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Sports >  WSU football

Commentary: Despite losing Jayden de Laura, Washington State might still win the North division QB shuffle

UPDATED: Mon., Jan. 10, 2022

By Jon Wilner Bay Area News Group

There are 236 days until the start of the 2022 football season. If we were ever to ponder a scenario that appears extreme — a scenario that’s about five steps ahead of the current reality — this is the time.

And here we go:

Washington State might have just won the 2022 North division quarterback shuffle.

That’s right. The day the Cougars lost their promising young passer to the transfer portal, they might have set the stage for the best quarterback play in the division next season.

Jayden de Laura, the Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year who tossed 23 touchdowns and led the Cougars to a second-place finish, entered the transfer portal on Friday.

That could prove a debilitating blow to WSU’s prospects for next season. If things don’t break right over the coming months, and if none of the remaining quarterbacks on the roster develop, then the Cougars could struggle offensively in their first full season under coach Jake Dickert.

But again, we’re playing the speculation game.

What if WSU replaces de Laura with a better quarterback … a quarterback few Pac-12 fans have ever heard of … a quarterback who has never played a down of Power Five football.

One of Dickert’s first moves upon being named to the permanent position was to hire Eric Morris as his offensive coordinator.

Morris is familiar with WSU, having served on Mike Leach’s first staff (2012). For the past four seasons, he has been the head coach at Incarnate Word, a Southland Conference (FCS) program based in San Antonio.

Incarnate Word’s quarterback this season, Cameron Ward, has entered the transfer portal. He’s one of the top passers in the country — not just in the FCS but all of Division I.

The 247Sports rating services lists Ward as the No. 3 quarterback in the portal, behind only Caleb Williams, formerly of Oklahoma, and Quinn Ewers, formerly of Ohio State. Ward is rated higher than Spencer Rattler (ex-Oklahoma) and Kedon Slovis (ex-USC).

On Dec. 8, WSU formally announced Morris as the new playcaller.

The next day, Ward entered the portal.

Call us crazy, but the Hotline suspects he’s headed to Pullman. (Update: Ward committed to the Cougars on Monday afternoon.)

Now, let’s step back and assess the state of quarterback play in the North next season, based on what we know and can reasonably presume.

Call us nuts, but Ward just might be the best QB in the division.

• Better than Washington’s options: returning starter Dylan Morris, who seems like a candidate to transfer; freshman Sam Huard, who’s talented but raw; and Indiana transfer Michael Penix, who has sustained multiple ACL injuries to his right knee.

• Better than Oregon’s options: freshman Ty Thompson, who has thrown 15 passes in his college career; and talented but erratic Auburn transfer Bo Nix.

• Better than Cal’s options: freshman Kai Millner, who didn’t play in 2021; and Purdue transfer Jack Plummer, who was benched midway through the season.

• Better than Stanford’s option: returning starter Tanner McKee, a gifted passer with limited mobility.

• And better than Oregon State’s option: returning starter Chance Nolan, an efficient thrower in a run-oriented scheme.

Notice something?

At least four North teams could lean on transfers in ’22 — all but Stanford and OSU.

The division lacks clarity in all phases, with the quarterback spot serving as both reason for, and example of, the situation.

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