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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A Grip on Sports: The game within the recruiting game seems to be playing the WSU Cougar fight song

Incarnate Word quarterback Cameron Ward throws a pass during their first home game of the spring Southland Conference season against Southeastern Louisiana at Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium in San Antonio on Saturday, March 20, 2021. For a freshman quarterback, Incarnate Word's Cameron Ward has already put up pretty nice numbers for a season.   (Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Musical chairs never seemed all that exciting to me. We were not what you would term aggressive as a child, when the game was all the rage. The music would stop and some tough kid would knock me away from the prime seat. These days the cut-throat contest is being played with college football quarterbacks, the transfer portal and large amounts of NIL enticements. Lo and behold, Washington State is turning out to be one of the bullies.


• The transfer portal is the NCAA’s newfangled invention which got us thinking about that old-fashioned game. When a quarterback (or any other athlete, actually) wants to transfer, they put their name in the portal. Not only does that allow coaches to know who is available to recruit but allows everyone in the portal to know where there are chances to play.

In WSU’s case, starting quarterback Jayden de Laura and his main backup, Cammon Cooper, both jumped in the portal recently. The music stopped for them Monday, with Cooper filling a chair at the University of Hawaii – in the state where de Laura grew up – and de Laura at the University of Arizona.

De Laura will be the favorite to start for the Wildcats after passing for 3,684 yards in 16 games for the Cougars. He threw 28 touchdown passes, had 13 interceptions and planted the WSU flag in the middle of Husky Stadium. It’s the latter thing, not his better than 62 percent completions, Cougar fans will always remember.

Until the next guy comes along.

That guy has already been found. To the surprise of no one other than, maybe, Rip Van Winkle, Cameron Ward is headed to Pullman.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound quarterback might have been playing FCS football the past couple seasons, but according to people who actually rate such things, he was one of the most-wanted passers in the portal. And why not?

While playing last season for now WSU offensive coordinator Eric Morris at Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Ward threw for 4,648 yards, completed 65 percent of his throw and had a 47-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio. No word, however, if he planted the UIW flag on Houston Baptist’s field.

He did throw three touchdown passes in that game as the Cardinals rolled 55-14, part of a school-record 10-win season.

How good was Ward? Good enough Lane Kiffin wanted him to replace NFL-bound Matt Corral at Mississippi. And another Air Raid coach, Dana Holgersen, tried to entice him to stay in Texas and lead Houston.

But Morris, who left as UIW’s head coach to return to Pullman as the OC, was the one playing all the right tunes. At least in Ward’s mind.

Now all Ward, who is Seahawk safety Quandre Diggs’ cousin, has to do in the next three years is live up to the hype, step up from the FCS and show he can be successful in the Pac-12.

After all, the player who left, de Laura, put an ominous “ITS PERSONAL” on his Twitter post announcing the Arizona commitment, sending WSU followers to to see if the schools play this fall. They do. In Tucson Nov. 12.

Maybe by then the grammar police will forgive the junior his missing apostrophe and we can see what happens on the field. And who is standing after the music stops.


WSU: Of course Colton Clark has an in-depth story on Ward’s transfer decision. … Another Cougar, offensive lineman Brian Greene, announced yesterday he will play his senior season somewhere else. Colton has that story as well. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college basketball, Stanford’s Lexie Hull scored a career-high 33 points against Oregon last week. That news leads off a local briefs column. … There was one conference game last night. In Corvallis. Where Oregon hit a late shot and edged woeful Oregon State 76-74. The Beavers missed a layup at the buzzer. … The Arizona State game with Utah has been postponed because the Sun Devils are still missing too many players. … Colorado has its momentum back. … In football news, the conference only had two schools, Utah and Oregon, in the final Top 25. Next year’s Top 25? Maybe USC will return. … The de Laura news is a big deal at Arizona. Another former Cougar quarterback, Gunner Cruz, started a few games for the Wildcats last season. … There was huge quarterback news is Southern California. Jaxson Dart, who won the starting job as a freshman last season, is leaving USC and Dorian Thompson-Robinson is coming back for a sixth year at UCLA. Wow to both. One wonders if the music will stop with former Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams with the Trojans. Of course it will. And Dart, from Utah, is expected to end up back there. … Speaking of quarterbacks, Stanford’s Andrew Luck is headed to the college football Hall of Fame. In my time covering WSU football, he was the best quarterback I saw. … Dan Lanning is done at Georgia. He has his national title. Now he’s full-time with Oregon. … An Arizona State freshman took a chance this season and it paid off handsomely.

Gonzaga: Thursday’s showdown in the Kennel with BYU will tip at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN2. That news came out Monday and is passed along by Theo Lawson. … He also has a story on the Zags moving up to No. 2 in the latest polls. … Neither Kaden Perry nor Dominick Harris will be available yet. That news was shared Saturday by Mark Few and is passed along by Jim Meehan. … Jim also passed along this piece of news concerning former Gonzaga star Rui Hachimura. He’s back playing for the Wizards after a long self-induced pause away from the game.

EWU: Like many other programs, Eastern is on a virus-caused pause. Dan Thompson has that news. … It’s not good news for Weber State, which still hopes to play Idaho on Thursday. … Around the Big Sky in football, Cal Poly is changing from grass to artificial turf on its field. … Idaho State has finalized its defensive staff. … A former Wyoming quarterback is headed to Montana State.

Chiefs: Spokane’s pause is officially over. The Chiefs return to the ice this weekend.

Seahawks: The way the Hawks ended the season makes one thing clear to Larry Stone. The band needs to stay together for another year. … We mentioned Diggs above. His injury could have been avoided but that would have been out of character. … Russell Wilson wants Seattle to do whatever it takes to win. Maybe chipping in some deferred money would help. … Pete Carroll is excited about what the Hawks can do. … Adrian Peterson said yesterday his short time with Seattle was the best experience he’s had in the NFL. Maybe he loves Starbucks. … Geno Smith, no longer under contract with Seattle, got in trouble overnight.

Kraken: No lead is safe with Seattle. The Kraken frittered away a two-goal one Monday night in Denver, losing to the Avalanche 4-3.

Mariners: Seattle is holding a specialized camp for its young pitchers.  


• No, we didn’t watch Georgia defeat Alabama and win the CFP title last night. We did, however, note players from the West Coast scored some of the key touchdowns. And a few of the hats were wrong. Until later …