Spread Style Quarterback is ready for any Type of Offense in College

By EFN Staff
Published: 02/26/2015

Not all college quarterbacks are the same. Some take charge under center by God given physical abilities, others have a keen grasp of the mental part of the game understanding all the X’s and O’s, while others have a mix of athleticism and high-IQ. No combination of key attributes that lead to productivity on the gridiron at the quarterback position is a direct correlation to being a leader on and off the field. Some young men are born with character and the ability to lead while others learn the skill by trial and error over time.

At Fort Osage High School in Independence, Missouri a myriad of talents all wrapped up into one has come forth wearing jersey No. 7 under center for the Indians, Skylar Thompson. The Class of 2016 signal caller has that rare mix of athleticism, football IQ, and dares to be a leader to his teammates on and off the field.

The Indians started the 2014 season expecting to challenge for a state championship in Class 5A; in Missouri the highest classification is 6A. At the helm of the preseason No. 3 ranked team in the state was Thompson. One of the reasons the Indians came into the season with high expectations was their dual-threat quarterback. As a sophomore he passed for 1,451 yards with 19 touchdowns against just four interceptions. He also added 296 yards rushing with another nine scores.

Fort Osage head coach Ryan Schartz runs a spread offense but within that offense is a balanced attack. His rising star quarterback threw for 2,390 yards with 24 touchdowns against six picks in 2014 but the running attack was still dominating picking up 2,425 yards. Thompson added 480 yards with 10 more touchdowns to the tally.

In 2014 Thompson guided the Indians through a challenging regular season schedule going 9-0. In the third round of the playoffs a last second missed field goal stopped Fort Osage from advancing falling to Park Hill 21-20.

With all of media attention (First-Team All-State, First Team All-Conference, First-Team All-District, and All-Area Offensive Player of the Year) Thompson could have shunned the underclassman field goal kicker for missing what was roughly a 14-yard field goal attempt that would have won the game keeping the undefeated season going. Instead of laying blame or adding to the young man’s misery he arranged for a dinner with his kicker, accompanied by a couple other teammates to show support and rally around his kicker facing a heavy burden. This is the very definition of a leader.

Thompson sat down for a one-on-one interview recounting the 2014 season, covered offseason workouts, recruiting, and preparing for another run at a Missouri state championship in 2015.

Skylar, the Indians had a great season finishing 11-1. Walk us through how the 2014 season went for Fort Osage.

“Going into the season we were ranked third in the state overall, No. 2 in Class 5A. We were projected to be pretty good out of the gate. We played three non-conference games and then seven straight conference games. In the first three games we started off playing a team (Raytown South) a class below us, we beat by them by I think three touchdowns (51-26).

“Then we played two 6A teams, Blue Springs (35-21) in Week 2 and Lee Summit in Week 3. Lee Summit had Missouri commitment Drew Lock at quarterback. I think we were up 31-7 at halftime. In the second half we kind of struggled. We tried to run the ball to run some clock. They made a late run and got a trick play for a touchdown making the final score close (31-28).

“When we played Blue Springs (Wildcats) I think they were ranked 24th or 25th in the nation. They had two defensive linemen committed to Nebraska (Carlos and Khalil Davis). They had won back-to-back state championships. We were not expected to win even though we were No. 1 in the state at that time. We beat them by two TDs I think, 35-21 something like that.

“The start of the year was a big lift for us. We knew going into the season that our schedule was going to be a gauntlet. We won conference for second straight year. We topped Staley High School in Week 5, I think they were third or fourth in the state, ranked pretty high. That was a big game for us. That’s our rivalry game. The game is always a bloodbath, always a really good game. I think we were down four with two minutes to go. I got the ball back with 80 yards to go. On a 3rd and 10, I just got sacked the play before, we need a big play. I dropped back, pressure came, and I got hit but threw an 80-yard post route to win the game.

“Against Liberty North, we beat them 17-10. They had the No. 1 defense in Class 5A. We knew that would be a big challenge going into that game. It was raining. We were up 17-10. They had the ball driving on us with about 2:30 left but our D got a pick to get the win.

