Yes, the Huskies are curious about what linebacker Shaq Thompson might able to do with a few more touches at running back.
“I think everybody is,” UW running backs coach Keith Bhonapha said.
Sophomore receiver John Ross III offers another curious option in the UW backfield, and with injuries to the Huskies’ top two running backs, the options in the backfield are running thin entering Saturday’s game against No. 14 Arizona State at Husky Stadium (7:45 p.m., ESPN).
“We’re looking at a couple different formulas, whether it’s Shaq, John (or) different formations a little bit,” UW offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said. “We’re making an effort with that.”
Thompson, a 228-pound junior, has just three carries in the past four games, all against Stanford (for a net of 2 yards). On the season, he had nine carries for 84 yards and one touchdown.
Ross, UW’s big-play threat, had two carries for 44 yards against Oregon.
“The thing about Shaq — he’s a gifted athlete. He’s probably one of the best players in the country,” Bhonapha said. “And when it comes to getting a guy like that the football, the crowd is going to be excited, we’re going to be excited. He is a dynamic football player and it’s exciting when you have a chance to get a guy like that in the (running back) room and know he’s going to have the chance to get the ball and be productive. The room is excited for him. I think as a team and as an offense, we’re excited to see what’s going to happen.”
Injuries to Dwayne Washington (chest) and Lavon Coleman (shoulder) against Oregon last Saturday left the Huskies with only one of their top four running backs. Senior Deontae Cooper could be in line for his first career start this week.
“Coop has always been a very productive player, even going back to high school,” Bhonapha said. “It’s been unfortunate for him. He’s had some injuries that have probably changed his abilities in some ways. The one thing you’re going to get from Coop is, he’s very consistent. He’s very dialed in and knowledgeable about what we’re doing on offense, so when gets in there … he’s going to be productive.”
Senior running back Jesse Callier is out for the season after tearing his Achilles last month.
In the last three Pac-12 games, UW is averaging just 2.90 yards per carry, which ranks 11th in the Pac-12.
“It’s definitely been some uphill trudgin’ as far as getting some run game generated,” Bhonapha said. “As a whole, it’s not something we’ve shied away from. We’ve done our best to work at it and continue to get better and try to put guys in different situations where we can be productive in the run game.
“There are still some great, positive vibes out there. Guys are still working and really believing and trying to move forward so we can get some things done. As you know, it’s difficult when you a couple guys banged up. It kind of changes what you’re looking at it. But the thing we like to continue to preach in the program is, one guy goes down, the next guy steps up and gets ready to go.”
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