Bo Nix made Oregon better. Oregon did the same for Nix. The Ducks banked on being a pressure release for Nix after his Auburn tenure, trusting all the other important stuff was in place. And it worked! Now the Ducks are running it back with another transfer quarterback. Study up, big-time college football programs. This is the way.

Ty Thompson did absolutely everything that was asked of him for three years in Eugene. And Oregon did absolutely nothing wrong in going out into the transfer portal and plucking Oklahoma star Dillon Gabriel for one year. The Ducks want to keep winning. Dan Lanning wants to keep pairing an ultra-efficient offense with a rising defense. Will Stein probably enjoyed working with Nix this season, and the transition from Nix to just about any other passer in the country was going to be a stark one.

Nix is cerebral. He’s the NCAA’s record holder for starts in a career and would frequently use that bank of information to serve as a de-facto 11th on-field coach. Nix would call plays on the fly. You don’t get that level of cohesion with a guy making his first career start, no matter how long he’s been in the building.

And a guy like Gabriel is probably one of the only quarterbacks in the country that would make the post-Nix era feel somewhat like it was.

But Gabriel’s arrival seemingly pushed Thompson out the door. Oregon surely knew that would happen. With the former blue-chip recruit facing the possibility of a fourth straight year sitting behind a transfer, he made the best decision — the only decision, really — for himself. The toughest part is so did Oregon. The Ducks are at the front of another new trend in college football.

Welcome to the sport’s new feeder system for quarterbacks.

In taking Gabriel, the Ducks ensured their floor would be relatively high during their first season in the Big Ten. Gabriel has seen everything in college football. It’s a win-now move. They can reassess the next era a year from now. Maybe that’s Austin Novosad. Maybe it’s Luke Moga. Maybe it’s Dante Moore! Or, maybe the Ducks just turn back to the portal a year from now and get another short-term guy to keep things rolling.

With the College Football Playoff expanding and the sport’s top leagues hoarding brand names like Monopoly pieces, the biggest programs have zero incentive to develop quarterbacks anymore. Find one on the market who developed somewhere else, bring them in for a year or two, win at a high level, rinse and repeat.

Ohio State tried the Kyle McCord route and bailed before the season even technically ended. Immediately the Buckeyes were linked to Cam Ward out of Washington State.

Five of the last six Heisman-winning quarterbacks have been transfers. All three of the Heisman finalist quarterbacks in New York City on Saturday night were transfers.

It can be argued that trio — LSU’s Jayden Daniels, Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., and Oregon’s Nix — should be the final straw. Coaches are trusting the math en masse all over the country; what further proof do major programs need to see that this is the lowest risk/highest reward option on the table? Daniels left Arizona State with baggage and just won the Heisman. Penix left Indiana and has Washington in the College Football Playoff after a program-record 13 wins. Nix left Auburn with everyone questioning his game and has silenced every last doubt over the last two seasons.

I had a coach once tell me that high school quarterback recruiting is a crapshoot. You can massage mechanics. You can help bad habits. You can’t know if the guy has it when the lights turn on. With freshmen, you just don’t know how it’ll translate. At every other position, the growing pains are less painful.

The 40th-ranked recruit in the 2021 class, Thompson spent his freshman season behind Anthony Brown. He watched, learned, and waited. Then the staff changed, Lanning and Kenny Dillingham came to town, and Nix followed. Thompson sat, watched, learned, and waited for two more years.

He has 17 career appearances and 15 career completions in three years of college football.

Kids want to play. Thompson should get to play. He’s not likely to do so at Oregon, hence reports that he decided to enter the transfer portal shortly after Gabriel’s commitment to Oregon became public.

Who’s to say he doesn’t bounce to a new school, prove he can be the guy, then hop back into the portal as a grad transfer and come right back to a major program? It’s what I would do in his shoes. And it’s what I would nudge any young quarterback toward if I was a coach.

The transfer portal being what it is now, why would a program like Oregon roll the dice on the first six games of its season waiting to see if a youngster can do what the guy in the transfer portal has already shown he can do? In the new Big Ten, a nine-win Oregon team makes the 12-team Playoff. NIL exacerbates the situation when schools like Oregon and USC and Ohio State and Alabama can afford to pay whatever is on the price-tag.

Oklahoma looks like it’ll take the chance on its 5-star true sophomore-to-be making his starting debut in the program’s SEC debut next season. Good luck with that.

Does USC do the same with 5-star 2023 signee Malachi Nelson? Or do you believe the reports that have linked the Trojans to Ward and, for a time, Gabriel, and some of the other quarterbacks in the portal? Lincoln Riley has turned transfer quarterbacks into Heisman winners and built a career on it.

“We’re going to look in the portal at some quarterbacks. We’ll see how that thing unfolds,” Riley said recently. “I like the guys that we have in the room, but you always have a responsibility to look at people that can make our room better.”

Washington is looking at Mississippi State’s Will Rogers after enrolling 4-star 2023 quarterback Austin Mack. Florida State is looking at Oregon State’s DJ Uiagalelei when it has a top-50 quarterback committed to its 2024 class.

Rogers landing in Seattle would make for a similar situation. He’d be a one-year bridge quarterback. But a bridge to what? To Mack? Or to someone else who isn’t yet on the roster?

Coaches have to win.

When Nix initially committed to Oregon two years ago, he felt he was the final piece for a team built to win. Oregon felt the same.

Hard to argue with the results.

“Coach Lanning’s going to do a good job of putting guys around the team who he thinks is going to win games,” Nix said ahead of Saturday’s Heisman ceremony. “I think obviously the transfer portal worked out for me, so hopefully it continues to have a positive effect on college football.”