Washington head coach Chris Petersen always takes a unique approach to recruiting, and he might soon take his pitch to potential future players to a whole new level: Come play offense and defense for the Huskies.
Injuries have already forced the coaching staff to play star linebacker and budding Heisman Trophy candidate Shaq Thompson at running back despite the fact that he's leading the country in defensive touchdowns. It appears he won't be the only Washington play seeing double duty on Saturday when UCLA comes to town.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, the Washington coaching staff confirmed wide receiver John Ross III would see playing time at nickelback this week.
"We're always looking to get the best guys on the field, and John Ross is obviously just a phenomenal athlete. He's fast, he's tough, he has great ball skills," defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake told the Seattle Times. "So we're just trying to utilize all the talent we have on the whole team."
Ross has been a big-play threat for Washington this season, hauling in four touchdown catches of 50-plus yards. He likely won't start at wide receiver or nickelback, but should see a healthy amount of playing time on both sides given how tough of a matchup the Bruins will be during a big Pac-12 test for both squads.
Add in his ability to return kicks, and opposing coaches will have to keep an eye on Ross.
"It's good to have him over there. He's out there picking it up and he's a talented guy who's going to help us on the back end," defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkoswki said. "He doesn't know the details, but his athleticism bails him out on a lot of stuff."
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound sophomore is hardly the only player to play both ways this year. Washington's matchup with UCLA features Thompson, as well as his fellow "running backer" in Bruins linebacker/running back Myles Jack. UCLA has also used defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes on offense and USC freshman Adoree' Jackson has played in all three phases in at least four games this season.
Ross won't be the first -- and probably not the last -- Pac-12 player to see action on both sides of the ball, but he will be the latest to give it a shot on Saturday. Petersen and his staff just have to hope the experiment goes as well as it has with Thompson.