Washington's Thompson, UCLA's Jack shine
SEATTLE (AP) - At some point this Saturday, Washington's Shaq Thompson will almost assuredly take a handoff, get through the pileup at the line of scrimmage and run headlong into UCLA's Myles Jack.
And there is a chance at another time in the game, Jack will be in the UCLA backfield to get a carry or two as a running back and be met by Thompson getting a few snaps at linebacker.
They're collisions that everyone wants to see when the 18th-ranked Bruins (7-2, 4-2 Pac-12) visit Seattle to face the Huskies (6-3, 2-3).
The game will feature a pair of top athletes playing on both sides of the ball in matchups that fans are looking forward to seeing.
Well, maybe not everyone wants to see all the talents Jack and Thompson have on display.
''There is no part of me that is anxious to see Shaq running the ball,'' UCLA coach Jim Mora said. ''The guy is a good ballplayer, man. We recruited him hard coming out of high school. I loved him as a player. I loved him as a person. For anyone that's fan of good football players, you have to be a fan of Shaq Thompson.''
Jack and Thompson are similar in so many ways to the point that Thompson hosted Jack when he made his official visit to Washington before deciding to play at UCLA.
They're both defensive-minded players at heart who would rather stay on the defensive side. They're similarly sized: Thompson listed at 6-foot-1, 228 pounds; Jack at 6-1, 232. They both have a knack for big plays and scoring touchdowns.
And when both are carrying the football as running backs, they're not looking to make defenders miss. They're looking for someone to run over.
''(Jack) is a big back running the football, similar to the way Shaq runs the ball,'' Washington defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said. ''He's not going to dance. It's like a slasher, he's going to get his foot in the grounder and get vertical. They can make guys miss, but they're more just downhill guys.''
Thompson and Jack aren't alone in playing both sides of the field. There are other examples: Hawaii's multifaceted wide receiver/punter/kick returner Scott Harding; Adoree' Jackson playing some cornerback and wide receiver at Southern Cal; Kevin Pope at running back and linebacker for SMU and Kenny Williams doing the same occasionally for Texas Tech.
''The biggest thing is you have to be fair to the player and making sure you are putting him in the best position to be successful,'' said USC and former Washington coach Steve Sarkisian. ''As a team it all sounds really good and `Oh yeah, you're going to play both ways' and all those things, but you have to be fair that they're in a positon to be successful.''
Last season most of the notoriety went to Jack, bursting onto the scene as a freshman for the Bruins and becoming the first player to be voted the conference freshman of the year on both offense and defense. The pinnacle of his freshman season was Jack's four touchdowns rushing in a 41-31 win over the Huskies at the Rose Bowl.
This season, Jack has seen less of the backfield with the emergence of Paul Perkins and his 1,074 yards rushing and six touchdowns through nine games. Jack has only 22 carries, including a season-high six rushes for only 13 yards last week against Arizona with the Wildcats blitzing when they saw Jack in the backfield.
''The linebackers, as soon as I came in they were coming in hot,'' Jack said. ''They were blitzing. I didn't see any pass reads in them.''
Thompson was already getting attention for his four defensive touchdowns in Washington's first six games, but the spotlight only intensified with what he's done playing exclusively on offense the past two weeks against Arizona State and Colorado.
Thompson finished just shy of 100 yards rushing against the Sun Devils, but found bigger run lanes and more success against the Buffaloes running for 174 yards and a touchdown. He's averaging 7.9 yards per carry that if Thompson had enough attempts would be sixth best in the country.
With Washington's running backs getting healthier, coach Chris Petersen indicated that Thompson could get some snaps on defense against the Bruins, but would remain the Huskies starting running back. Thompson was not made available by the school Monday or Tuesday this week.
''Everybody loves to hit people,'' Thompson said after the win over Colorado. ''And that's my mentality is hitting people.''