Shaq Thompson isn’t the only Washington Huskies football player dabbling on both sides of the ball.
John Ross, the speedy sophomore who leads the Huskies with 371 receiving yards and four touchdowns, is practicing with the defense this week and could play some cornerback against No. 18 UCLA on Saturday at Husky Stadium (4 p.m., Fox Sports 1).
Ross played defensive back at Long Beach Jordan High School in California and appeared in a few games at cornerback as a freshman for the Huskies last season. Now, he’s apparently back on that side of the ball in an effort to add depth to UW’s secondary.
“It’s good to have him over there,” Huskies defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said. “He’s out there picking it up and he’s a talented guy that’s going to help us in the back end, too, I think.”
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Considering his big-play ability, Ross has touched the ball surprisingly little on offense this season. He leads the Huskies in receiving yards, but has only 17 catches. He was targeted only once during UW’s 38-23 victory over Colorado last week, with freshman Dante Pettis taking most of the snaps at one receiver spot ahead of Ross. And Ross was bumped to No. 2 on the depth chart behind Pettis this week.
The reason for that, coach Chris Petersen said, is that Ross has been “banged up” and limited in how much he can practice, though he is still the Huskies’ primary kick returner.
“We always go back to when guys can practice full speed and practice hard and all those things, it will show up eventually,” Petersen said. “Whether it’s our running backs or our tight end, that’s part of the game. You’re going to have to play a little bit banged up and hurt. But if you can’t practice to improve, it usually shows up.”
UW defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said Ross can either play slot cornerback in a nickel scheme or line up against a receiver on the outside.
“He’s such a good athlete, so we’re just going to kind of play him all over the place,” Lake said. “But he’s definitely going to be at a corner spot, whether he’s going to be on the slot or he’s going to be outside. He’s so athletic that we can really put him anywhere.
“John Ross is obviously just a phenomenal athlete. He’s fast, he’s tough, has great ball skills. So we’re just trying to utilize all the talent we have on the whole team, and that’s every position. … I’m always looking to see who can fill needs and who can make us better. That’s our job as coaches — to make sure we put guys in position so we can win every Saturday.”
HUDSON: ANKLE ‘PRETTY GOOD’
Senior defensive tackle Evan Hudson left Saturday’s game at Colorado with what appeared to be a pretty nasty ankle injury. He returned two plays later. But he was still hurting.
“I stepped on the quarterback’s hand when he slid, and just rolled it (the ankle) pretty bad,” Hudson said after Tuesday’s practice. “I just went over and got it taped back up and tried to get back out there and gut it out for the rest of the game.
“Feeling pretty good. I went through most of practice today and will probably be good to go tomorrow.”
Hudson said the pain was “pretty excruciating” as he tried to walk off the field.
“For the first couple steps getting off the field, I could barely put any weight on it,” Hudson said. “But then I kind of walked it off and just taped it up and gutted it out.”
Petersen appreciated his resolve.
“That guy is probably as tough as they come,” Petersen said. “He rolled his ankle. You can see it on tape. It is ugly. And that guy missed about two plays. And it wasn’t one of those rolls where it didn’t swell up. It was all of that, and he didn’t limp around.”