It’ll be a full-fledged three-man quarterback competition at Washington State when the Cougars return to Pullman approximately two months from now.
During a radio interview with KJR’s Ian Furness on Thursday, WSU coach Nick Rolovich confirmed that returning starter Jayden de Laura had been reinstated to the football team after serving a suspension that stemmed from an offseason DUI arrest.
“He’s back with us,” Rolovich told Furness. “Took his medicine and he’s moving forward in a better way in my opinion. We don’t hold grudges. You play stupid games, you win stupid prizes sometimes and I think he learned his lesson and moving forward we’re full steam ahead.”
De Laura’s suspension kept him from competing in spring camp, therefore allowing returning backup Cammon Cooper and Tennessee graduate transfer Jarrett Guarantano to take the large majority of first team offensive reps.
Cooper didn’t necessarily separate from Guarantano during that period, or vice versa, and Rolovich anticipates all three quarterbacks will have an equal opportunity to win the job when fall camp opens in August.
“Wide open,” Rolovich said when asked if a front-runner had emerged from the QB competition. “I see Jayden, Jarrett and Cam kind of battling that out. I think the dark horse is (walk-on) Victor (Gabalis), he just continues to get better. But I think we’ll start with those three and when it’s time to whittle it down, we’ll whittle it down or if someone wins it.”
Rolovich indicated he doesn’t have a specific timetable for picking a starter, but he’d prefer to identify somebody with at least a week before the season opener against Utah State. The second-year coach may not reveal his choice publicly, but said he’d like his locker room to know who’ll be leading the Cougars under center well before the Sept. 4 opener.
“I don’t want to go up until Friday. Maybe I won’t tell you guys, but I’d like the team to know before they have the opening kickoff,” Rolovich said. “But I think it’ll be a good, healthy competition.”
Cooper, initially recruited to play for Mike Leach in the Air Raid, is the longest-tenured WSU quarterback on the team and Rolovich said he’s made notable strides in the run-and-shoot offense the Cougars adopted last season. Guarantano is a three-year SEC starter who’s still learning the ropes of the offense and was limited in the spring game due to a hand/wrist injury suffered on the first play. De Laura is the most experienced in Rolovich’s offense, having run a version of it at Saint Louis High in Honolulu, and did a handful of positive things as WSU’s full-time starter during the shortened 2020 season, but lacked the consistency Rolovich would like to see from the position.
“I thought Cam was way more comfortable with one year in the system. I think he would say that,” Rolovich said. “Jarrett has great football knowledge, a lot of history in different offenses. There’s some translation for some things he’s done, but I think he’s enjoying the overall philosophy of the offense and how it works. And obviously Jayden was good enough to win it last year and play for us.”
Regardless of who wins the job this year or down the road, Rolovich said he’ll try to have three QBs ready at all times, emphasizing the importance of depth at the position in the Pac-12 Conference.
“That’s my new rule,” he said. “We’ve got to have three you can count on, especially in this conference.”