Huskies defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski laughed and said he didn't demand that sophomore receiver John Ross play cornerback as compensation for Shaq Thompson playing running back instead of linebacker, but he is happy to have Ross on the defensive side of the ball this week.
Defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said Ross, who dabbled on defense last season, will play either outside or slot cornerback.
"It’s good to have him over there," Kwiatkowski said. "He’s out there picking it up and he’s a talented guy that’s going to help is in the back end, too, I think.”
Ross, who leads the Huskies with 371 receiving yards, played defense in high school and appeared in a few games at cornerback as a freshman at UW last season.
"He’s just so explosive, and he can really cover guys tight, tight coverage," Kwiatkowski said. "He doesn’t know the details, but definitely his athleticism bails him out of a lot of stuff."
Here's the rest of what Kwiatkowski said during his meeting with reporters on Tuesday.
(On UCLA’s offense) “Everything starts and revolves around their run-game. The quarterback is very good at running the offense, and you’ve got (Paul) Perkins at running back, who’s a load. He’s already over 1,000 yards, so it’s no rest for the weary. Just another big challenge had a good practice today, guys are excited to play these guys and it’s always fun to play good teams.”
(On stopping UCLA) “It comes back to us running to the ball, being fanatical about it, running with good leverage, and then tackling. You take all the scheme and all that stuff out of it, it boils down to that. In the games that we’ve struggled, tackling has been a nemesis. Obviously that’s a priority every week, but it’s a big one this week.”
(How many missed tackles against Colorado?) “Too many to count. But a lot of that comes back to fatigue, I think. We’ve got to be able to suck it up, we’ve got to be able to rotate, we’ve got to be bale to have the mindset that when drives get longer – eight, nine, 10-play drives – we’ve got to be able to focus in on the details of bending our knees, running … just the fundamentals of football. That’s the hard part when guys start getting fatigued.”
(More on tackling) “We practice it. It’s just, you’ve got be careful about how much you’re banging. You can’t live tackle. You can’t beat your guys up. So you do a lot of stuff full-speed on bags, on guys holding bags, sleds, trying to simulate all those body positions and movements and angles that guys are going to have during the course of a game. Keep harping it, keep repping it, and eventually those reps will stack up and it starts paying off. But agin, it comes back just to the mindset you have in your week of preparation and how you take that into the game.”
(How has the defense adjusted to life without Shaq Thompson?) “It’s been good. You lose a really good player like Shaq, I’m not going to say it’s not hard, it just is what it is. You’ve got to respond, the next guy’s up. We found a way to create some turnovers last week. One of these days he’ll come back and we’ll be happy.”
(Do you think that move made the team better?) “Definitely. Oh, yeah. No question. He goes over there and does what he does on offense and gives them a spark and is productive, scores touchdowns, puts them in position to score touchdowns. There’s no question.”
(On Shaq taking practice reps on defense) “He gets some reps over there with our stuff. He’s got a lot of banked reps. We get him in there as much as we can.”
(On how Shaq will be used on defense this week) “It’s a little bit more situational, whether it’s base defense, substitution defense. He’s not going to have the whole gameplan, other than the base calls dialed. He’s a smart enough guy that he can handle both.”
(So if he has a bunch of long runs, he’s not going to play defense right after) “Exactly. It’s no different – he busts off a long run, they’re going to sub him out, get another guy, let him get his breath back. Yeah, it applies the same way.”
(Who manages that?) “Yeah, Coach (Keith) Bhonapha and Coach (Bob) Gregory handle all that.”
(On Myles Jack running the ball) “He’s just physical. He’s going to bury it in there and he’s going to run you over. He’s not going to shake a lot. Gets his foot in the ground and get vertical.”
(More on Jack at running back) “He’s a big back running the football. Similar to the way Shaq runs the ball. He’s not going to dance – it’s like a slasher. He’s going to get his foot in the ground and get vertical. Make guys miss, but they’re just more downhill guys."
(On Shaq expressing desire to play defense) “I think most guys that play defense to start did it for the reason he’s stated – they like to hit people vs. get hit. So I’d love to get him back, but his value to the team is on that side of the ball right now. He’s helping us win games.”