SEATTLE – Given his status as one of the more heralded recruits to sign with Washington in years, it figured to be no surprise if Shaq Thompson forced his way onto the field early this fall.
So consider Thompson – a 6-foot-1, 230-pounder who was regarded as maybe the best safety prospect in the country last year while at Grant High School in Sacramento, Calif. – to have been as advertised through the first two weeks of his UW career.
When the Huskies held the second full-scale scrimmage of training camp Saturday, Thompson was with the starting unit at defense, usually as a fifth defensive back, or nickelback. UW coach Steve Sarkisian said the scrimmage was designed to work on that defense, one the Huskies will play a lot this season.
But he also said that Thompson’s presence on the field with the starters was no accident. “It’s about putting your best 11 on the field that we can and we think he is one of those 11 guys, so we are just trying to find a role for him,” Sarkisian said.
Thompson spent the summer playing baseball in the Red Sox organization and also missed a few practices last week with a minor concussion.
But none of that has slowed him down. When on the field, Thompson has shown everything that had the recruiting gurus raving last fall.
“He’s just a dynamic football player,” Sarkisian said. “And what I’ve been impressed with about him is his ability to really learn the defenses, even with sitting out there a few days. He’s a very bright football player, a very high football IQ, and then he applies it when he goes and plays, and plays it with a very physical mentality, and obviously the closing speed is evident.”
So is his return speed as Thompson handled a kickoff. While it was apparently a noncontact drill, he drew a few oohs and ahs from the sidelines with a quick burst for a touchdown.
It was largely a day for the defense during an 85-play contact scrimmage. In 12 possessions, the offense scored two touchdowns, both by the No. 1 offense against the No. 2 defense on passes by Keith Price of 9 yards to Kasen Williams and 30 yards to tight end Michael Hartvigson.
Gonzaga Prep graduate Bishop Sankey led all rushers with 58 yards on seven carries, while Jesse Callier had 23 on five attempts.
But the No. 1 offense got just one first down on its first three drives before finally getting rolling, much to the consternation of Price.
“We are not ready yet,” Price said. “We’ve still got a long way to go, obviously, getting lined up and getting set. That’s our biggest thing. Once we get that down and we teach the young guys our tempo, we are going to be pretty good.”