For the first time, Shaq Thompson put on a purple jersey Thursday night, signifying him as a member of the Washington offense.
He might as well have put on a cape.
Veteran Deontae Cooper continues to distance himself from three ACL knee injuries, sophomore Dwayne Washington showed flashes before a minor leg injury, and redshirt freshman Lavon Coleman has been productive in his first spring.
And yet, as a host of Huskies jockey for position to replace Bishop Sankey, the biggest storyline out of UW’s backfield this spring is the play of a linebacker.
How big? Try 6-feet-2, 231-pounds big.
How impressive? Try 106 yards on three carries Thursday night.
Thompson, who started at outside linebacker/nickel back for all 26 games he’s been at UW, has participated in running back drills during only about half of UW’s 11 practices so far this spring. As he’s said several times, he’s a linebacker first.
But he wouldn’t mind getting the ball in his hands every once in a while, too.
After Thursday night, that seems like a very real possibility next fall. No longer is this just a casual experiment.
“I could see him back there playing (as the) starting running back and starting linebacker-safety,” junior receiver Jaydon Mickens said Thursday night. “I could see him really doing that.”
Thompson had just those three carries during a 50-some play scrimmage late Thursday inside Husky Stadium — but, boy, did he make them count.
Still wearing his linebacker’s white No. 7 jersey, Thompson took a handoff, cut to the right and gained 20 yards on his first carry. He then went to the sideline and borrowed Dwayne Washington’s purple No. 12, slipping the jersey on over his linebacker’s shoulder pads as quickly as he could.
Thompson’s next carry went 74 yards for a touchdown. As he broke into the secondary, a couple defensive backs closed in — before Thompson burst into another gear and coasted for the easy score.
“I’m still learning about him,” Chris Petersen said about Thompson on Tuesday. “If I had to say one thing, what I know right now is he’s just a very good football player. You put him on offense, you put him on defense, you put him as the kick returner, he can just do a lot of things very well. And so I like coming out here to see him get a run and see him make a play on defense and pull the ball out. And so that’s interesting, that’s intriguing.
“He’s one of the guys I’m real anxious to go play a real game with, to see that show up, because he does so many good things out here.”
Wearing his No. 7 cape, Thompson also had a pass break-up and a touch sack of Jeff Lindquist in the first series of the scrimmage.
He walked off the field after practice with a fellow running back, wearing purple No. 12.