PULLMAN – Jake Dickert would rather talk about his new quarterback.
Washington State’s football coach gave local reporters a glowing review of incoming signal-caller Cameron Ward during a news conference Tuesday, but didn’t offer much insight into the sudden departure of former QB Jayden de Laura.
“I’d really like to put all that to bed,” Dickert said when asked whether de Laura and the Cougars had a falling-out. “There’s been no situation that’s happened and I just wish Jayden the best.
“He felt like a new situation was what’s best for him, and I wish him the best of luck as he moves on to the next phase.”
De Laura entered his name into the NCAA’s transfer portal Friday afternoon, then committed to the University of Arizona three days later – shortly after Ward signed with WSU.
Speculation regarding de Laura’s abrupt exit has been swirling in Cougar circles .
One point of discussion centers on his final game in crimson and gray.
De Laura started in WSU’s season finale Dec. 31 at the Sun Bowl against Central Michigan, but did not take the field after halftime.
He’d been harried by CMU’s defensive front throughout the first half, absorbing three sacks behind a makeshift offensive line. De Laura, sporting street clothes, made his way onto the sideline midway through the third quarter and rooted on his teammates throughout their comeback attempt.
Just before Dickert took the podium for his postgame chat in El Paso, Texas, Ward announced on Twitter that he’d been offered by WSU.
After the Sun Bowl, Dickert said the sophomore from Hawaii had suffered an unspecified lower-body injury, which required an X-ray. Dickert’s story didn’t change Tuesday when asked whether it was something other than injury that knocked de Laura out of the lineup.
“That’s a medical issue, and when they (WSU’s training staff) come out at halftime and tell me they’re taking him in for X-rays and he’s unavailable for the second half, we just move on and we keep playing and we keep going,” Dickert said. “We didn’t flinch. (Backup QB Victor Gabalis) didn’t flinch. The coaching staff didn’t flinch. They told me he was unavailable and we moved on, and kept pressing.”
So the Cougars are on to the next one. And it appears they have a good one in Ward, a strong-armed FCS All-American and one of the transfer portal’s top-ranked QBs. He put up big numbers last year at Incarnate Word under coach Eric Morris – now WSU’s offensive coordinator.
Ward will arrive in Pullman this week and enroll in school immediately. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Texan has three years of eligibility remaining. He’s set to compete in spring camp, and is already the favorite among Cougar fans to win the starting job.
Dickert is impressed by his new quarterback’s mature demeanor and the array of throws he can make. He’s encouraged by Ward’s background in the Morris version of the Air Raid.
“The progression of a young quarterback, the more you’re comfortable, the more you understand, the more you can take an offense and really take off with it,” Dickert said.
“He’s got a special skill set, but what I’ve been gravitating to the most about Cam is his leadership, his confidence, the way I believe he can bring a locker room together, and he’s going to have a lot of work to do.”
In recruiting, the Cougars are far from finished – especially on offense. Transfers, graduations and a few early declarations for the NFL draft have left WSU shorthanded in multiple areas.
“This is starting new,” Dickert said. “This is a new WSU. We’re turning the page and moving forward.”
Dickert’s hoping to “find another one or two running backs, both young and potentially in the portal.” WSU is also targeting “at least one more” quarterback – surely one prep signee, and maybe a transfer.
WSU must sign a couple of tight ends and rebuild its offensive line, the “No. 1 position that needs development,” Dickert said.
“We want a bunch of big, long bodies that we can put weight on and size and be physical, and still be true to our developmental process,” he continued. “You’re either going to be a talent acquisition program or you’re going to be a developmental program. It’s going to be a little bit of a mixture, but I want to be a developmental program when we find the right guys for WSU.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Cougs newsletter
Get the latest Cougs headlines delivered to your inbox as they happen.