Arriving in fall camp, the question on everyone’s mind was “Will Thompson-Robinson be able to pick up and command the Chip Kelly offense quickly enough to start as a true freshman?” The answer, as it turned out, was not necessarily. Though Thompson-Robinson flashed his abilities and tantalizing potential throughout fall camp, it was Michigan transfer Wilton Speight who claimed the starting quarterback spot when UCLA hosted Cincinnati in the Rose Bowl to open the 2018 season. Thompson-Robinson, however, did not have long to wait.
During the second quarter against the Bearcats, Speight injured his back, leaving the game and allowing Thompson-Robinson his shot. While he did not play well against Cincinnati, Thompson-Robinson flashed the talent that made him a top 100 prospect out of high school, including his elite arm strength. He would go on to start an additional five games, delivering masterful performances in his last two full games against Washington and California, both of which were among the best defenses in the NCAA. Against Washington, Thompson-Robinson threw for 272 yards and two touchdowns, completing 71% of his passes, and against Cal, Thompson-Robinson completed 86.7% of his passes, throwing for 141 yards (in case that seems underwhelming, Cal only allowed an average of 174 passing yards per game, 8th best in the NCAA). Unfortunately, Thompson-Robinson suffered an injury against Arizona, effectively cutting short his dramatic upward trajectory.