Chris Petersen called it a “million-dollar question.”
If the Washington Huskies’ struggling offense needs junior Shaq Thompson at running back more than the defense needs him at linebacker – his primary position – would Petersen consider making Thompson a full-time offensive player?
“We’re always trying to figure out, ‘Where does it give our team the best shot in the arm?’ ” Petersen said Monday. “But I think if we thought that, we could possibly do it. I think it’s kind of a week-by-week evaluation of where we are.”
Petersen felt strongly enough that the Huskies needed Thompson at running back last week against Arizona State that he made him UW’s primary ball carrier. With Lavon Coleman and Dwayne Washington both limited by injuries, Thompson, who had nine carries this season before Saturday, rushed for 98 yards on 21 carries in a 24-10 loss to ASU.
And he didn’t play any linebacker after UW’s first defensive series. Redshirt freshman Keishawn Bierria filled in for him there after Thompson spent “most of (his) time” at running back during practice last week, Petersen said.
“Just get my mind right. Just focus on the calls and focus on the execution,” Thompson said on Saturday night. “It really was more blocking (and) protection.
“Two running backs down. Had to step up.”
Asked if Thompson, who has scored four defensive touchdowns this season and garnered praise from several national media outlets as one of the nation’s best defensive players, will remain with the offense on Saturday at Colorado (10 a.m., Pac-12 Networks), Petersen said: “We’re still working through that. Shaq did a heck of a job. My hat’s off to that guy. Wherever we need to play him, he’ll go there. I was talking with him about it today and he’s like, ‘Just tell me where I need to go.’ And I think he really means it.”
Whether the Huskies will need Thompson at running back this week is a decision for later. Petersen said again on Monday that Coleman “could’ve definitely played” through his apparent shoulder injury if Thompson hadn’t already prepared to carry the load, and that he anticipates Coleman and Washington “being a little bit better” this week.
“If we were going to move Shaq over there and play him, he’s going. He’s playing,” Petersen said. “Another good week of practice for those other two guys to heal up should help us.”
QB Miles back at No. 1
Third-year sophomore Cyler Miles was back with the No. 1 offense at Monday’s practice as the team’s starting quarterback, Petersen said.
Redshirt freshman Troy Williams started against ASU after Miles, who had concussion-like symptoms from the week before, didn’t practice for most of last week.
But he’s back now.
“A guy’s not going to lose his starting job because he gets an injury,” Petersen said.
Pac-12 opens wallet
The Pac-12 Conference announced on Monday a series of reforms intended to better compensate its athletes, including a promise of representation in the conference’s governance structure and guaranteed scholarships for a four-year period for all athletes in all sports.
Under the current structure, scholarships are guaranteed for one academic year at a time.
The conference also announced that athletes who are injured during their collegiate career can now receive compensation for medical expenses for a period of up to four years after their separation from the school.
Additionally, effective beginning with the 2016-17 academic year, athletes who complete at least 50 percent of their degree but leave before finishing may return to school in the future and “receive necessary educational expenses for the remaining terms of the agreement.”
And athletes who transfer between Pac-12 schools will be allowed to receive scholarship aid, which isn’t the case under the current structure.
Washington’s Nov. 8 game against UCLA at Husky Stadium will kickoff at 4 p.m. and air on FOX Sports 1.