It took two years thanks to an interruption from a pandemic, but the Washington State Cougars will finally return to the field for a spring practice today, the first of 15 such workouts that conclude on April 29.
The Crimson and Gray game is scheduled for April 24 at 2 p.m., and there actually is hope that fans will be able to attend in Martin Stadium: the school says “attendance and ticket information for the 2021 Crimson & Gray Game will be announced at a later date, pending guidance from campus, local and state health authorities.”
As it has been each year since the departure of Luke Falk in 2017, the Cougars are in search of a starting quarterback, and that will be the storyline that dominates news reports and fan discussion. Last fall, it seemed WSU had found its quarterback of the future when true freshman Jayden de Laura started all four games.
But a DUI arrest in early February left him suspended from the program, and that suspension continues, even now. In a news conference, Rolovich offered hints that the suspension might not last for all of April: “I think in my head I have (made that decision). ... I’m anticipating I’ll continue to monitor that (situation).”
Rolovich also said he’s pleased with how de Laura has conducted himself these last two months:
I asked Nick Rolovich how Jayden de Laura responded to his suspension.— Theo Lawson (@TheoLawson_SR) March 31, 2021
“I would say incredibly. ... What I told him is how he deals with this could define the rest of his career & I’m incredibly proud of his approach, taking the punishments & growing & maturing as a young man.” pic.twitter.com/WQGRPYeTe5
That means the door that was already cracked by de Laura’s inconsistent play last fall is now busted wide open for a pair of veterans: Cammon Cooper (a one-time four-star/Elite 11 recruit) and Jarrett Guarantano (a graduate transfer from the Tennessee Vols). To be clear, nothing is going to be won or lost during spring practices, but those guys will be getting valuable reps while de Laura sits out.
Additionally, we’ll get our first look at Xavier Ward, the three-star QB recruit who signed in December and has enrolled early. It would be a surprise if he ended up legitimately competing for the job, but ... we said the same thing about de Laura last fall.
Other players who will be making their debuts for WSU include transfers Ben Wilson (linebacker, TCU), Chris Jackson (cornerback, Michigan State) and CJ Moore (wide receiver, Oklahoma State via juco). Each of them were higher rated as high school recruits than most of their new teammates, so it will be interesting to see what kind of immediate impact they can make.
There always are a handful of departures, and a couple of notable names are absent from the spring roster. One is Pat Nunn, a defensive back who opted out of the fall season over COVID concerns. It’s unclear if he has left the team permanently, or if this is still related to the COVID opt out. Lucas Bacon, a walk-on who started all four games at X (left outside) receiver last fall, and linebacker Hank Pladson, who I believe also was still a walk-on, no longer appear on the roster, either.
A surprise departure from the team earlier this week was defensive back Ayden Hector, who has put his name into the transfer portal. Hector started a couple of games last fall as a four-star walk-on recruit, but he had been suspended by the team this offseason for having been arrested on suspicion of using a fake ID, and this was after all the baggage he brought with him to Pullman in the first place. Whether he is transferring of his own volition or he was encouraged to go, there’s no doubt that his loss is a big blow to the potential of the secondary this fall; his talent was plain to see.
Earlier departures via transfer include quarterback Gunner Cruz; wide receivers Rodrick Fisher, Jamire Calvin, and Kassidy Woods; offensive lineman Hunter Mayginnes; defensive linemen Lamonte McDougle, Will Rodgers III, and Cosmas Kwete; defensive backs Tyrese Ross, Trey Davis, and Skyler Thomas; and kicker Blake Mazza.
Here’s the full schedule, via WSU:
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