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Washington State notes: Quarterback race deadlocked, Cougar coaches address depth chart

Jayden de Laura, left, and Jarrett Guarantano are vying to be Washington State’s starting quarterback for its season opener against Utah State on Saturday. Head coach Nick Rolovich has given no indication as to which player he will choose.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Colton Clark The Spokesman-Review

PULLMAN – Three days ahead of his team’s season opener, Washington State coach Nick Rolovich has yet to make the call.

Rolovich said Wednesday after practice at Rogers Field that selecting a No. 1 quarterback has been “made tougher” by the recent performances of contenders Jayden de Laura and Jarrett Guarantano.

The second-year coach also acknowledged that he probably won’t announce a starter publicly before Saturday, when the Cougars play host to Utah State.

“We’ve gone this long. I’m not sure it’s worth putting out there, as far as strategy,” he said.

Rolovich has seen “strong development” over the past week from both de Laura, a sophomore, and Guarantano, a grad transfer. The two have been trading snaps with WSU’s first-team offense throughout the week.

Rolovich said he understands why some fans might worry. There’s an adage often voiced by football analysts and coaches that goes: “If you have two (QBs), you don’t have one.”

Quarterbacks are expected to be clear-cut leaders. In essence, the phrase means that if one is having trouble separating – or if two are alternating during games – then neither is ready to captain his team.

In the case of this WSU team, Rolovich doesn’t agree with the sentiment.

“I really feel good about having two guys that can help us win,” he said. “That’s a good place to be.

“I appreciate their competitiveness … and the togetherness of the group (of QBs), understanding that one guy can only play.”

Asked to compare and contrast the quarterbacks’ skills, Rolovich said: “Jayden has a very quick release. I think he’s a very twitchy athlete. Jarrett is a smooth thrower with a good knowledge of offense. … I see a real maturity in the pocket from him.”

Rolovich will “lean against” platooning them Saturday, he said during a news conference Monday.

Addressing the depth chart

Senior defensive tackle Dallas Hobbs, expected to be a key contributor, was missing when WSU released its depth chart Monday, but there’s no cause for concern.

Rolovich indicated that Hobbs is part of a healthy rotation at the position, and that he just so happened to not be listed among the first four on the two-deep.

“We’re going to rotate a bunch of guys,” Rolovich said. “We could have put three (on the depth chart) probably at most positions.”

At running back, well-rounded senior Deon McIntosh and bruising Wisconsin transfer Nakia Watson were listed as co-backups behind Max Borghi. Each of the three will see a fair share of reps versus the Aggies.

“Both of those guys are twos right now and to be honest, I think all of those guys could be the ones,” offensive coordinator Brian Smith said. “All of them have played well enough that they all could start a game for us and we’d feel great about it. They could all come off the bench and we’d feel great about it, too. Some of it will be situational, who we want in with what look or what’s happening in the game.”

The competition for right guard between junior Cade Beresford and sophomore Rodrick Tialavea is ongoing, Smith said, and might be well into the season.

Among the head-turning developments on the depth chart: Sophomore walk-on receiver Anderson Grover is apparently challenging junior transfer C.J. Moore for the backup spot at “Z,” behind sophomore Donovan Ollie.

“He’s been a pleasant surprise,” Rolovich said of Grover, a 6-foot-1, 190-pounder.

“He’s someone that has real strong hands,” Smith added of the Modesto (California) Junior College transfer. “He’s a smart kid. He’s picked up what we do real well.”

True freshman De’Zhaun Stribling will be a player to keep an eye on this season as well. The Hawaiian has been designated the first-stringer at “X” receiver.

“He’s gonna be nice come Saturday,” senior slot receiver Travell Harris said late last week. “He’s done a good job of coming in and playing no games.”

Standout receiver Renard Bell is lost for the season because of an ACL tear sustained in the summer.

But since then, the Cougars have managed to avoid any additional serious injuries to significant players. They plan to be close to full health Saturday.

“The majority of guys we’re counting on will be ready to go,” Rolovich said.