PULLMAN – Washington State’s quarterback competition began in the spring and dominated headlines throughout fall camp. Game week came along, and a starting signal-caller still had not been named.
It went on forever, right down to the wire. But at last, the Cougs have made their selection.
Graduate transfer Jarrett Guarantano is expected to start for WSU in its season opener Saturday at home against Utah State, a source with knowledge of the situation said. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.
The general public learned of the development just 10 hours before game time, when Cougfan.com reported that Guarantano had beaten out sophomore Jayden de Laura in a close race. De Laura started all four of the Cougars’ games in last year’s abbreviated, four-game season.
The two had been neck and neck for the nod in the latter part of August. Coach Nick Rolovich admitted that settling on a starter had been made difficult by their equally steady practice performances.
“Seen some strong development from both guys,” Rolovich said earlier this week. “We’re playing better football, which is making it a little harder. One guy’s got to take the first snap and I think we’ll feel good with whatever decision we make.”
Guarantano, a 32-game starter at the University of Tennessee, brings poise and experience to WSU’s offense. Rolovich has commended his maturity and pocket presence multiple times this preseason.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound New Jersey native completed 494 of 808 passes (61.1%) during his four-year stay with the Volunteers, accumulating 6,174 yards and 38 touchdowns against 17 interceptions in 41 total games. He rushed for another five scores.
Beginning his career in Knoxville, Tennessee, as the country’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback recruit, Guarantano showed promise early, but wound up being an off-and-on starter.
Guarantano struggled last year with decision-making and accuracy issues and lost his starting job midway through the season. He entered the NCAA transfer portal in mid-December, then about three weeks later announced that he’d be signing with the Pullman school.
Throughout fall camp, Guarantano has looked crisp in the run-and-shoot offense’s short passing concepts. Other traits that probably factored into the decision include his quick release, understated mobility and veteran knack for controlling the pace of this offense.
“Jarrett is a smooth thrower with a good knowledge of offense and a good idea of, you say game experience, but I see a real maturity in the pocket from him,” Rolovich said last week.
De Laura can play in as many as four games and still take a redshirt to retain the year of eligibility. Rolovich has indicated that he’d also be comfortable playing junior Cammon Cooper, who was eliminated from a three-man QB race early last week.
Rolovich said last week that he was “leaning against” platooning quarterbacks this season, and that “there is not some diabolical plan to play one in Game 1 and one in Game 2.
“If it happens, it happens, whether it’s an injury or not a great performance,” he said.
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