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Seeking fullback opportunity, Washington State’s Clay Markoff announces departure from Cougars

WSU running back Clay Markoff poses for a photo in the weight room after a practice on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, at Rogers Field in Pullman, Wash.   (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

With a crowded backfield and limited opportunities for a traditional fullback in Nick Rolovich’s run-and-shoot offense, former walk-on and fan favorite Clay Markoff confirmed to The Spokesman-Review he plans to spend his final year of eligibility somewhere other than Pullman.

The NCAA Transfer Portal Twitter account first reported Markoff’s plans to enter the portal Wednesday morning and he wrote a parting message to WSU Thursday afternoon.

“Cougar born, Cougar bred, and when I die, a Cougar dead. Thank you Wazzu,” Markoff wrote on Twitter.

Although Markoff came to the Cougars as a fullback, he converted to running back during Mike Leach’s final season in Pullman and stayed in that role under Rolovich last season. Markoff, who was placed on scholarship by Leach’s staff in 2019, was primed for a bigger role as a redshirt junior but had his season derailed by an injury.

Known for his prowess in the weight room and physical running style, Markoff told The S-R in a Twitter message, “I’m going to try and find a program that runs a fullback.” Traditionally, the spread offenses used by Leach or Rolovich employ four receivers and a running back, seldom using a fullback or tight end.

The Olympia High School standout excelled in football and rugby before joining the Cougars as a nonscholarship player, then used a redshirt season in 2016 before appearing in six games on special teams the following year.

He played in 10 games in 2018, mostly on special teams, but had his first career carry in a blowout win against Arizona.

The bruising back impressed during spring and fall camp in 2019, enough to warrant a scholarship, and coaches indicated he’d see an uptick in playing time. Markoff had eight carries in games against New Mexico State and Northern Colorado, but a lower-body injury held him out for a good chunk of the season and he logged only one more carry the rest of the way.

During the shortened 2020 season, Markoff played in all four games, registering four carries for 12 yards while also hauling in a 7-yard reception.