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Skylar Thompson: It’s the Little Things that Kill

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With Skylar hobbled, taking away a huge part of his game, how effective was he against OU?

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

I won’t lie, I was skeptical about Skylar returning for the Oklahoma game. Mobility is a huge part of his game. My thought was that if he isn’t mobile, he’s not going to be the Skylar Thompson we know. I’m happy to report that while he wasn’t the Skylar Thompson we’ve come to know over the last decade, he’s still pretty dang good, even if he only has one leg.

Skylar’s mastery of the mundane separates him from the pack, and it’s why I think he’ll have a shot at making a team at the next level. He does the little things well, and that’s important for a quarterback.

Take a look

Pre-Snap

K-State

The Wildcat’s empty out the backfield on 3rd and 3. If this were Howard or Lewis, there is no way Messingham attempts this otherwise simple route. This is either Deuce up the middle or a quarterback run. Instead, you essentially get a five WR look, because Vaughn would be a stud slot receiver if he wasn’t a super human running back. With a healthy Thompson, the quarterback run is in play, but with peg leg Skylar, everyone on the Oklahoma defense knows he is going to throw the ball.

Oklahoma

I’m going to guess the Sooners weren’t expecting much five wide from the Wildcats, and are stuck in a less than ideal defense. They’re in a 3-3-5, with the boundary linebacker lined up as a stand up defensive end. Oklahoma doesn’t want to play cover-0 and get burned deep, meaning they’re going to drop a safety deep. That leaves four defensive backs to cover five receivers.

Skylar knows from this defensive alignment, that he’s got man coverage, with cornerbacks on his wide receivers. That leaves the tight end lined up in the slot, and Deuce to cover. It’s a safe bet that the field linebacker is going to pick up the tight end, leaving Deuce (green circle) to either the middle linebacker (yellow square) or the boundary safety (green circle). Malik (blue triangle) is dealing with press man coverage on the boundary.

K-State will take Deuce lined up against a linebacker or safety any day of the week.

Post Snap

K-State

Skylar is reading the linebacker. It’s also possible that Deuce is reading the linebacker (not sure how Messingham runs this concept). Either way, the linebacker peels immediately to play a middle zone.

Skylar knows he’s got the match-up he wants for the easy first down. This is a footrace between the boundary safety (green circle) and Deuce (green circle) to the sticks. The only hinderance to this plan is the press man (blue triangle) on the outside. He’s got to wait for Knowles to clear out the corner, before he can throw the quick out.

Oklahoma

The Sooners don’t want their linebacker on Vaughn. They tried that last year, and were punished. They also don’t want their safety up at the line trying to cover Deuce, because he’s impossible to jam, and will cook the safety deep if he gets a step.

Oklahoma is willing to see if Skylar can execute the quick out for a first down with a safety closing hard.

Wait For It

K-State

Thompson isn’t hiding the fact that he’s waiting for Deuce. He doesn’t need to look anyone off. What he does need to do is show some patience. The Oklahoma defensive back is jamming (some might say holding) Malik (blue triangle) on the boundary. He has to wait from this route to clear in order to hit Deuce (green circle) on the quick out. At the same time, he can’t wait too long, because the Oklahoma safety (green circle) is in a dead sprint to the sticks.

This route requires a patience, and patience requires protection. The O-line has formed a purple wall in front of their one-legged QB. Any QB in the nation would sign up for this level of pass protection.

Oklahoma

There are two things they can do to stop the completion to Deuce.

  1. Make Thompson throw early with pressure.
  2. Hold up Knowles long enough for the safety to get over and blow up the play.

The pressure isn’t making any progress. It’s up to the outside corner to slow (some may say hold) to keep Knowles from clearing him out and opening up the out route route.

Clear for Launch

Kansas State

Malik has pushed the corner far enough down the field for Deuce (green circle yet again) to run the out. Check out the depth on the route. It gives Skylar enough room to throw the ball low and outside without giving up the first down. Another small, but crucial detail. I’ve seen this route cut a yard short by receivers too many times to count. It results in a completion, a 4th down, and a punt.

There’s a little leakage on the right side of the line, but Thompson still has room to step up and throw the ball. Good job by the line.

Oklahoma

With the sideline clear, all that’s left is a race between the safety and the ball.

First Down

Kansas State

This is perfect placement on the throw. It’s low and outside, allowing Vaughn to make the catch without having to worry about the safety taking his head off. This another little thing that Skylar brings to the game. This play could be run to perfection, but if the quarterback puts it on the numbers and stops Vaughn, it’s going to result in an incompletion because the safety is closing with bad intentions. Its seems like a little thing, but the throw leads the receiver out of trouble. That’s something that was missing over the last few weeks, and one of the reasons I think the receivers struggled.

Oklahoma

The Sooners gave K-State this play, and the Wildcats were able to execute. The defense was fine, but you can’t cover everything, and with Thompson at quarterback, he’s going to find the thing you’re not covering.

Overall

Football is a precision game at this level. Everyone has to be on the same page, and everyone has to execute. This is a perfect example of how complicated a seemingly easy throw is in college football. If Skylar throws it too soon, he risks the boundary corner coming off Malik and making a play, or Deuce catching the ball short of the first down. Throw it too late, to the inside, or on the receivers numbers, and the safety murders my favorite college football player.

This is what was missing from the passing game over the last two and a half games, and it’s why I’m optimistic about Skylar’s ability to hang up enough points to beat Iowa State.