PULLMAN – A three-man battle for quarterback at Washington State may soon be whittled down to two.
Cougars coach Nick Rolovich was asked Friday if he’s considering removing one player from the competition by some point next week.
“It’s kind of the feeling,” the second-year boss said at Rogers Field after WSU’s 13th day of fall camp.
A week ago, Rolovich wasn’t too confident in any of the signal-callers in contention – those being sophomore Jayden de Laura, grad transfer Jarrett Guarantano and junior Cammon Cooper.
“Last week, I would have said nobody is playing good enough,” Rolovich said. But the quarterbacks “have all elevated their presence and effectiveness this week.
“It’s all about how you come out with energy, and leading the other 10 guys.”
Rolovich hasn’t yet hinted at who might have a leg up in the race.
De Laura – the returning starter – has been consistent in the past couple of sessions. He turned in a number of quality plays during Thursday’s full-contact practice at Gesa Field, exhibiting elusiveness under pressure and accuracy on short passes.
The 6-foot, 195-pounder demonstrated his deep ball a bit more Friday at Rogers Field. The top three plays of the helmets-only practice came courtesy of the Hawaiian.
He lofted a well-placed rainbow pass about 35 yards to Joey Hobert, who had a step of separation down the seams. On the next play of the non-contact drill, de Laura tested his arm again, targeting Lincoln Victor – the Hawaii transfer leapt to make an exceptional grab between two defenders for a gain of approximately 30 yards.
De Laura connected later with Mitchell Quinn around 25 yards down the left sideline. Quinn had a defender draped all over him, but de Laura put impressive touch on the pass for a completion.
In the day’s final segment, the three quarterbacks were each supplied just over a minute and asked to either march the offense into field-goal range or score a touchdown. De Laura was tasked with the former objective, and succeeded. Wazzu’s pass coverage was good enough to snuff out drives led by Guarantano and Cooper.
“Less than two weeks away from our first game, so I think we’re really locking in right now,” linebacker Justus Rogers said of the defense.
Guarantano completed 7 of 8 passes in an 11-on-11 period Thursday after one errant toss on his first attempt, which was picked and returned for a touchdown by safety George Hicks III.
Yet the 6-4, 230-pound Tennessee transfer looked mostly dialed in this week on intermediate passes over the middle and to the outside.
In the past two practices, de Laura has taken an estimated 40 reps in full team periods. Guarantano was under center for 32 plays and Cooper, who has completed nine of his last 19 passes, took around 25 snaps.
Rolovich has introduced a concept into the competition called “king of the hill.” Simply put: The quarterback who’s playing best stays on the field the longest.
Cougs go light
WSU wore only helmets Friday, and primarily worked on fundamental drills and staged walkthroughs ahead of Saturday’s full-pads scrimmage, which Rolovich said will focus more on situational exercises – rather than functioning as a mock game.
“I know it’s called a scrimmage, but I don’t know that it’s going to be an hour and 20 minutes of just playing football,” he said. “We’re going to try to set up things that we need to see again and hopefully the offense and defense can work together, script some things they feel the need to work on.”
Rolovich indicated that some players might be held out of the session, perhaps because WSU’s depth chart is starting to come together.
“I don’t know how much you’ll see of some of the guys who have played,” he said.
Wide receiver should be a position group to watch Saturday. Eight pass-catchers have run routes with the first-team offense, and that number likely needs to be trimmed down.
In their words
“The last three days have been some of our best practices, some of the best practices I may have been around. Just the understanding of getting better, taking care of each other, practicing the right way. I think we took a real step offensively from Monday to today.”
– Rolovich on takeaways from this week of fall camp.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Cougs newsletter
Get the latest Cougs headlines delivered to your inbox as they happen.