Ryan Thompson breaks away on a 75-yard scoring run in Reinhardt’s victory over Southeastern in the first round of the NAIA playoffs. Thompson leads the country in passing efficiency at 195.1.Credit: Reinhardt Athletics

Weekly tests pay off for Thompson, Reinhardt offense

The test is waiting for Ryan Thompson every Friday during the football season.

He knows it. There’s no way to avoid it.

And this exam doesn’t have anything to do with his classes at Reinhardt.

Coach Drew Cronic makes Thompson, his starting quarterback, draw 40 to 45 pass routes to help prepare him for the next day’s game.

Every detail, from blocking assignments to fakes and routes, is critical.

“He has to know what everybody does,” Cronic said. “Progressions. All that stuff.”

Those tests have helped propel Thompson to No. 1 in the NAIA in passing efficiency (195.1) for the third-ranked Eagles (12-0), who will play host to Montana Tech (10-1) in the national quarterfinals Saturday.

Thompson, who split time with Johnathon Chamblee in 2015, has shown he knows what he’s doing with Reinhardt’s offense, which ranks No. 1 in the country in scoring (55.7 points) and rushing (387.6 yards) and second in total offense (569.2 yards).

And even though he’s not asked to throw as often as other quarterbacks, Thompson has displayed his accuracy by completing 67.4 percent of his attempts for 1,993 yards and 20 touchdowns to only five interceptions.

He threw for 211 yards, ran for 80 — including a 75-yard scoring run — and accounted for three touchdowns in Reinhardt’s 52-22 first-round victory over Southeastern last week.

“He understands our system and what we do,” Cronic said. “As we’ve grown as a program, the offense has grown. We’re asking him and our players to do a lot of different things. We run a lot of stuff.”

Thompson nearly went unnoticed by recruiters at Fort Walton Beach (Fla.) High School, in part, he said because of his uncertainty about playing college football.

Cronic said former Reinhardt assistant coach Will Heath happened to be playing golf in the area and stopped by Thompson’s school.

“He came back and said he had found a quarterback,” Cronic said. “We turned on the film.”

That was more than five years ago, while Reinhardt was building its first team.

Thompson is one of 16 remaining players who have been with the program since its beginning in 2012.

“I came up here for official visit and fell in love with the place,” Thompson said. “They offered me a scholarship, and I took it right away.”

Thompson remained on campus last summer, added 15 pounds of muscle and absorbed as much of Reinhardt’s diverse playbook as possible.

He’s showcased his versatility throughout the season. One week after running for a season-high 116 yards Oct. 8, Thompson went 15-for-21 for a season-high 278 yards passing.

“I wanted to be a part of something special,” he said. “That’s ultimately why I came here.”

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