At 6-foot-2, 231-pounds, Shaq Thompson has developed into an imposing figure on the football field while remaining one of the best athletes on defense for the Washington Huskies. The junior-to-be figures to be one of the team leaders on the defensive side of the ball at linebacker in 2014 as the Huskies look to build off their success in 2013 to kick off the Chris Petersen era with a bang. But could Thompson bring his athleticism to the offensive side of the ball as well in 2014 to give the Dawgs a boost at running back?
On Monday, Petersen named Thompson as one of a couple Huskies that could be used on both offense and defense next season. Thompson played running back in high school and rushed for over 1,000-yards in his senior season but has been exclusively playing defense since joining the UW program in 2012. Petersen recognized that Thompson “was a heck of a running back in high school” but won’t sacrifice his position as the team’s top linebacker in 2014.
During a spring practice session on Thursday, though, Thompson appeared to get his first reps at running back. During a simple position drill, Thompson lined up with the running backs and took reps taking handoffs from quarterbacks Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams. After the brief drill, Thompson returned to the defensive side of the ball and worked at linebacker for the rest of the practice but the door appears to be open for Thompson to become the next two-way standout in the Pac-12.
Last season, freshman LB/RB Myles Jack took the conference by storm with the UCLA Bruins by successfully making the transition to two-way player. After starting most of the year at linebacker, Jack stepped in at running back when the Bruins faced some injury issues in the backfield and contributed immediately, rushing for 267 yards and seven touchdowns on 38 carries. Against Washington, Jack had his best game offensively, scoring four rushing touchdowns in the Bruins win.
Thompson has the physical gifts to make it work just as well in 2014. With Washington looking for a new running back to carry the load after Bishop Sankey declared early for the NFL this year, there will perhaps be room for a talented athlete like Thompson to steal a few carries during a game. Will Thompson become an impact player on offense like he has been on defense?