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Sports >  WSU football

Left tackle Liam Ryan announces plans to return to Washington State in 2021

UPDATED: Tue., Dec. 29, 2020

Washington State senior offensive lineman Liam Ryan has started in every game for the Cougars since 2018.  (Associated Press)
Washington State senior offensive lineman Liam Ryan has started in every game for the Cougars since 2018. (Associated Press)

It’s no guarantee Washington State will keep its entire offensive line intact next season, but one of the most important pieces confirmed he’ll return to Pullman for a sixth season in 2021.

Liam Ryan, a fifth-year senior who’s started in every game for the Cougars since 2018, announced on Instagram he’ll take advantage of the extra year of eligibility offered to all NCAA athletes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic rather than leave and pursue a career in professional football.

“I got unfinished business to take care of. One last ride. #gocougs,” Ryan wrote in a caption.

While Ryan’s return is important for an offensive line that seemed to be one of the strongest position groups on the team during the truncated four-game 2020 season, it’s also pivotal from a leadership standpoint. Teammates voted Ryan as one of WSU’s three captains last season and he served on the 17-player leadership council conceived by first-year coach Nick Rolovich.

Ryan appeared in three games as a redshirt freshman in 2017, but didn’t miss a start in 2018 playing at left guard. With the departure of first-round NFL draft pick Andre Dillard, Ryan moved to left tackle for his redshirt junior season in 2019 and has started each of the team’s past 17 games there.

The Chino Hills, California, native is a two-time All-Pac-12 honorable mention selection, earning the honor in 2018 and 2020. As a junior in 2019, he was rated the third-best screen-blocking offensive tackle in the country by Pro Football Focus and earned the Pac-12’s Offensive Lineman of the Week award after the season opener against New Mexico State.

It’s yet to be seen if two other members of WSU’s starting offensive line will come back in 2021. Senior right guard Josh Watson, who’s started 28 of the team’s past 29 games, will also have the option to return in 2021, and isn’t considered to be a high-end NFL draft prospect.

Right tackle Abraham Lucas told reporters after the season finale at Utah he’d spend the final weeks of December mulling a decision to stay in school for his redshirt senior season or move on to the NFL. Lucas, an All-Pac-12 second-team selection who earned first-team honors from the Associated Press, may be WSU’s top NFL prospect regardless of position and said his future with the school was “up in the air.”

“I’m going to keep that private as much as I can,” Lucas said. “But I will make a decision for myself. That is all I’ll say.”

WSU’s other starting offensive linemen, redshirt sophomore left guard Jarrett Kingston and redshirt junior center Brian Greene, are both expected to return in 2021.

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