“We were 10-0 going into the postseason. We got a bye in the first round. We won our second round game against Raytown (44-12). In the third round game against Winnetonka, they had RB/DB Marquise Doherty (Missouri 2015 signee) and a lot of athletes. They did something totally different on defense. We were down 26-7 at halftime. They completed a double reverse pass before half for a touchdown. We came out flat. We knew we were going to need a big second half if we wanted to win.

“In the second half we scored 28-unaswered points to win the game. That was a big win for us. Throughout the season we were only down one other time, by four points, but never by multiple scores. The win said a lot about us. We buckled down and won the game as a team. That game won us a district championship.

“In the quarter finals against Park Hill, they were also undefeated, we were up 20-7, or something like that at halftime. They came out in the second half, scored twice. We were down by one at the end of the game. We didn’t score in the second half. We had the ball inside the 10 yard line twice but had penalties that took us out of the red zone. One time we ended up with a 3rd and 40. We shot ourselves in the foot in that game.

“At the end of the game we were down with 75 yards to go. We converted on fourth down twice to keep the drive alive. On one play I scrambled for a first down and on another I completed a pass for a first. We were going into the end zone with a 1:20 left. We got down inside the 10 yard line but a block in the back by one of our receivers pushed us back.

“On 4th and 1 our kicker attempted a 14-yard field goal. If we hit it we win. Our kicker missed unfortunately. We felt we did everything possible to win the game but for whatever reason it wasn’t meant to happen. We finished the season ranked third in the state. It was a successful season for sure. We were favored to win the state championship. We felt empty handed, we felt like we should have done more.”

Keeping the field goal kicker’s name out of it, what was the fallout after he missed the field goal?

“After the game the opposing team started tweeting about him, saying some way-way uncalled for things. Our whole team felt for our kicker. He was a sophomore. He was on point all year. For whatever reason it just didn’t happen for him against Park Hill. As a team we felt bad but we really felt for him.

“After the game I shot him a text and then took him out to eat dinner. Together with one of the O-linemen and one of the D-backs, we just sat there and talked. We didn’t even talk about the game. We’re going to have him back next year and wanted him to know we supported him.

“Just a couple of days ago I saw him on a Sunday night he was kicking field goals by himself. I went up to the school to throw with one of my receivers and saw someone was kicking field goals. We got up there at it was him. Shows how much heart he has and how he felt about the game.”

How does Fort Osage look heading into next season?

“We’ll be just fine. We lost Willie Penamon (WR) and Jesse Mcbee (RB/WR) but we have a really diverse offense. We don’t have a go to receiver per say. Everyone’s stats are pretty similar. Losing both of them is going to be big but we’ll have kids that will step up.

“We have a kid, Isaiah Iloilo, who was hurt throughout the first part of the season. He played running back when Jesse got hurt. He played as a freshman and he’s 6’2”, 225 pounds. He’s a bowling ball. It takes more than one guy to get him down. We lost two o-linemen. We’re trying to get an idea who will fill those positions.

“We have a great coaching staff. They work really well with the guys on the team. I think our main focus on defense is at linebacker. We had a lot of linebackers graduate.”

What are your strengths on the field at quarterback?

“My first strength is when things break down and I’m getting blitzed I can still make plays happen. I’m good at escaping and getting some positive yards out of it somehow. My accuracy is strength. Up to 30 yards I’m very accurate. My long ball – I’m really good with that too. I don’t have that gun for an arm. I can throw the ball 50-55 yards but beyond that I’m just chucking it.

“I’m a pretty good leader and a big competitor. I hate losing. Since I was a little kid I hated losing. I’ll do everything I can do in a football game to win a game for my teammates. I want to be that guy on the field the other kids look to and the guy that can make something happen.”

What are your goals for the 2015 football season?

“My main goal is to get my team to a state championship and win it. That’s been a childhood dream of mine. I’ve always wanted to win a state championship. Beyond that I really just want to improve in every aspect of the game that I can. There is always something you can do better. I want to improve with my reads, getting through them quicker. I can throw it wherever I want to but I want to be better under pressure picking up reads pre-snap into post-snap. The list goes on and on – there are always things I can do better.”

