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Top Huskies For 2014 - #5: Shaq Thompson

Is this the year that the Husky linebacker makes the jump from "good player" to "special player?"

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Shaq Thompson enters the season as a first team preason All-American according to Athlon. ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and CBS have him as a second team All-American. Phil Steele puts him on his third team. He's on the watch list for the Bednarik Award (for the top defensive player) and the Paul Hornung Award (for the most versatile player).

There's no secret about Shaq Thompson: he's good, and everybody knows it. There does, however, seem to be some inflation in the national media about how good Thompson actually is. There's no doubt that he's got as much potential as a player as anybody, having come in as a five star recruit. But that's part of the problem: these days everybody in the national media pays attention to recruiting rankings, and since Shaq came in as one the top recruits in the country and has started every game since day one, there's a natural assumption by those who don't follow the program closely to assume he's been all everything for UW's defense. But you could debate whether he has been in top three or so UW defenders at any point in his young career.

This is not to take anything away from what Thompson has accomplished -- he's quite talented and has had a very good career so far. But there's still a wide gap between what Thompson's potential is and what his production has been. He could easily be an All-American, and one of the best players in the country. He could also be UW's 4th best defensive player. We've seen other UW defenders take over and dominate games, but I think we're still waiting for Thompson to have that kind of breakthrough.

Even if Thompson only improves with the natural progression that comes with being another year older, with another year in the weight room, and another year of the game slowing down, he's going to be one of the best linebackers in the Pac-12. If he takes the big jump that he has in him, he's one of the best linebackers in the country. In either case, the Huskies have fantastic player.