2020 Mountain West Football Top 50 Players: #7, San Diego State AZTEC Tariq Thompson
The San Diego State safety is both the top-ranked Aztecs player and defensive back on our list of Mountain West football’s best athletes.
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One of the conference’s all-time greats?
Not just any college athlete can start from day one as a true freshman and even fewer continue to perform at a high level for four years, but the next player on our countdown might already be in the conversation as the best defender to ever come out of his program.
San Diego State’s Tariq Thompson has done quite a lot in the 39 games he’s started over the last three seasons. For starters, he’s been part of a defense that, by SP+, improved from 45th in 2017 to 24th to 15th, the last of which was the best finish by a Rocky Long unit in his entire tenure on the Mesa. He ranks in the program’s top ten with five career forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, and 11 career interceptions. And though he’s never made the all-Mountain West first team, he became the first Aztec safety ever to make three straight all-conference squads last fall by landing on the second team for a third time.
In 2019, Thompson did a little of everything as usual, breaking up eight passes while collecting four interceptions and racking up 55 tackles to go along with three tackles for loss. Oh, and he also forced two fumbles and had two fumble returns, as well, anchoring a defensive backfield that allowed its lowest opponents’ passer rating since 2015 and finished sixth overall in the FBS ranks.
Before the pandemic put the 2020 season on its brief hiatus, Thompson was our staff’s pick as preseason defensive player of the year, but while he may not get as many chances to flourish as he might have under normal circumstances in his senior year, you can be sure that offensive coaches will know where #14 is at all times and try to keep him from derailing their best-laid plans.