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The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

November 4, 2014 at 11:50 AM

UW’s John Ross III to play as nickel cornerback against UCLA

Pete Kwiatkowski

The trade is complete.

Washington defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said sophomore receiver John Ross III will play as a nickel cornerback against No. 18 UCLA on Saturday (4 p.m., Fox Sports 1), completing a swap of two of UW’s best athletes. Linebacker Shaq Thompson is, of course, expected to start again at running back for the Huskies.

Ross played in the final three games of 2013 as a reserve cornerback, and injuries have thinned an already young UW secondary this season.

“It’s good to have him over there. He’s out there picking it up and he’s a talented guy who’s going to help us on the back end,” Kwiatkoswki said.

“He’s just so explosion and he can really cover guys tight — tight coverage,” he added. “He doesn’t know the details, but his athleticism bails him out on a lot of stuff.

Using Ross as a nickel corner would also free up free safety Budda Baker to play his natural position deep and not have to cover a slot receiver as often.

“We’re always looking to get the best guys on the field, and John Ross is obviously just a phenomenal athlete. He’s fast, he’s tough, he has great ball skills,” UW defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said. “So we’re just trying to utilize all the talent we have on the whole team. … That’s our job as coaches: to put guys in position so we can win every Saturday.”

Ross, who tested as UW’s fastest player during spring conditioning (a hand-timed 4.29-second 40-yard dash), leads the Pac-12 with an average of 21.8 yards on his 17 receptions. He has four touchdown catches this season on plays of 91, 86, 75 and 55 yards, plus a 20-yard touchdown run. UW’s kickoff returner, Ross also leads the team with 105.8 all-purpose yards per game.

He is listed behind freshman Dante Pettis at receiver on UW’s depth chart this week.

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