Daiyan Henley, WSU’s stout middle linebacker and NFL prospect, will opt out of next weekend’s L.A. Bowl but will still travel with the team and act as a coach on the sideline.
Henley, who was named First Team All-Pac-12, is continuing a trend of NFL prospects sitting out bowl games so not to risk injury and thus, their draft status.
This leads to the obvious question: Who plays linebacker next Saturday? Travion Brown and Francisco Mauigoa have both entered the transfer portal, so they’re not available. The Spokesman-Review reports, via head coach Jake Dickert, that the Cougs will reach down the depth chart while bringing safety Jordan Lee down to the linebacker position:
Kyle Thornton, a fourth-year Cougar who had 31 tackles off the bench this season, will shift to middle linebacker for the LA Bowl and make his first career start. Senior Ben Wilson, who did most of his work this year on special teams, is set to make his first WSU start. Wilson, a second-year Cougar who made one start across three seasons at TCU (2018-20), will replace Henley at outside linebacker.
Senior strong safety Jordan Lee, known most for his hard-hitting abilities, is making a change in positions. The Nevada transfer will serve as Wilson’s backup, Dickert said.
Other backup options include junior Joshua Erling and true freshman Hudson Cedarland.
Henley will serve as essentially the linebackers coach, and Dickert will call the plays on defense given that previous defensive coordinator Brian Ward is off to Arizona State.
Players opting out isn’t new anymore, and WSU first experienced it last year when Liam Ryan, Abe Lucas and Max Borghi all sat out the Sun Bowl. We all saw how that went for the Cougar offense.
Couple the opt-outs with those who entered the transfer portal (The Spokesman-Review has a transfer tracker, if you want to cry) and you have a recipe for what could be an ugly L.A. Bowl for WSU. Or maybe it’ll be chaotic and fun, who knows! To recap, WSU is without these key players for the L.A. Bowl:
- Daiyan Henley
- Travion Brown
- Francisco Mauigoa
- Donovan Ollie
- De’Zhaun Stribling
A handful of reserves are also on the move. As discussed on the podcast this week, the new NIL and free transfer era could be a big problem for WSU and similar schools. The blue bloods also have players entering the portal, but the blue bloods also have incredibly capable backups to fill those spots. WSU’s depth chart just isn’t as deep. We’ll see whether this is sustainable going forward.
ICYMI: Cougs complete biggest comeback in school history
The Cougar women were in Portland this week to take on the Pilots and they came home with win no. 7 as they work toward a potential NCAA Tournament berth for the third straight season. But the win wasn’t easy, and WSU needed its biggest comeback in school history. It also seems like there was a sizable WSU contingent there to see the win:
The Cougs are in Seattle tomorrow to take on the Huskies.