Shackelford Becoming Playmaker Huskies Have Sought

Oct. 12, 2006

SEATTLE (AP) -- Sonny Shackelford grins and shrugs when told howeveryone in the Washington football program compliments hisintelligence.

Oh, he's pretty good at catching the football too.

Shackelford has posted career-best numbers in the last threeweeks, becoming the pass-catching playmaker Washington's offensehas desperately sought and helping ignite the Huskies' turnaround.

'I just pretty much want to be one of the best receivers in thePac-10,' Shackelford said. 'Isaiah (Stanback) has been finding meopen and hopefully we can keep on with the success.'

Heading into Saturday's matchup with Oregon State, the Huskiesare 4-2 (2-1 Pac-10) and two wins shy of being bowl eligible forthe first time since 2003, when they stayed home during bowl seasondespite a 6-6 record.

That picture might be different but for an aggressive, athleticplay by Shackelford in the Huskies' 21-20 win over Fresno State.Tied 14-14 in the fourth quarter, Washington won after Shackelfordoutmaneuvered a Fresno State defensive back to snag a floating passfrom Stanback for a touchdown.

A year ago, when Shackelford was less forceful in going after acatch, that pass likely would have been an interception.

'When somebody has that kind of intelligence about playing thegame, it's just a matter of them stepping up that next step,'Washington coach Tyrone Willingham said. 'I think that's what he'sdone.'

Last Saturday against No. 3 Southern California, Shackelfordtied a career high set two weeks earlier with nine catches and 125yards receiving in a 26-20 loss to the Trojans. After sevenreceptions in the first three weeks, Shackelford has 23 catches inthe past three games, three for touchdowns and has eclipsed 100yards receiving in each game.

No Washington receiver has ever had four consecutive 100-yardreceiving games.

With 30 total catches Shackelford is tied for third in theconference, and his five touchdowns have nearly doubled his careertotal of three entering the season.

'I don't pick guys, but Sonny, he just knows everything, heknows all the spots,' Stanback said.

Soon after Willingham arrived, he noticed Shackelford taking akeen interest in learning every receiver position the Huskies useand in each formation. Shackelford had long been told to know allthe positions, but the graduate of Beverly Hills High Schoolstudied every play and every route that could be called.

The reason: The more he knew, the more likely he would be on thefield.

'I'd say he knows our system just like our quarterbacks do --where the ball should go, where it shouldn't go,' Willingham said.'He has all of it down.'

Shackelford also spent the summer working out with Stanback andoften has a very good feel for what his quarterback is looking forin specific situations.

'I just kind of know where he wants somebody to be at incertain coverages,' Shackelford said. 'I'm always there and heseems to find me.'

The Huskies hope that continues.

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