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UW receiver Ross branches out to defense

John Ross (1) leads Washington with 371 receiving yards, four TDs. (Associated Press)
John Ross (1) leads Washington with 371 receiving yards, four TDs. (Associated Press)
By Christian Caple Tacoma News Tribune

SEATTLE – 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.

Ross played defensive back at Long Beach Jordan High School, 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 is in the back end, too, I think.”

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.

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, although 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 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.”

Hudson expects return

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.

Hudson said he went through most of Wednesday’s practice and expects to be “good to go” today.

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