Tuesday Practice Spotlight

SEATTLE - Sometimes when I write these spotlights I need a flashlight to find the right subject, but in the case of Shaquille Thompson Tuesday, this story will pretty much write itself. At his customary outside linebacker spot he cruelly robbed John Ross of the football and his manhood, and then decided it wasn't enough to beat the offense, so he joined them as a running back.

"Yeah, hate it," Danny Shelton said with a shrug when asked about the 6-foot-2, 231-pound Thompson's transformation into a tackle-breaking ballcarrier. "He's such a talented player coach has to use him on the other side and when he goes onto that side it's like we're losing a big part of our defense. In a sense it's a good thing for us because we're working against a pretty good player. He's really good at running the ball hard, so that's really helping us out, trying to fit up and make tackles on him. I hate it but I like seeing him on offense because he's really going to help out our team in the future."

The defensive play he made Tuesday against Ross was straight up thievery. While Ross was trying to grab his bearings and the football, Thompson twisted him around with his arms, and in one clean motion swiped the football and headed the other direction - 55 yards for six.

"It was a nice play," Linebackers Coach Bob Gregory said after practice, in early running for understatement of the season. "We'll take as many of those as we can get."

Petersen decided to give Gregory a run for his money when underselling Thompson's merits. "I'm still learning about him," Washington's first-year head coach added. "If I had to say one thing about what I know right now it's that he's a very good football player. You put him on offense, you put him on defense, you put him as a kick returner…he can just do a lot of things very well. I like to come out here and to see him get a run and see him make a play on defense and pull a ball out. That's interesting, that's intriguing. He's one of the guys I'm really anxious to go play a real game with, to see that show up because he does so many good things out here - but I want to see it in a game."

Considering Thompson ran for over 2000 yards and nearly 40 touchdowns on offense at Sacramento's Grant High School, Petersen isn't the only one who wonders if Thompson can duplicate the Myles Jack phenomenon on Montlake. Double duty wasn't an uncommon occurrence at Boise State, according to Petersen.

"It's a little bit tougher in college football because the schemes get so complex, so we can usually have a package for a guy - but we've done it in the secondary, we've done it at tight end, we've done it at running back, linebackers to fullbacks-type guys…so we have done it," said Petersen. "At the end of the day we've got to get our best personnel on the field. We want to use as many guys, but if we truly have a guy that can give us something on either side of the ball we've got to somehow get that done."
Socha Plays His Part: Tim Socha is the new Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Washington, but you might as well add another title to his name; Director of Creative Competition. He's the mastermind behind the mid-practice ‘breaks' that end up being intense competitions designed to have fun but also to add fuel and energy to what might be considered by many players to just be ‘practice', in the Allen Iverson sense of the term.

Socha and his strength team figure out the competitions they want to run, as well as the players they want to run them. "A little bit is based on what you've seen from them in the strength room; a little bit is based on bringing energy into the competition," he said Tuesday when asked his methods for creating competitions and also who participates in them. "All that stuff is thought out together to try and get guys in positions they might be good at so good on good, or guys might be uncomfortable."

Socha has been coming up with these practice competitions for the last six or seven seasons. At first they might only happen a couple times in the spring; now they've become a fixture in Chris Petersen's spring practice routine, yet even Petersen doesn't know what Socha has planned when it happens.

Sometimes it's relays, sometimes it's tug of wars, sometimes it's a test of someone's athleticism - and sometimes, as it was on Tuesday, it's just good, old-fashioned football. Line up and beat the man in front of you.

Tuesday it was football. It was defensive linemen, running backs and safeties throwing passes to nose tackles, tight ends and cornerbacks. Offensive linemen, defensive ends and wide receivers were having to defend them. What's clear when watching who Socha picks and what he wants them to do - he likes seeing how they react to things they've rarely done before.

"With Danny Shelton running a route, things like that - that's going to put him in a position that he's not used to," said Socha. "You want to see them compete in those situations."

In Shelton's case, the senior nose tackle beat Sifa Tufunga on a pass route, catching a pass from Evan Hudson for a touchdown. Later, Brandon Beaver threw a strike to Brian Clay for six past an unsuspecting Jaydon Mickens.

"That wasn't even a route!" Mickens exclaimed, mid-gasser. That still didn't stop the receiver from running, part of the punishment for losing Socha's competition drill.

"Yeah, how about that? Those guys love that," Defensive Backs Coach Jimmy Lake added when asked about Clay's touchdown pass. "Any time they get to play a different position and have a little fun, that was fun. Especially a DB getting to play receiver…that's fun. A lot of these guys are great athletes, they played on the offensive side of the ball in high school. It's fun to watch those guys be athletes."
Quotable:
Chris Petersen, on his take on the Northwestern/Unions story - "I don't have a super-strong opinion other than if that happened - it would change everything. I'm not sure if that's for the better. That's about as strong as my opinion is. I'm not one of the key decision-makers by any stretch of that, so I'm letting that play out…but I think the one thing about college football is that it's a special thing. I think these kids get a great education and get to play big-time football. Are there some tweaks we need to make to maybe help them a little bit more? I think most coaches think that. But in terms of unionizing and all that? I don't think I'm there yet."

S&C Coach Tim Socha, on his primary philosophy in the weight room - "The biggest thing we try and do is make them the best football players they can be. In order to do that you've got to be strong, you've got to be fast, you've got to be able to change direction - all things involved with football. We're really big on speed and trying to get our guys faster. Our coaches do a great job of recruiting guys who have speed, but our goal is - whatever you come in as get you better by the end of your time here. The game is changing; you see it. It's a game of speed now. I played in the Big Ten and it was ground and pound…what is it? Three yards and a cloud of dust. Now it's not that anymore. It's throwing the ball out to the side and seeing how fast you can get upfield. So we've got to have guys that can respond to that. Conditioning-wise we've got to be able to respond. Every twenty seconds we're running a play it seems nowadays in college football, so you've got to condition towards that and get our guys in the best football shape they can be and get ‘em on the field fast. And that's the biggest thing."

Jimmy Lake, on spying Deontae Cooper during special teams drills and calling him out as an ‘emergency safety' - "It's fun…when we do these tackling drills and all the offensive guys go through the tackle drills…I can tell an athlete, and he ran around and picked up the ball and he looked like a tackler. I'm always recruiting, looking around, trying to find guys that can play back there."

Bob Gregory, on how important is it to have veterans like Timu at a time like this - "You cannot replace experience. The guy has got great experience. He can take control in there and it helps."

Danny Shelton, on Elijah Qualls talking about how he can run the ball like Shaq - "All the time. Ever since he's come in he's talked about playing and all that…he's good. I don't think he's going to get his chance, but he's a funny guy."
Links:
Quick Tuesday Practice Report
Tuesday Practice Videos
Chris Petersen Video/Quotes
S&C Coach Tim Socha Video/Quotes
Jimmy Lake Video/Quotes
Bob Gregory Video/Quotes
Danny Shelton Video/Quotes


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