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Sports >  WSU football

Washington State mailbag: Who’ll be the QB? Your guess is as good as mine (and the coaches’)

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 1, 2021

By Colton Clark The Spokesman-Review

Will we know before Saturday who’ll start at quarterback for Washington State in its season opener?

Don’t get your hopes up.

I’m not so sure WSU’s coaching staff even has an idea which one it’ll send out yet.

Three days ahead of their Week 1 matchup with Utah State, the Cougars are still waiting for a signal-caller to separate.

Naturally, the long-running discussion revolving around WSU’s QBs continues in the first of this season’s weekly mailbag series.

Who do you think has the upper hand between (Jayden) de Laura and (Jarrett) Guarantano? Have there been enough ‘wow’ moments from one quarterback to separate himself?

- Cody M.

Tough call. In terms of “wow moments?” Nah, nothing so sensational that it sways my thinking in one direction.

My apologies for the lack of a more definitive response, but I don’t have a favorite.

Both are dialed in on their quick-release passes, a characteristic coach Nick Rolovich emphasizes in his run-and-shoot offense. Yet I’d argue Guarantano has a slight edge there.

De Laura – who as you well know was last season’s starter and was hit-and-miss as a rookie then – gets the nod for versatility. He’s a little more lean and evasive, a bit more athletic.

Maturity? Guarantano has the advantage, considering he played in the mettle-testing Southeastern Conference, starting 32 games over the past four years at Tennessee. He’s certainly more settled in the pocket and under pressure.

Another trait I’ve noticed in Guarantano: If he makes a mistake in practice – say, misreads the coverage and throws a pick – he tends to go the rest of the day without an error.

De Laura ran a slightly different form of the run-and-shoot during his high school days in Hawaii. With four starts already under his belt, perhaps he’d be more comfy in the offense overall.

I also can’t help but think it’d be in the Cougars’ best interests to trot out de Laura and get him as much early game experience as possible.

Since most of the Cougar faithful deem him their signal-caller of the future, it could be wise to stick with de Laura and foster his growth as the first-stringer.

Any separation in the competition has supposedly been paper-thin. If that’s the case, WSU shouldn’t expect its in-game fortunes to flourish or fade to an extensive degree depending on who’s under center. Why not play the younger of the two then?

To be clear, that’s not me siding with de Laura – rather, pointing out logic that might go into the decision.

Guarantano boasts a bigger arm and body – 6-foot-4, 220 pounds – and plays with more of a pro style. And it’s possible he’d play with more resolve as well.

It’s the New Jersey native’s final opportunity to shine in Power 5 college football after a rocky exit from Tennessee, a program that was generally unstable when Guarantano was on the roster.

Without Dallas Hobbs listed on the depth chart, what is the situation on the D-line, specifically in the middle? Seems a little thin.

- @HoisingtonAaron

Rolovich indicated Wednesday there’s nothing to be concerned about in regards to senior Dallas Hobbs being left off the Week 1 two-deep.

Hobbs is one of five or six tackles defensive coordinator Jake Dickert plans to rotate regularly during games.

Hobbs, Ahmir Crowder, Amir Mujahid, Antonio Pule and Christian Mejia will be the go-to DTs. Hobbs and Crowder have combined for 10 tackles for loss and three sacks in the past two years. The others are light on experience.

The Cougars’ defense likes its depth up front, but the amount of push the group gets remains to be seen.

The interior D-line doesn’t feature big-name talent.

The edge-rushing position, however, does.

Dickert said earlier in fall camp that he’d be examining the possibility of playing four ends at a time to speed-rush opposing quarterbacks.

With Ron Stone Jr., Brennan Jackson and Willie Taylor III manning the edges, concerns about the rest of the D-line are eased.

What will be our team identity this year?

- @Dominick_e325

Good question. Difficult question.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that this team bucks the trend and is defined by its defense, which is teeming with familiar faces.

I know it sounds odd. WSU hasn’t been carried by defense in what, 20 years or so?

There’s just too much veteran savvy on that end for me to choose an expected answer that pertains to the run-and-shoot offense.

To break it down position by position:

The D-line looks to be solid enough. It won’t blow many foes away, but it won’t get trounced either. The edge-rushing position is particularly sound.

The linebackers have something like 2,000 career games among them.

And the secondary – arguably WSU’s most problematic position a year ago – shored up its weak spots through the transfer portal.

At this point, I’m too uncertain on how the quarterback(s) and receivers will fare.

For some time now the biggest “scandal” at WSU has been Nick Rolovich’s decision to not get vaccinated. He was being asked on a daily basis about his status. But since last week it seems that reporters have not been asking him about it. Do you agree? Was this something that WSU asked for?

- Pablo V.

Agree. Questions concerning Rolovich’s decision to not receive the COVID-19 vaccine and Gov. Jay Inslee’s recent state mandate requiring educators to get the shot have decreased recently.

WSU didn’t ask for it to stop. The second-year Cougars coach has simply refused to respond with anything concrete.

He said only that he’d “follow the mandate” when asked several various questions about the pandemic and the vaccine a couple of weeks ago.

“I’m just gonna follow the mandate” has since morphed into something along the lines of “we’ve already addressed that,” regardless of the question’s phrasing.

Rolovich’s stance on the vaccine/mandate was the subject of two questions in the past week – both of which he didn’t answer.

It’ll come up again, that’s for certain. The state mandate requires him to be either fully vaccinated or have an exemption by Oct. 18.

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