There’s nothing normal about any of what is about to take place, and it sounds like Washington State Cougars coach Nick Rolovich is already considering the implications of a seven-game season on his thought process heading into the season.
Since the announcement on Thursday of the return of the Pac-12, Rolovich’s only public comments have come on the return of his weekly coach’s show with Matt Chazanow. And he pulled back the curtain a little bit on what strategy he and his staff are going to employ in order to get the team ready for the season.
One big thing? They’re going to try and make decisions on personnel sooner than they normally would.
“Decisions are going to have to be made probably before we would want to,” Rolovich said. “But that doesn’t mean we don’t love you. That doesn’t mean you’re not getting better. It doesn’t mean your future is not bright. This is now about putting the best players on the field and win a football game.”
I’m guessing the thought process goes something like this: Without the soft landing provided by a non-conference season that featured three very beatable teams, and with no margin for error when it comes to trying to win the division in just a seven-game season, you try to create cohesion in practice by having the 1s practice together as much as possible.
(Shameless self plug: We talked about this a bunch on the podcast this week!)
That means you can expect a decision on a QB sooner rather than later — I’d guess at least two weeks before Nov. 6. And Rolovich is going to put them through the fire a little bit to figure it out.
“Listen, I’m sorry, but I’m going to be very hard on you guys in practice,’” Rolovich said he told his quarterbacks. “I want to see how you deal with adversity. I want to see how you deal with hard coaching.”
What’s going to be interesting to me is what factors go into his ultimate decision. Does he pick the guy who has the best grasp on his offense? Does he pick the guy who has the most athletic ability so he can try and keep it simple? Does he pick a guy with maybe just a little less upside if he’s more ready to go out of the gate?
One thing I think I’m pretty sure of: I’d be surprised if he picks the freshman, Jayden de Laura. I would not be surprised by the selection of either redshirt sophomore Cammon Cooper or redshirt freshman Gunner Cruz, who are fairly similar. Both have good size (although Cruz is bigger), both are mobile (although I think Cooper is more mobile), both have good arms (although I think Cruz’s is stronger). If Rolovich decides to get back to his roots in the Run and Shoot and employ a little more quarterback movement, I’d think Cooper is probably the choice. But it’s all just guessing.
Whatever the outcome, it seems like you’re probably more likely to see a veteran squad across the field that knows its assignments above those whose primary strength is flashes of athleticism.
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3. WASHINGTON STATE
Nick Rolovich will transition Washington State from the Air Raid to the Run-And-Shoot, after Mike Leach left to take over at Mississippi State. The Cougars need to find a new quarterback and a pair of receivers, but Leach loaded the roster with backups and his system has developed players capable of stepping in immediately and be stars. The centerpiece to the run-and-shoot will be Colorado native Max Borghi, who rushed for 817 yards and 11 touchdowns and had a team-high 86 catches for 597 yards and five touchdowns in 2019.
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