You have an offer from Kansas and teams like Arkansas, Iowa State, Missouri, Nebraska, Northwestern, Wake Forest, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State are all showing heavy interest. When the different college coaches talk to you about your game what are they telling you they like about your skill set?

“They all say they like my footwork, my athleticism, and how I make things happen after a play breaks down. They like my arm strength. I don’t have a weak arm but I’m not the guy that’s going to chunk it 50 yards down the field every time.

“KU was impressed with how I ran the ball, my vision, and my use of my shoulder pads when I run the ball.”

Do you have an early favorite?

“In no order Wake Forest, Kansas, Arkansas, Kansas State, and Missouri are my early favorites. KU and Wake are the two schools I talk to the most. I’m interested in Oklahoma State and Arkansas. I’m visiting both schools in the next couple of weeks.

“Really all the schools that have contacted me I am interested in. I’ve looked into the school’s background at quarterback and trying to see how quickly I can get on the field with the different teams. I’ve done a lot of research on each school taking the process very serious.”

A lot of the schools showing interest in you run a pro-style offense. Fort Osage runs a spread. Have any of the college coaches expressed concern about you being able to take snaps under center and being able to do 3, 5, and 7-step drops while reading coverage?

“No one has asked yet. I work with a quarterback coach, Skip Pistol, three times a month. We know that my high school snaps are all shotgun. I know colleges want to see me capable of other things. We work on 3, 5, and 7-step drops. We do our best to work on that kind of stuff. If I need to show the coaches that I can take snaps from under center I will.”

What will influence which college you’ll ultimately pick come National Signing Day 2016?

“The main thing I’ll look at is academics. The next thing that is really important to me is am I going to feel like I’m at home on campus. Do I look forward to going to class and playing football? I feel like if I’m okay with that I’ll enjoy my time there. Another thing that is important is how the people treat me and how they treat each other.

“Education, how good it is? I have not decided what I want to major in. With football I really want to go to a place where I’ll have a good chance to play by my sophomore year, or freshman year. I want to have an opportunity to push for that job. I don’t want to sit for three years and only play during my senior year. I’m a big competitor. When I get in that situation I’m going to work my butt off to win the starting role and try to challenge for the No. 2 spot from the start if I can.

“Another factor is the coaching staff. What type of guys are they? Are they easy to get along with? Will I look forward to spending all my time with these guys? Will those guys look at me as a son figure? Will they do a lot of things for me to help improve? Will they give me a fair opportunity to compete? Will they put me in a position to succeed? Will they be truly honest with me? Will they give me feedback so I can work on what I need to work on to get on the field?”

Are there any schools out there that have not been in contact with you but you are interested in talking to the coaches? Any spread attack offenses that already line up with the offense you run in high school?

“Growing up I did not have a favorite school. My whole life I’ve followed the players not so much the teams. There are a lot of good schools and football programs out there. Some off the schools off the top of my head – UCLA would be a big college. I think I’d fit their system well. Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and West Virginia are some other schools. I could keep listing schools because there are so many great ones out there.”

Did you attend any college camps in 2014?

“Yes, I went to Missouri, Nebraska, and Arkansas.”

Do you have any plans to attend college camps this summer?

“I will decide more on that when it gets down to May. I’ll make that decision once I know which schools I’d like to target, which schools have or have not offered, or schools that want to see me. I’ll schedule that stuff later.”

On top of all your other post season honors you were also a finalist for the Simone? What is that?

“It’s like a Kansas City Heisman Award. They picked four finalists for it. I was the only junior that was a finalist. Drew Lock, the QB going to Missouri, won it.”

Are there any NFL players you enjoy watching play the game and maybe pick up a thing or two about the position while watching them work?

“My all-time favorite NFL quarterback is Drew Brees. I look up to him a lot. We have two different play styles but he’s not the tallest guy in the world. Everybody gives him grief because he’s not tall or maybe he doesn’t have the strongest arm but how he competes and how he gets his teammates fired up impresses me. He puts his team in a position to win.

