Wash.
"I wanted to be closer to family. I have a lot of family out here. My cousins played out here, so I already knew there was a family atmosphere," said Thompson.
Thompson has family connections to several Pac-12 programs, including Utah. His older brother Everrette, played defensive end at Washington. He is also cousins of former Utah running back's Matt Asiata (2007-10) and Shawn Asiata (2010-11).
Many Utah fans and players were not sad to see Christensen leave to be the offensive line coach at Texas A&M. Thompson, however had the longest relationship of any Utah player with the former OC and had some interesting thoughts on him.
"A lot of the guys they clashed with him just because they didn't understand his philosophy. I was with him for three years, so I understood where he was coming from and what he was trying to accomplish. I think that is really what it was. No one is used to an offensive coordinator switching out every year," said Thompson.
Thompson was a quarterback at Wyoming and was listed as a quarterback in his first season at Utah. Now that he is eligible to play this season, after having to sit out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, he is getting all of his reps at safety. Switching from offense to defense can be quite a challenge for some players. The transition, however, has not been difficult for Thompson. His background as a safety in high school has likely helped. He has moved up to co-first team free safety with sophomore Marcus Williams.
"I've adjusted well [to safety]. I feel like the coaches and all the guys in the room have been helping me out. I have just been getting better every day," said Thompson. "The biggest difference [between quarterback and safety] is all that running. Just staying conditioned and being able to run up and down the field."
Steady improvement will be key to getting Thompson game ready. To that point, he spoke highly of how his position coach, Morgan Scalley, has helped him transition back to safety.
"He is just helping out with technique. All the little things to do help your body adjust, like stretches, working your core a lot more, and a lot of footwork to help you out as a safety, and staying on the balls of your feet."
Many Utah fans were shocked when former defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake and defensive line coach Ilaisa
"He is a great coach. I feel like we haven't missed a beat since Kalani and Tuiaki [left for Oregon State]. I feel like everything they brought to the table, he brings the same fire, mentality, so it's not really anything different."
The Utah defense has clearly been playing with a ton of energy and passion. They are not afraid to lay hard hits on their offensive teammate. The defense as a whole just has a lot of swagger. Pease's fire is likely a big key to that, which should only help the defense when Michigan comes to town to start the 2015 season.
Thompson clearly loves the game of football and has a team first attitude. The former quarterback has the versatility and mentality to get on the field and help his team in any way the team needs him, and he does not care what position he has to play to do that, even if it is just holding the water bottles.
"I just want to help out any way I can. Like I said before if they want me to hold the water, play receiver, running back, kicker, long snapper, it doesn't matter. I just want to be on the field with my team," said Thompson.
While it seems unlikely he will supplant All-Pac-12 kicker Andy Phillips, he does possess good genes for a Utah running back if the coaches were to call on him to take a few hand offs behind All-Pac-12 running back Devontae Booker. If Thompson sees action at a position other than safety this season, it will because he wants to do everything possible to help the team win.