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What does Jayden de Laura’s DUI arrest mean for 2021?

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Leadership matters in a QB; how much impact will this have?

Washington State v Utah Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

As you’ve probably heard by now, the freshman quarterback who made history by starting four games for Washington State this fall is back in the news today for the wrong reason: Jayden de Laura was arrested for suspicion of misdemeanor DUI early Saturday morning. He has since been suspended by the program.

The news was first reported by SWX/KHQ’s Rob Jesselson and has since been confirmed by multiple outlets.

The details are pretty typical for this sort of thing in Pullman: de Laura is alleged to have run through a stop sign and then driven the wrong way on a one-way street on College Hill before being pulled over; he then failed a field sobriety test and refused a breathalyzer before subsequently being arrested.

It’s important to note that the most significant thing here is that nobody was hurt; dumb decisions like this obviously can and do result in tragedy, which is why we have strong anti-DUI laws in the first place — de Laura will suffer steep penalties from the legal system (fines, license suspension, etc.).

Since de Laura has already escaped the most serious potential consequences of his actions, it’s reasonable to take the next logical step and wonder how this might impact his standing as the starting QB as the team heads into 2021.

It was already understood that de Laura wasn’t going to be gifted the reins again for this upcoming season. His freshman season was inconsistent — as one would have expected — and now graduate transfer and former Tennessee Vols quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has joined the mix, plus former four-star/Elite 11 recruit Cammon Cooper is still hanging around. (Former three-star recruit, Gunner Cruz, has since transferred out to Arizona.)

Now, de Laura is suspended with spring practices likely about a month away. What exactly that means for his participation with the program is unclear, as nobody associated with the program has yet clarified. But we do know this: The quarterback is the de facto leader of any football team and he’s likely to be away from the team for some amount of time. Someone else is going to fill that void during workouts while he’s away, however long it is.

Beyond that, if we’re being real honest, this sort of thing isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of his ability to make sound decisions and inspire trust amongst his teammates and coaches.

You might remember that it was his positive COVID result that kicked off the chain of events that led to the cancellation of two games. Maybe he did everything right and still contracted the virus. But ... now I kinda wonder.

Look: He’s a freshman. Freshmen make very dumb decisions with stunning regularity thanks to their still-developing brains. I work with 18-year-olds and I know better than most that just because someone is an adult in the eyes of the law doesn’t mean they always make the best choices. I’m not going to kill the kid over this, especially when he’s already overcome so much to even get in this position, as Theo Lawson detailed so skillfully in this longform feature.

But most freshmen get to make those mistakes in obscurity; de Laura is at the helm of the most visible sports team on campus. And while de Laura undoubtedly will be given the opportunity to win the trust of his teammates and coaches back, I think maybe it’s worth wondering if this ends up impacting his ability to lead the team right now.

Perhaps it will all just blow over. There are a lot of reasons to think he’s a great kid. And teammates will forgive a lot if they think you can help them win. But it’s not always just physical maturity that keeps freshmen from becoming major contributors, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out between now and August.