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Sports >  WSU football

Washington State quarterback Jayden de Laura earns offensive freshman of the year, three Cougars pull in first-team honors from Pac-12

UPDATED: Tue., Dec. 7, 2021

By Colton Clark The Spokesman-Review

Washington State’s football team received three first-team all-conference postseason honors Tuesday, plus an award for quarterback Jayden de Laura as the Pac-12’s offensive freshman of the year.

NFL-bound right tackle Abraham Lucas, edge rusher Ron Stone Jr. and Dean Janikowski, a first-year starter at place-kicker, raked in first-team accolades for the Cougars.

A WSU player had never taken home the annual prize for offensive freshman of the year in its 22-year history, and it’d been six years since so many WSU players landed on the conference’s first-team list.

Not a bad haul. But still, the Cougars have reason to feel a bit shortchanged.

WSU collected 14 All-Pac-12 honors, the conference announced.

Along with the three first-team selections, two Cougars earned second-team nods from the conference’s coaches – surprisingly, neither of WSU’s standout slotbacks made the first team. Another nine players were given honorable mentions.

De Laura was the Pac-12’s top frosh on offense, but apparently not one of its two best QBs.

That’s despite de Laura leading the conference this season with 2,742 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and 249.3 passing yards per game.

De Laura, who was sidelined for about a game and a half this year, completed 64% of his passes against nine picks.

The dynamic Honolulu product developed into a star in 2021 and became somewhat of a WSU folk hero, known for his blended traits of poise and bravado.

De Laura’s ceiling raised as his second season in Pullman progressed.

He captained the Cougars (7-5, 6-3 Pac-12) to bowl eligibility and a number of memorable victories after coach Nick Rolovich – a mentor to de Laura – was fired in mid-October.

WSU’s offense going forward will center around de Laura, who new coach Jake Dickert credits often for rallying the Cougars this year.

Utah’s Cameron Rising and UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson were named to the first and second team, respectively, while de Laura picked up an honorable mention nod.

De Laura is listed on WSU’s roster as a sophomore, but he’s still considered a freshman in the eyes of the NCAA because the pandemic-altered 2020 season didn’t count against his eligibility.

Lucas, a three-time second-team performer in his WSU career, started 12 games this year and didn’t allow a sack across 477 passing downs. The Everett native graded out as the Pac-12’s most effective pass-blocker and the No. 3 pass-blocker nationally, per Pro Football Focus.

He will play in the Senior Bowl early next year and presumably be scooped up by an NFL club in April.

Stone, a breakout junior from San Jose, California, ranked fifth in the Pac-12 with 11.5 tackles for loss, fourth with 38 pressures and eighth with five sacks. He logged 59 tackles and had a sack in four straight games.

Although his stat line wasn’t staggering, Stone was a consistent disruptor in the backfield for Dickert’s resurgent defense.

The first WSU D-lineman on the first team since Hercules Mata’afa in 2017, Stone was PFF’s No. 4 run defender in the Pac-12.

Janikowski won a position competition in fall camp and solidified himself as the Cougars’ kicker, connecting on 14 of 17 field goals – the best percentage among Pac-12 kickers. The sophomore from Fallbrook, California, hit four field goals in WSU’s 40-13 Apple Cup win over Washington on Nov. 26, including a career-long 41-yarder.

Floridian slotbacks Calvin Jackson Jr. and Travell Harris finished second and third in the conference with 955 and 801 receiving yards, respectively. Both were named to the second team – behind the clear-cut Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year in USC’s Drake London and UCLA’s Kyle Philips, who paced the conference with 10 TDs.

“Truly don’t get it but it’s alright lol,” tweeted Jackson, who tallied seven TDs and led the conference at 79.6 yards per game, after awards were revealed.

“The disrespect,” added Harris, who scored nine times. “It’s cool though. (I’ve) been underrated my whole life and I’ll continue to prove them wrong.”

Harris totaled 73 catches and Jackson 63. Both vets had their most productive years as Cougars in their final college seasons.

Harris is fourth in WSU history with 4,194 all-purpose yards and 10th with 176 receptions. He’ll try to move up the list when WSU closes its campaign against Miami in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31.

Jackson and Harris are the first Cougar receivers to be named to the conference’s first or second team

Honorable mentions include running back Max Borghi, linebacker Jahad Woods, nickel Armani Marsh, cornerback Jaylen Watson, safety Daniel Isom, edge Brennan Jackson, wideout De’Zhaun Stribling and all-purpose player Lincoln Victor.

Borghi enters his WSU finale a touchdown away from breaking the program’s all-time scoring record (42 TDs). The Arvada, Colorado, product rushed for 880 yards and 12 scores this year, finishing the season with back-to-back 100-yard outings.

Woods reached 100 tackles this year, and was one of only four Pac-12 players to do so. But he must settle for his fourth straight honorable mention.

The weakside LB from San Diego is WSU’s record-holder in career starts (52) and the Pac-12’s active leader in tackles (419). He ranked fourth in the conference this year in tackling and made six for loss, along with two forced fumbles and a pick.

Marsh, a former walk-on from Spokane, had 62 tackles, five for loss and recorded a team-best three interceptions – two, including a game-sealing pick-6, in the Apple Cup. Marsh will return to WSU next year.

Jackson, a junior from Temecula, California, earned two awards for the Pac-12’s D-lineman of the week this season. He registered 40 tackles, five in the backfield.

A versatile senior who’s been called a glue piece of the Cougars’ defense, Isom forced two fumbles and made 57 tackles. The St. Louis native will play his last game with WSU on New Year’s Eve.

Watson, a pro prospect from Georgia who’ll be attending next year’s Senior Bowl, picked off two passes and led the Pac-12 with four fumble recoveries.

Stribling started all 12 games in his true freshman season, snagging 42 passes for 458 yards and four TDs. The Hawaiian led all Pac-12 rookies in catches and shares the top spot among the conference’s freshmen in yards and scores.

Victor, a first-year Cougar who transferred out of Hawaii, was impactful on special teams. The West Camas, Washington, native also contributed 208 yards and a touchdown in the receiving game.

Utah’s Kyle Whittingham was awarded coach of the year after guiding the Utes to a Pac-12 title and their first Rose Bowl berth. Stellar Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd was picked as defensive player of the year. His teammate, defensive tackle Junior Tafuna, pocketed defensive freshman honors

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