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Rolovich: Jayden de Laura’s ‘history’ in run-and-shoot & ‘competitive nature’ helped freshman win Washington State QB job

Washington State quarterback Jayden de Laura winds up to throw a pass during a recent scrimmage at Martin Stadium. Cougars coach Nick Rolovich named the true freshman WSU's starter for the season opener at Oregon State.   (Washington State Athletics )

This time, the source was the head coach.

After indicating on multiple occasions he wouldn’t name a starting quarterback for Washington State’s season opener at Oregon State, first-year coach Nick Rolovich finally conceded true freshman Jayden de Laura would get the nod Saturday against the Beavers.

“Jayden’s going to take the first snap for us at Oregon State,” Rolovich said Monday during a Zoom call with reporters.

The confirmation comes one day after The Spokesman-Review reported de Laura had been told early last week he’d won a three-way quarterback competition with redshirt sophomore Cammon Cooper and redshirt freshman Gunner Cruz. De Laura, a native of Honolulu, is thought to be the first true freshman quarterback in school history to start for the Cougars in a season opener.

“Came in obviously with a history in the family of the offense,” Rolovich said. “I think there was some stuff he still had to learn … everyone was going to be a first-time starter, right? But he came in, just put in the work, thought he was productive and consistent and was going to give us the best chance to move the ball this Saturday. That didn’t mean the other two didn’t do some good things. We’ve got to be able to count on them also.”

But De Laura’s attributes set him apart from the pack: “Good arm strength, good understanding, good timing, good zone manipulation of defenders. Gets the ball out quick, has some accuracy, has some ability to make some plays off script. And his competitive nature. I think he came here for a reason.”

Now both teams playing Saturday night have unveiled starting quarterbacks after holding competitive battles during preseason camp. The Beavers are going with redshirt junior Tristan Gebbia, who backed up Jake Luton in 2019. Luton, who began his college career at Idaho, was recently named the starting QB for the Jacksonville Jaguars, filling in for former WSU signal-caller Gardner Minshew, who is injured .

Minshew and de Laura took very different paths to Pullman, but both QBs essentially had a four-week tryout, needing to work quick to show coaches what they were capable on the field while simultaneously building the trust of their teammates. Albeit Minshew and de Laura didn’t do it in the same manner, both approaches proved to be effective.

“Gardner and him are really kind of different people,” junior right tackle Abe Lucas told reporters. “The legend of Gardner stretching in his jockstrap certainly isn’t Jayden’s thing, so he’s not doing that. But he comes in, he has confidence with people. He’s not a shy guy or anything. He’s vocal, he’s respectful. Like I said, he’s not an idiot, he’s not a stupid freshman we have to worry about on the field and that’s really what we care about.

“The on-the-field stuff will take care of itself as long as you work hard, but you can throw it all away off the field if you’re acting stupid and he doesn’t do that.”

Lucas also described the rookie QB as someone who “stepped up to the plate” during summer workouts. Even when he had the chance to, the freshman didn’t return home to Hawaii after initially arriving on campus, and began building chemistry with teammates through summer workouts.

“He came in and we all liked him immediately,” Lucas said. “ That’s always good when you have a guy who’s locked in. We worked with him as much as we could throughout the summer when people were here and we were able to do stuff.”

De Laura comes from the same high school, Honolulu’s Saint Louis, that produced former WSU QB and All-Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year Jason Gesser, who started in Pullman in 2000-02 and carried Mike Price’s Cougars to the 2003 Rose Bowl. Other successful QBs who’ve emerged from the school include Timmy Chang, Darnell Arceneaux, Jeremiah Masoli and, most recently, Marcus Mariota, Tua Tagovailoa and Chevan Cordeiro.

Pac-12 adds game day protocols

The Pac-12 announced further game day protocols as it prepares for its first weekend of competition since the conference basketball tournament in Las Vegas was shuttered eight months ago.

The additions include:

- Daily point-of-care testing on each day of full practice, higher-risk of transmission activity, travel and games.

- Minimum once weekly PCR test (in addition to daily point-of-care testing). For football game weeks, the weekly PCR test will take place within 36 hours of game time for home team players and within 36 hours of travel departure for visiting team players.

- Any positive daily point-of-care antigen test must be followed by a PCR test within 24 hours.

- A third-party testing administrator will administer game day point-of-care antigen tests (and PCR tests as applicable) for each team and on-field officials.

- Game day air ambulance service will be available in case any individual tests positive while traveling for competition.

Changing odds

When the Pac-12 schedule was first released, Las Vegas oddsmakers chose WSU as a 3-point favorite in the season opener. As of Monday, the line had shifting, favoring OSU by 1 point.

The Cougars have won six straight games against the Beavers and haven’t been an underdog in the game since 2014, when Luke Falk passed for 471 yards and threw five touchdowns to secure a 39-32 victory at Reser Stadium.