University of Virginia head football coach Bronco Mendenhall acknowledged earlier this spring that the coaches were in search of a graduate transfer quarterback. Mendenhall has followed through on those plans, announcing the signing of former Mississippi State dual-threat signal caller Keytaon Thompson.
The 6’4”, 225-pound Thompson, a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, plans to enroll on Grounds this summer. As a graduate transfer he’ll be eligible immediately, and he has two years of eligibility remaining.
In addition to the official announcement from UVA, Thompson commented on his decision via Twitter, writing: “First off, I would like to thank God for guiding me during this process and all the blessings and opportunities he continues to give me in life. Through the ups and downs, he has always kept me grounded. Thank you to my family and friends for sticking with me during this journey and ALWAYS believing in me. Thank you to the Hail State family for embracing me for the past 3 years, I will forever my time in Starkville, MS. To my teammates and brothers at MSU, I’ll never forget the memories we made on and off the field. I’ll see y’all on top!”
“With that being said, I would like to announce that I’ll be pursuing my master’s degree and finishing my two years of eligibility at the University of Virginia! Thank you to Coach Mendenhall and the rest of the UVA staff for believing in me and giving me this opportunity! I’m so excited to get down to Charlottesville and get to work! It’s going to be an exciting year! #Gohoos”
— KT 🏧🤙🏽 (@Thompson_Kt5) May 1, 2020
A happy Bronco Mendenhall released this video via Twitter to discuss the newest addition to his program. Mendenhall described Thompson as “big, physical, fast, dynamic, an exceptional athlete.”
“Welcome. So glad you’re with us,” Mendenhall added.
Thompson responded to Mendenhall’s video message, tweeting: “So excited for this opportunity, cannot wait to get to work.”
Indeed, Virginia represents a fresh opportunity for Thompson, who arrived at Mississippi State in December of 2017 as one of the most acclaimed quarterback prospects in his class. As a senior at Landry-Walker High School, Thompson totaled 3,825 yards passing, 1,434 yards rushing, and 72 touchdowns (46 pass, 26 rush). He capped off his outstanding prep career with 457 yards of offense and six touchdowns while leading his school to its first ever football state championship.
Thompson was a consensus 4-star prospect in the 2017 Class, rated by 247Sports (No. 3) and Rivals (No. 4) as one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation. Rivals had the Bayou State star as the no. 85 overall prospect in the nation in 2017.
Thompson verbally committed to Mississippi State in December of 2015, when Dan Mullen was head coach of the Bulldogs. He signed in December of 2016 and enrolled in January of 2017. Under Mullen, Thompson played in eight games as a true freshman, totaling 388 yards passing (48.5% completion, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) and 446 yards rushing (5.9 YPC, 6 TDs) as starter Nick Fitzgerald’s primary backup. He played most of MSU’s regular season finale in place of an injured Fitzgerald and nearly rallied the Bulldogs from an 18-point fourth-quarter deficit. Thompson had 195 yards passing, a touchdown and an interception, as well as 126 yards rushing and a touchdown in the 31-28 loss.
The highlight of Thompson’s true freshman campaign was the 2017 Tax Slayer Bowl,
the first start of his collegiate career. He compiled 274 yards of offense (147 rush, 127 pass) and three rushing touchdowns in Mississippi State’s 31-27 win over Lamar Jackson-led Louisville.
In November of 2017, Mullen was hired by Florida. The Bulldogs named Joe Moorehead as their new head coach. Thompson remained in Starkville, serving as Fitzgerald’s backup in 2018. He played in six games and totaled 458 yards passing, 226 yards rushing, and 10 touchdowns (6 pass, 4 rush). Most of those stats came in a season-opening win over Stephen F Austin, when in a starting role Thompson completed 13-of-31 passes for 364 yards and five touchdowns. He added 109 yards rushing and two scores.
Penn State graduate transfer Tommy Stevens was named MSU’s starting quarterback last preseason. Thompson entered the transfer portal one day after the announcement was made, but he quickly changing his mind and returned to the team in September. He wound up redshirting in 2019, accounting only for one catch for nine yards against Ole Miss.
Thompson becomes Virginia’s fourth scholarship quarterback in 2020, joining rising redshirt junior Lindell Stone, rising redshirt sophomore Brennan Armstrong, and true freshman Ira Armstead. The starting job will almost certainly come down to Thompson and Armstrong, who enrolled on Grounds as a true freshman in January of 2018 and served as Bryce Perkins’ primary backup the past two seasons.
“To win the Coastal Division and the ACC Championship, two quarterbacks are always necessary, not just one, so in addition to Brennan Armstrong that we already love, we get the chance to now welcome Keytaon Thompson to our program,” Mendenhall said. “That just increases our chances to have the season we’re all hoping for.”
Thompson graduates from Mississippi State with a degree in Kinesiology. He’ll be the sixth Louisiana native on Virginia’s roster next season, joining sophomore running back Mike Hollins, sophomore wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks, true freshman outside linebackers Jonathan Horton and Brandon Williams, and true freshman defensive back Donovan Johnson.
Even with Armstrong coming back, Virginia had a major need at quarterback for next season. Stone could serve as a serviceable backup but has not played much in three seasons, and true freshman Ira Armstead needs development. The addition of a player like Thompson is a homerun. He has major college experience, the skillset Mendenhall covets, and he’s certainly motivated to make his mark in college after an outstanding high school career. Passing is a question mark – in his freshman and sophomore seasons in Starkville, he completed less than 50% of his passes – but he has a good arm and has produced really good numbers in the rushing game. He’s a big, physical, highly capable runner at quarterback.
There is no question Virginia’s coaches still really like Armstrong, but now the Hoos have two high-quality starting candidates in 2020. It will make for an intense preseason battle.
Want a closer look at UVA’s newest quarterback? Below are highlights of Thompson from the 2017 Tax Slayer Bowl and from his high school senior season.