Arrow-right Camera
Subscribe now

Walk-on Ayden Hector steps up as Washington State plays without multiple strong safeties

Washington State Cougars safety Tyrese Ross (1) pauses between plays during a practice on Wednesday, August 7, 2019, at Sacajawea Jr. High School in Lewiston, ID.   (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Three key members of Washington State’s defense – including two strong safeties – were absent from Saturday’s season opener against Oregon State.

Starting strong safety Tyrese Ross and backup strong safety Chad Davis Jr. did not travel to Corvallis, nor did backup “Mike” linebacker Travion Brown.

A school official was not able to provide any information on why any of the three were absent and it’s unclear if any are COVID-19-related.

With diminished depth at the position, the Cougars started true freshman walk-on Ayden Hector at strong safety, alongside free safety Daniel Isom. Hector was a four-star recruit at Eastside Catholic and one of the state’s top overall prospects before signing with Stanford, though he never enrolled in school there.

Hector, who joined the Cougars without a scholarship a few days into preseason camp, was leading the Cougars in tackles with seven at halftime, including five solo, and made a few key plays in pass coverage.

Brown’s absence at the “Mike” linebacker only slightly impacted WSU’s depth, though the Cougars still had three redshirt seniors – Jahad Woods, Justus Rogers and Dillon Sherman – available at the middle linebacker positions.

Other notable players who didn’t appear on the paper roster handed out in the press box at Reser Stadium included defensive back Pat Nunn, wide receiver Brandon Gray, defensive back Justin Anderson, running back Cole Dubots, safety Phillip Powell, defensive back Will Heckman, defensive lineman Marquise Freeman and defensive lineman Nicholas Sheetz.