It’s been less than 18 hours since Shaquille Thompson said he would sign with Washington, a move that may be the kickoff to a late rush of commitments and help push Washington’s class into the top half of the Pac-12.
A 6-2, 210-pounder regarded as maybe the best safety prospect in the country this year, Thompson also played quarterback, running back and punted at Grant High in Sacramento, Calif.
I had a chance today to speak with his coach there, Mike Alberghini, to get a few more thoughts on Thompson as a player and how his decision to sign with the Huskies developed.
Alberghini said injuries helped force Thompson to have to take on multiple roles for Grant last season.
“We had so many people injured and he was kind of called upon, he was our best running back and then he became our quarterback and our defensive back,” Alberghini said. “He had to do a little bit of everything and he did it all very well. When we made him a quarterback we had no one else to back him up because at that time our starter was gone and wasn’t coming back and the other backup, things just didn’t work out. So we were a little afraid to play him fulltime on defense, But he would go in and play at safety sometimes against certain times and sometimes rolled up and played more like an outside linebacker. But he played extremely well in the Army game (the U.S. Army All-American game) at safety and I kind of see him being that guy who can roam the field because of his field and he can come up and cover and he is just a very multi-talented young man.”
Asked how he sees Thompson being used at UW, Alberghini said: “I would think he is going to be a guy who is that kind of guy who is a real special defensive back. He finished sixth in the (state) 200 meters last year (21.69) as a junior and he was in the 4-by-100 relay both years so he is very, very fast, powerful kid. Near 6-2 about 215 pounds, so he’s the total package of speed, athleticism and then he’s also a great human being.”
Alberghini said he wasn’t necessarily taken aback that Thompson changed his commitment from Cal to UW
“Nothing surprises me anymore,” he said. “It’s just a matter of that for a long time we kind of all felt it was going to be Cal because of a couple of kids who went there last year and that his brother (Syd’Quan) was a graduate there. But as the year kind of went on, and then when coach (Tosh) Lupoi left, he kind of had some doubts if that was where he was going to go. He liked Washington and he liked Cal and they were kind of his two teams that he thought about from the start of all of this. And one of his best friends is (UW safety and former Grant HIgh star) James Sample. So it doesn’t surprise me, it’s just that for a time it was just about a lock that he would go to Cal, so there’s a little element of surprise but not a great element. He liked the area (at UW). He was up at a game, he liked the way the atmosphere was, the changes in the coaching staff — he liked some of the coaches that were coming in — so it was just a combination of things. I was mildly but not greatly surprised by it.
Still, Alberghini said he didn’t know Thompson was going to announce Monday night as Thompson had said he was planning to announce on Wednesday.
“I have no idea (what changed) because we talked yesterday and I said ‘are you close’ and he said ‘I’m just about there,”’ he said. “I’ve been doing this so long, I told him ‘if you don’t do it on Wednesday you are going to do it yourself’ — we always have signing day things here with the kids that sign. He said ‘all right.’ When I read it this morning I was a bit surprised, but I just think it’s been a tough process and I think he set up in his mind that’s what he was going to do so let’s get it out of the way and I can go on about life now.”
His arrival at UW will come with a lot of excitement. But Alberghini said Thompson can handle it.
“He’s really a centered person,” Albereghini said. “He’s not self-promoting. He’s a guy who likes to play within the confines of a team structure. So I think it’s when you go from being a star in high school to the new guy in college, there are some changes that got to take place and I think physically he will be able to play it’s just will he learn what they are doing there and learning it so he can get out and play in the games.”