PULLMAN – Jake Dickert wasn’t involved in their recruitment, and he’s been around only for a short period of their extended development processes in Pullman.
But Washington State’s interim football coach is well aware of how important these Cougar seniors have been to this program.
During his Monday news conference, Dickert had a list on hand of players WSU will recognize Friday when it hosts Pac-12 opponent Arizona at Gesa Field for senior night.
“Just looking at these names, they’ve been an integral part of what we’ve been doing and how we’ve gotten through this – not only this (coaching) transition, but the program we are today is really because of these men,” Dickert said.
“I’ve seen these guys thrive as leaders. They give this program and this team – and Washington State and Coug fans everywhere – everything they have. The biggest thing I’d love to see is just that support Friday night be shown. These guys deserve it.”
WSU will celebrate the careers of 14 players before kicking off against the Wildcats.
Twenty-six Cougars are designated as either seniors or graduate students on the team’s roster. Several will accept an extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and return in 2022.
The 14 being honored will most likely be playing on the Palouse for the final time this weekend.
Among the outgoing seniors are standout running backs Max Borghi and Deon McIntosh.
Borghi confirmed to media members Tuesday that he’s “ready to move on” after an impactful tenure as a fan-favorite WSU playmaker.
“I’ve been here for like 12 years I think,” Borghi said.
“I’m forever grateful for this place, and Washington State University has really shaped me into the person I am now.”
The other players presumed to be departing are slotbacks Travell Harris and Calvin Jackson Jr., two of the top receivers in the Pac-12; tackles Abraham Lucas and Liam Ryan, who have combined for 80 career starts on the Cougars’ offensive line; starting linebackers Jahad Woods and Justus Rogers, both of whom have appeared in 53 career games – one shy of Peyton Pelluer’s program record for games played; key safeties Daniel Isom, George Hicks III and Tyrone Hill Jr.; backup quarterback Jarrett Guarantano; and reserve offensive linemen Austin Martin and Seth Yost.
“They’re special people – not just players,” Dickert said. “Hopefully, our fans have gotten a chance to get to know some of these guys in the personal realm and support all their endeavors on and off the field. This group of men is going to be successful in life.”
As of now, Multiple notable players plan to stick around for another year, Dickert said.
The potential holdovers include starting defensive backs Derrick Langford Jr. and Armani Marsh, and transfer corner Kaleb Ford-Dement. Jaylen Watson, an NFL draft hopeful, wasn’t listed among the players participating in senior night, but he indicated on Twitter late Tuesday that he won’t be returning next year. Starting center Brian Greene will probably play another college season, as will six defensive linemen who have seen healthy minutes in WSU’s rotation – Willie Taylor III, Amir Mujahid, Jesus Echevarria, Christian Mejia, Antonio Pule and Dallas Hobbs.
It appears receiver Renard Bell, who sustained a season-ending ACL injury in the preseason, will be back as well.
“The COVID year provided those guys an extra year, and why not take advantage of it?” Dickert said. “You can keep this core and nucleus together, and some of those guys get an opportunity to create some more value for themselves. … A lot of those guys want to play at the next level. Another year of getting bigger, faster, stronger and proving what they can be. Another year in a system – I think they can show who their best self is.”
Of course, that’s all subject to change. Players could opt later to alter course and leave early instead of remaining at WSU for another season.
Dickert reminded reporters of the difficulties these Cougar upperclassmen have experienced over the past four years. He commended them for their perseverance and maturity.
They have faced tragedies, along with two coaching changes and a consistently disrupted pandemic season.
“What they’ve gone through and what they’ve pushed through, and the adversity they have dealt with, and they continued to strive,” he said. “Any one of them, whatever it is later in life, I’m going to reach out and try to help these guys in whatever they do, in whatever capacity I can help them.
“We want to send them out the right way, and that starts with just showing them support Friday night.”
Dickert has set aside time this week for the departing players to address the team. He figures they’ll impart “words of wisdom” to younger players and share “how special this place has been to them.”
“Really, it’s all about culture and keeping the culture of the locker room,” Borghi said of what he intends to tell his teammates. “We’re really going to preach that. If you have a good culture in the locker room, it’s going to show on the field.”
Jackson said he’s been trying to provide guidance throughout his final game week in Pullman. He spoke with freshman receiver Orion Peters on Monday and presented the youngster with veteran insights about “taking care of your body.”
Jackson said this season “flew by.” He said he’s making it a point to “talk to people I’ve never spoken to, hang out with people I never hung out with. … I’m making memories, because that stuff goes a long way.”
Borghi said it “feels like yesterday” that he was suiting up for his first career game in 2018 at Wyoming.
“I blinked, and now I’m already here in my last game at Martin Stadium,” he said. “It doesn’t feel real, but I knew it would go quick. … It’s been weird. It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I think it’ll sink in after the game, and obviously we gotta go out on a good note.”
Jackson walked slowly off the field, clutching his shoulder late in WSU’s 38-24 loss at Oregon on Saturday. The veteran slot said it was a minor injury and he’ll be ready to go against Arizona.
Guard Cade Beresford didn’t play, but he could have in an “emergency situation,” said Dickert, who expects Beresford to “get back to full strength this week.”
Free safety Halid Djibril didn’t make the trip to Eugene, but is “hopeful” to return against Arizona.
Greene won’t play for the second straight week because of a “personal matter,” Dickert said.
Junior Salt accepts new job
Assistant strength and conditioning coach Visesio “Junior” Salt has left the program to take an unspecified role with the University of Utah, his alma mater.
“I’m a big fan of (helping) our staff get opportunities,” Dickert said. “When a guy like coach Salt gets an opportunity to advance in his career and eventually go home, which is the University of Utah, I’m just excited for him.”
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