Reports: Quarterback Jayden de Laura enters transfer portal as Washington State football switches gears
Jan. 7, 2022 Updated Fri., Jan. 7, 2022 at 8:02 p.m.
Washington State quarterback Jayden de Laura (4) reacts after being sacked by Central Michigan defensive lineman Thomas Incoom (9) during the first half of the Cougars' 24-21 Sun Bowl loss on Friday, Dec 31, 2021, in El Paso, Texas. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
PULLMAN – During his second year in Pullman, Jayden de Laura lifted Washington State’s football team with his charisma and energetic playing style, guiding the Cougars through a midseason coaching change and spearheading an unforgettable Apple Cup victory.
What more could the young quarterback accomplish at WSU?
It appears we’ll never know.
De Laura entered his name into the NCAA’s transfer portal Friday, as first reported by 247Sports.com. It’s possible – but not probable – that he opts to return to WSU after testing the waters elsewhere.
A rising star in the Pacific-12 Conference, the second-year starter from Hawaii was arguably the most important player to the Cougars’ sustained success after their staffing shakeup Oct. 18. Two of his mentors – head coach Nick Rolovich and co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Craig Stutzmann – were fired that day for failing to comply with a state COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
But de Laura kept his poise under a makeshift coaching staff, turning in a strong finish to his campaign while rallying the team to three wins in its last five regular-season games to lock up a bowl berth.
He earned offensive freshman of the year honors from the Pac-12 after topping the conference with 2,796 passing yards and 23 touchdowns, against nine interceptions, and capping the regular season with a 40-13 rout of Washington in Seattle.
De Laura completed 84% of his passes against the Huskies, then planted Ol’ Crimson at midfield to celebrate the Cougars’ first Apple Cup win since 2012.
New coach Jake Dickert recently called de Laura the “single-biggest catalyst of (the Cougars’) turnaround.” The 6-foot, 190-pound Honolulu native emerged this season as a natural leader with a knack for improvising plays and generating explosive highlights.
Dickert was promoted to permanent head coach on Nov. 27, one day after the Apple Cup, and he has affirmed on multiple occasions over the past month that WSU’s offense of the future will be built around de Laura.
“The biggest philosophy I have on offense is ‘players over plays,’ ” Dickert said at his introductory news conference Dec. 2. “We’re going to center this around Jayden and his development, and what he can do in the future. He’s just starting and he’s just blossoming into what he can become.”
The Cougars are moving away from Rolovich’s run-and-shoot offense – a form of which de Laura operated during his prep years – and replacing the system with a version of former WSU coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid.
WSU hired Eric Morris last month to take over as its offensive coordinator. Morris had been the head coach at FCS Incarnate Word the past four seasons.
The Cougars appear to be in the running for transfer quarterback Cameron Ward, Morris’ QB at Incarnate Word. Shortly after WSU’s 24-21 loss to Central Michigan at the Sun Bowl, Ward tweeted out the Cougars had offered him a scholarship. Ward took an official recruiting trip to Pullman earlier this week, per Rivals.com.
De Laura started in the Sun Bowl, but did not take the field after halftime. He absorbed several hits in the first half behind a shorthanded offensive line and sustained an unspecified lower-body injury, according to Dickert.
Walk-on sophomore Victor Gabalis nearly led a Cougars comeback from a 21-0 halftime deficit. Assuming de Laura does not return, WSU has one scholarship quarterback on its roster in freshman Xavier Ward.
De Laura committed to Leach’s Cougars on Oct. 2, 2019. He stuck with WSU when Rolovich took the head-coaching job in early 2020. Rolovich, formerly the head coach at Hawaii (2016-19), had been recruiting de Laura – then the star at Saint Louis School, which is located about a mile away from UH’s campus in Honolulu.
The two quickly formed a rapport in Pullman. De Laura won a preseason competition and became the first true freshman to start at QB in Cougars history.
He started all four games in WSU’s abbreviated 2020 season and showed signs of a bright future, completing 60.5% of his passes for 886 yards and five TDs against four picks.
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