After months of writing about the most well-known college football players and the NFL’s newest rookies, it was past time to get back to what initially drew me to writing about Devy. Finding the unknown guys. Several months ago, I jotted down a name so I wouldn’t forget it. Alex Thomson. Now that the Devy Watch and Rookie Report have been published, it was time to dig in. I don’t remember exactly how I came across Thomson in the first place, but I liked enough of what I saw to make a note to revisit him.
Thomson has gone from high school Wing T quarterback to budding star at Wagner to a graduate transfer quarterback who chose Marshall over the likes of Tennessee and Baylor. Orchestrating the Wing T offense at a high school in a New Jersey town with just 7,000 people hurt Thomson’s chances of being noticed. He participated in the camp circuit, but the offers never came. In the end, he walked on at Wagner College with the intention of being a quarterback but open to the idea of playing tight end if that’s what he was asked to do.
“In high school I would see guys that I was going to camp with and performing better than getting ranked or getting offers and I wasn’t getting anything, so it’s always been a driving force for my whole career to continue to elevate and be the best quarterback I can be,” Thomson said.
Standing 6’5″ tall and weighing 225 pounds, Thomson became one of the most desirable grad transfer quarterbacks on the market and now gets a chance to prove himself at the D1 level. A spot opened up at Marshall after Chase Litton, a three-year starter, decided to enter the 2018 NFL Draft.
Looking Back at Wagner
After walking on in 2014, Thomson tore his PCL and missed his entire true freshman season. Thomson appeared in 11 games as a redshirt freshman where he threw for 1,085 yards, eight touchdowns, and six interceptions. He was named the starter in 2016 and threw for 2,436 yards with a 16/5 touchdown to interception ratio on his way to being named team MVP. Thomson entered the 2017 season with high expectations only to miss nearly the entire season after suffering a shoulder injury in the second game.
Looking Ahead to Marshall
Thomson will enroll at Marshall after he graduates from Wagner this month. He will be eligible immediately and believes he will have two years of eligibility left. When he steps onto the football field for the first time, he will be surrounded by more talent than ever before. Marshall returns nine offensive starters from the 2017 team. Only QB Chase Litton and TE Ryan Yurachek moved on. After being sacked 65 times in 24 career games at Wagner, Thomson will get the opportunity to play behind an experienced offensive line. The Herd returns two 800-yard rushers who combined for 13 touchdowns. Thomson’s primary target will be Tyre Brady, an NFL-caliber receiver, who put together a 63/942/8 line in 2017. He’ll have plenty of other receiving weapons as well. Also returning are slot receiver Marcel Williams (41/512/2) and Willie Johnson (36/443/4).
Thomson will compete with RS FR Isaiah Green and RS SO Garet Morrell for the starting job. Both Green and Morrell are inexperienced as Litton was the only quarterback to throw a pass in 2017. At the completion of spring practice, it appears that Green, a former 3-star recruit, holds a slight lead over Morrell. In the spring scrimmage, Green completed four of five passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Morrell struggled. He was just three of eight passing with 36 yards and two interceptions.
While Green and Morrell went through spring practice, Thomson worked out with Phil Simms and made quite an impression. Simms believes Thomson won’t have any issues transitioning to D1.
“He can play at any level,” Simms said. “There’s no question. If things fall right [with his college situation], I definitely think he’s a pro prospect. I don’t even have to hesitate to say that.”
Simms isn’t the only person publicly backing Thomson. Rich Scangarello was Thomson’s former offensive coordinator at Wagner. He transitioned the offense from a spread veer to a more pro-friendly system. While Thomson is athletic and he must be respected when he leaves the pocket, he’s a dropback passer first and foremost.
Scangarello is currently coaching quarterbacks for the San Francisco 49ers. Like Simms, he knows what it takes to land a spot on an NFL roster. Also like Simms, Scangarello believes Thomson has the tools to play at any level.
“I think he’s an NFL quarterback,” Scangarello said. “I have no doubt about it. He’s athletic, smart and tough, and he’s just scratching the surface as a player. He’s as good as the back-up quarterbacks in the NFL right now. I really believe that. He’s legit.”
“If I was the offensive coordinator at Alabama, I’d want him to be my quarterback,” Scangarello said. “I’d take him anywhere. I’m going to draft the guy someday. He’s legit. He can play anywhere.”
No matter what happens at Marshall, it sounds like Thomson has a future camp try-out with the 49ers at a minimum.
As Marshall’s new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Tim Cramsey will be working closely with Thomson. Cramsey also came from the FCS level. He led Sam Houston State’s offense an FCS-best 538.1 yards per game, 43.3 points per game, and 362.7 passing yards per game, while still finding a way to rush for 175.4 yards per game in 2017. Cramsey’s offense asks his quarterback to play fast out of shotgun while mixing RPO and traditional dropback elements.
Thomson does several things that make him a good fit for Cramsey’s offensive scheme. We’ve already touched on his ability to make plays with his legs. Here’s another example, this one near the goal line:
From his time at Wagner, he’s shown that he is accurate when throwing on the run. He makes an effort to square his shoulders before throwing the ball. However, when the situation doesn’t allow for proper mechanics, he’s shown accuracy throwing off platform. As a dropback passer, he is quick to process what he sees from the defense. Here, Thomson starts his throwing motion the very second his TE gets inside leverage on the defender:
He’s shown that he can hold a safety with his eyes, and he’s not afraid to take fewer yards on a more comfortable throw when there’s nothing else available. He has a quick, compact release, and he can adjust his release point and remain accurate.
Despite completing only 55.3% of his passes, he throws with accuracy, anticipation, and decent ball placement. His wide receivers dropped several deep passes that would have boosted his yardage and touchdown numbers. Here he drops a dime 35 yards downfield. Thomson put the ball on the receiver’s facemask and the receiver never broke stride, but he still came up two yards short of a touchdown:
He stands tall in the pocket and doesn’t flinch under pressure:
His footwork needs work – something he has been working on with Phil Simms. Like most big quarterbacks with a talented arm, he relies on arm strength too often, mostly because he fails to set his base before throwing. Also, he tends to put too much air under his deep throws.
Nothing will be handed to Thomson, he’ll still have to beat out two other quarterbacks this fall to win the job at Marshall. However, if you ask Phil Simms or Rich Scangarello, he has the ability to win the job at Marshall and eventually play in the NFL. Now, add in an offensive scheme proven to produce points by the bunches in a conference not known for much defense, and this becomes a perfect storm for Alex Thomson to go from relatively unknown to someone who Devy owners, college fantasy football players, and draftniks need to take note of.