LB Shaq at running back? It’s possible

christian.caple@thenewstribune.comMarch 9, 2014 

SEATTLE — Shaq Thompson makes it clear: he is a linebacker first.

But considering the buzz generated by his brief participation in a running backs drill at Washington’s spring practice Thursday, it is worth asking the junior if he’s open to an additional role in the Huskies’ offense.

Turns out he’d be just fine with it.

He even pitched the idea to UW coach Chris Petersen, who appears to be more than fine with it.

“At first, I was kind of joking about it – ‘What about me at running back?’ ” Thompson said Saturday, standing against a wall inside the Husky Stadium tunnel outside UW’s locker room. “And he said, ‘Yeah, we’ll take it into consideration.’ ”

Thompson didn’t get any work with the running backs during Saturday’s practice, but it was the first time this spring he was made available to reporters, so he knew the questions were coming.

Petersen said they’re still in the experimentation phase, though he again suggested that in addition to Thompson pulling double-duty, sophomore receiver John Ross could play defense, too.

“I know Shaq can be a good running back. I see John Ross’ feet, I know he can play defense,” Petersen said. “So it’s just about where we need the help the most, and how those guys can help the team the most. A lot of that won’t be determined until the fall. We may not need them early, then we have depth issues and we’re prepared a little bit for down the road.

“We’ll try to get them some work maybe every day, just a little bit, and kind of see how it goes, and make sure our playmakers are in position to help us, whatever side of the ball it is.”

Thompson said only one school – Utah – recruited him as a running back. But that’s not what he wanted to do full time in college.

Still, the former star at Grant High School in Sacramento said he hopes to receive a few reps at running back during 11-on-11 sessions this spring.

“I do miss that side of the ball, being a running back, touching the ball,” said Thompson, who rushed for 1,882 yards as a junior in high school, and another 1,134 as a senior. “The only thing I don’t miss is getting hit in the legs. I’d rather do the hitting in the legs.”

Thompson did note that UW has capable running backs, though with the departure of Bishop Sankey, the school’s single-season leading rusher, there is a void that needs to be filled.

One of the players trying to fill it, senior Deontae Cooper, is coming off his first full, healthy season after missing three consecutive years with three different tears of his anterior cruciate ligament.

Cooper said his knee feels “as good as I’m going to get. I feel healthy. I’m doing the right things with the trainers and (strength) coach (Tim) Socha, so I’m feeling good.”

MUM ABOUT ABSENCES

For the second consecutive practice, sophomore defensive end Marcus Farria was not in attendance. Neither was offensive lineman James Atoe, who had been with the first-team offensive line for both of UW’s first two practices.

Petersen wouldn’t comment on either player afterward, saying only that if a player were going to be out of action for a long-term period, he would make a statement.

OUT IN THE RAIN

UW practiced outside at Husky Stadium for the first time this spring after spending its first two sessions in the Dempsey Indoor facility. A steady rain fell throughout the practice, which began at 10:30 a.m.

christian.caple@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @ChristianCaple

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