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Sports >  WSU football

Washington State linebacker Francisco Mauigoa enters NCAA transfer portal after breakout season with Cougars

Dec. 7, 2022 Updated Sat., Dec. 10, 2022 at 3:25 p.m.

Washington State linebacker Francisco Mauigoa (51) celebrates after the Cougars defeated Colorado State on Sept. 17 at Gesa Field in Pullman. Mauigoa entered the NCAA transfer portal on Wednesday.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State linebacker Francisco Mauigoa (51) celebrates after the Cougars defeated Colorado State on Sept. 17 at Gesa Field in Pullman. Mauigoa entered the NCAA transfer portal on Wednesday. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

PULLMAN – Linebacker Francisco Mauigoa, one of the brightest young players on Washington State’s roster, is looking to fulfill his potential elsewhere.

Mauigoa entered the NCAA transfer portal on Wednesday, announcing his decision over Twitter. The sophomore is the 11th WSU player to have entered the portal over the past two weeks.

Four of them, including Mauigoa, played important roles for the Cougars this season. Starting outside receivers De’Zhaun Stribling and Donovan Ollie joined the NCAA’s free-agency market earlier this week, as did Travion Brown, who shared reps with Mauigoa at middle linebacker.

Mauigoa might be the most significant loss yet – of all the departing players, he seemed to have the highest ceiling. Mauigoa impressed this season and leaves the defensive unit with big shoes to fill next year.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder started 11 games and totaled 60 tackles, 5½ tackles for loss, 3½ sacks, three forced fumbles and one interception during his first season as a full-time defender after doing most of his work on special teams as a true freshman.

Mauigoa finished the season fourth on the team in tackles and third in both sacks and TFLs. He tied for the Pac-12 lead in forced fumbles. Mauigoa returned an interception 95 yards for a touchdown – the second-longest pick-six in school history – on Sept. 24 against Oregon.

A three-star prep prospect from American Samoa, Mauigoa chose the Cougars over offers from Utah State, Hawaii and Army. He was a preseason standout last year and emerged as perhaps the most talented player in WSU’s 2021 recruiting class. Mauigoa appeared in all 13 games last season, starting two. He registered 17 tackles, leading the team with 10 special-teams stops.

Mauigoa’s older brother, Frederick Mauigoa, started at center for three seasons at WSU (2017-19). Their younger brother, Francis Mauigoa, is a five-star offensive tackle in the 2023 class who is committed to the University of Miami. The Hurricanes, who have the funds to extend lucrative name, image and likeness deals to recruits, are courting Francisco Mauigoa, per a source.

With Mauigoa and Brown in the portal, the Cougars’ linebacking corps will be shorthanded for the team’s finale Dec. 17 in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl versus Fresno State.

Kyle Thornton, a fourth-year Cougar who tallied 31 tackles off the bench this year, will likely fill in at middle linebacker.

All-Pac-12 senior outside linebacker Daiyan Henley pledged last month to play in the bowl game, but he’s an NFL draft prospect, so he may opt out. WSU’s next-best option at outside linebacker is senior Ben Wilson, who was primarily a special-teams contributor this year. Wilson had 14 tackles in 22 appearances for WSU over the past two seasons after spending three years at TCU.

No other remaining linebackers on the Cougars’ roster have seen the field this year. Freshman Gavin Barthiel probably would have taken on an expanded workload in the bowl game, but he entered the transfer portal Monday. Hudson Cedarland, a true freshman from Gig Harbor, Washington, who turned heads during fall camp, might make his collegiate debut against Fresno State.

The Cougars will need to rebuild their linebacker room next year after losing four players, plus the coach of the position group. Defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Brian Ward is reportedly leaving WSU to take the DC job at Arizona State.

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