The fact that former University of Utah wide receiver Bryan Thompson announced Thursday afternoon that he is transferring to Arizona State has everything to do with a now-defunct piece of Pac-12 legislation.
On May 20, 2019, the Pac-12 announced that its presidents and chancellors voted to eliminate the “loss of a season” penalty for student-athletes who want to transfer from conference school to another. Student-athletes would still be subject to NCAA rules mandating they sit out one year, but that year would no longer count against their eligibility.
That Pac-12 decision came months after the NCAA streamlined and added more transparency to the transferring process thanks to the transfer portal.
So, with the Pac-12 and NCAA now making life easier for student-athletes looking for a new home, Thompson will not only stay in the Pac-12, he will stay in the Pac-12 South, where both the Sun Devils and Utes are viewed as potential contenders in 2021.
The Pac-12 is still at least a week away from releasing its 2021 football schedule, but as division foes, Utah and Arizona are guaranteed to play one another. Per the league schedule rotation, the 2021 games between the Utes and Sun Devils will take place at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Thompson, who will be a redshirt junior in 2021 after the NCAA froze the eligibility clock in 2020, entered the transfer portal on Feb. 2 after 33 career games with the Utes dating back to the 2017 season. Thompson had 33 catches for 756 yards and four touchdowns in those 33 games. The Moreno Valley, Calif., native broke out in 2019 as a redshirt junior, hauling in 18 passes for 461 yards and three scores.
Projected as a larger part of the offense in 2020, Thompson, long-viewed as a big-play downfield threat, had nine catches for 187 yards and a touchdown in five games..
Utah loses production and depth at wide receiver with Thompson leaving, but his loss should not be considered prohibitive to the unit. In 2020, wide receivers Britain Covey and Solomon Enis, plus All-Pac-12 tight end Brant Kuithe combined for 55 receptions.
Samson Nacua’s return in 2021 would also be a boon to Utah’s passing offense. Nacua played in four games in 2020, but was banged up for much of the truncated season.