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Washington's Shaq Thompson will flip to defense vs. Arizona

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(Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)(Stephen Brashear/Associated Press)
Washington's Shaq Thompson will start on defense this week, and Hau'oli Kikaha is expected to play, too.

The Shaq Attack is back... on defense.

After two starts at running back, Washington's Shaq Thompson is headed back to his familiar starting role as the Huskies' play-making outside linebacker ahead of the team's showdown against Arizona on Saturday.

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"So we're getting our running backs going a little bit, so we're maybe able to balance (Thompson) back over there (on defense) a little bit more," head coach Chris Petersen said Monday at his weekly press conference. "He'll start on that defensive side and we'll kind of go from there."

The two-way play from Thompson has earned him considerable Heisman Trophy recognition in recent weeks as injuries forced the coaching staff's hand in terms of where to play the explosive star. In his past two games playing mostly on offense, he had 215 all-purpose yards against Colorado while posting 16 carries for 100 yards against UCLA last week. With tailbacks Lavon Coleman and Dwayne Washington both apparently healthy, Thompson will likely see more time at his natural position as an outside linebacker starting this week.

Entering Washington's final three games, Thompson leads the team in rushing and is the fourth-leading tackler. Throw in the fact that he's got an FBS-best four defensive touchdowns and it's quite the season he's having on Montlake -- and part of the reason why NFL scouts are increasingly viewing him as a first-round talent.

Gaining Thompson back on defense was not the only bit of good news to emerge from Monday's press conference for Huskies defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski, as it appears star pass rusher Hau'oli Kikaha will be ready to play this week after missing most of the UCLA game following an opening series sack.

"Hau'oli was running around out there today. As long as he can keep progressing, I think we'll be OK," Petersen added.

Kikaha should help provide a significant boost to the team's pass rush that wasn't up to standards last week against the Bruins. The defensive end leads the country in sacks and tackles for loss and forms one of the best one-two combos in the trenches with tackle Danny Shelton.

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It also appears John Ross III will join Thompson in starting on defense this week. The sophomore is the team's leading receiver but was moved to cornerback in practice last week due to numerous injuries on the back end. After seeing some time as the nickel back, the sophomore was listed as the starting cornerback ahead of freshman Naijiel Hale.

Another week and another shuffling of stars for Washington, who are looking for a win over a top-25 team and pulling out all the stops to get it done.

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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