“I like Tom Brady as well. Same thing, he gets fired up and enjoys playing football. You can see his passion on the field. Watching guys play, you just naturally pick stuff up. Scrambling wise people compare me to how Johnny Manziel played in college. I’ll watch any quarterback play. I’ll watch how any QB does things and how good he is at different aspects of the game. I just love football.”

Do you play any other varsity sports?

“I played basketball my whole life until this year. Basketball was my main love when I was younger. But I got to the point where I saw the bigger picture, and its football. I wanted to focus on football this offseason to get bigger and improve. My whole family is a basketball family. I’m the first in family to play football. I started begging to play football in third grade.”

Now that you have more time in the offseason, what are some of the things you are doing to improve your football skill set?

“Since I’m not playing basketball I have more time on my hands. Before I played on a AAU team that traveled all over the place in the summer. I was booked every weekend. My dad and I sat down to see where I needed to improve in football. At the end of the season I dropped weight to 180. Now I’m working on gaining weight without losing quickness and speed.

“I met with Coach (Jeff) Hammer in St. Louis. He designed a nutrition plan that I’ve been following, a workout plan too. I do a lot of light weight at high reps. I don’t want to mess up my throwing motion. I’ve gained 10-13 pounds. I’m currently 6’2”, weighing 193 pounds. My goal is to get to 200 pounds by the start of the season.

“I also workout with a quarterback coach three times a month. We work on everything. One of the main things we are working on is getting more velocity on my passes. When I work with Coach Schartz we work once a week on watching film. We’re breaking down film of teams we’ll play next season so going into next year we’ll have a better idea about the different teams we’re facing. Then we throw for an hour, all the quarterbacks and wide receivers together.

“I’m going to the Rivals Quarterback Challenge in Dallas on March 13 and to the Elite 11 May 3. I’m preparing to do some of the SPARQ combine testing. I’m doing 40-yard dash preparation, working on the shuttle drill and all of that kind of stuff.”

What is your 40-yard dash time now?

“Last time I ran a 4.56.”

Who has made the biggest impact on your football career?

“Two people my dad and my head coach, Coach (Ryan) Schartz. Coach Schartz has helped me a lot. I’ve known him every since I was in third grade. I was the team ball boy then. Coach Schartz and I have a father son kind of relationship. He’ll tell me when I’m wrong and get in my butt if I’m doing something wrong. He’s always the first guy to put me in my place. He’s impacted me a lot and he’s taught me a lot about the game. My dad and I are really close. He’s had a big impact. He’s taken me to every single camp, helping me get out there and helping me improve.”

What is your favorite part of playing football?

“I would say the competition. You have a team that wants to beat you and you want to beat them. I’ve always been the type of kid that loves to win. No better feeling than winning. I love preparing for the game. I love everything. I love throwing a touchdown. I love seeing a running back score and I love seeing an offensive lineman get a pancake block. I love how it works. I love seeing how preparation meets execution.”

Talking to Skylar you get the idea that if there is a problem, and if he knows the construct of the situation, he will methodically work away until he solves the problem. Watching him play you can tell he has a great grasp for the playbook. He routinely makes something out of nothing but on one play in particular he showed the complete dual-threat package. He escapes a 10-15 yard sack in the middle of the field by scrambling away with his back to his receivers. At the last second he turns, fires, and finds a wide open receiver 10-15 yards past the line of scrimmage along the right sideline.

He showed elusiveness and speed, his knowledge of the playbook knowing where his receivers would be, and the arm he has to throw what was more than likely a 40-yard pass off his back heel.

Whichever school wins the Skylar Thompson LOI sweepstakes come National Signing Day 2016 they will be getting that rare player that exhibits true passion for the game along with a drive and determination that boils from within to not only improve but to win. Or in a condensed version, a complete package under center.

Photo credit: Independence Examiner; No. 7 Skylar Thompson
Photo credit: Kansas City Star; No. 7 Skylar Thompson