By Christian Caple The News Tribune
SEATTLE — The drill didn’t last more than a couple minutes, so it would have been easy to miss the guy wearing a white, defensive jersey taking handoffs with Washington’s running backs on Thursday.
Then again, Shaq Thompson doesn’t exactly cut a figure that can be overlooked.
“You noticed that?” joked Bob Gregory, UW’s linebackers coach. “I didn’t figure you guys would notice that right there.”
Indeed, Thompson, the Huskies’ 6-foot-2, 231-pound junior linebacker and one of the team’s best athletes, received at least a brief look at running back during a simple position drill. He took a few handoffs from quarterbacks Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams. Then he spent the rest of practice back at linebacker.
Thompson wasn’t made available for interviews afterward, and coach Chris Petersen isn’t scheduled to speak with reporters until Saturday. But Petersen said during his Monday press conference that Thompson was one of a couple Huskies who could see action on both offense and defense this season.
“I know Shaq Thompson was a heck of a running back in high school, so we’ll see,” Petersen said earlier this week. “But he’s a pretty good linebacker, too.”
Indeed, Thompson rushed for 1,134 yards on 120 carries as a senior at Grant High School in Sacramento, Calif., and totaled 1,882 yards rushing on 164 carries as a junior.
Even if this experiment comes to fruition, it’s not likely Thompson would receive more than a few carries per game, at most.
But there has been a recent precedent set by Myles Jack, the Bellevue High alum who spurned a UW offer to play for UCLA, then won the Pacific-12 Conference Freshman of the Year — on both offense and defense — after starting nearly the entire season at linebacker and rushing for 267 yards and seven touchdowns on 38 carries.
One of Jack’s more memorable performances came against Washington, against whom Jack scored four touchdowns in a UCLA victory.
UW cornerback Marcus Peters, for one, seems interested to see if Thompson could be as productive.
“He’s a monster, man,” Peters said after Thursday’s practice. “It’s going to be real unique to see him run the ball. Everybody talks about Myles Jack running the ball, but Shaq Thompson really can run that ball.”
Gregory doesn’t mind the idea, either.
“I had no vote,” he said, “but I certainly endorse it.”
Hudson, Campbell glad to be back
Just a few months ago, defensive end Andrew Hudson and receiver DiAndre Campbell were pretty sure their careers at UW were over.
Both were fourth-year juniors in 2013, but it was decided prior to UW’s regular-season finale against Washington State that each would be introduced as a senior and leave the program at season’s end.
But when coach Steve Sarkisian left for USC and Petersen was hired by UW, that outlook changed for each player. Both are back this spring with the intent to remain on the roster in the fall.
Hudson said in December that he planned to pursue graduate school. And while that remains a goal, he says he has one class to finish in each of his majors before he can move on.
In November, he thought graduating and leaving the team “would be the best decision for me, personally,” but after reassessing his academic options, and realizing he didn’t want to try to transfer elsewhere to only play one season, Hudson spoke with Petersen about staying at UW.
So did Campbell, who said he never believed he wasn’t good enough to play here.
“I still had some hope that I’d be able to get back out here, but I never doubted my ability to do anything or play on the field,” Campbell said. “I definitely felt like I had shown myself, and most importantly that I could play at this level, and possibly even the next level.”
Senior running back Jesse Callier, who missed Tuesday’s practice while handling an academic issue, was present on Thursday. Sophomore defensive end Marcus Farria was not. No reason was given for his absence.