PULLMAN – Jarrett Kingston, the starting left tackle for Washington State’s football team and unquestionably the most consistent player on the Cougars’ offensive line, will miss the remainder of the season due to a lower-body injury sustained in the first half of WSU’s blowout win over Stanford on Saturday.
Cougars coach Jake Dickert revealed the information Monday during his weekly news conference.
“The biggest thing I want to say about Jarrett is he’s been a warrior,” Dickert said. “I’m disappointed for him because he has worked so hard to get to this point. I firmly believe Kingston is an all-conference offensive lineman. I think he has put it on tape.
“He’s been a warrior each and every game, and I’m sad for our team that he won’t be able to finish these last three games and improve the type of performer that he is.”
Kingston suffered the injury on a short rushing play early in the second quarter of WSU’s 52-14 win over the Cardinal at Stanford Stadium. His right leg got rolled up on. Kingston couldn’t put any weight on his right foot as trainers helped him off the field.
The 6-foot-5, 302-pound junior from Anderson, California, started at left guard over the past two seasons. Cougars coaches liked his potential at tackle, so they shifted him one spot over after the 2021 campaign. Kingston had performed admirably throughout this year, emerging as a professional prospect and one of the Pac-12’s most effective tackles while protecting the blind side of quarterback Cameron Ward. Kingston did not allow a sack this year.
His name has been included on several NFL draft mock boards. Kingston is among the top five highest-graded tackles in the conference, according to Pro Football Focus’ metrics.
Kingston’s injury is a major blow to a WSU offensive line that was already the team’s most concerning position group. The Cougars lack depth up front. WSU has given up more sacks than any Pac-12 team (30).
“We’ll be ready to move some things around,” Dickert said. “Next man up. We’ll be ready to accept this challenge.”
After Kingston exited the lineup, the Cougars shifted left guard Christian Hilborn to left tackle. Hilborn fared well in relief. The redshirt freshman was a reserve tackle last year.
It’s uncertain whether Hilborn will line up at left tackle when the Cougars host Arizona State at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Three players will be considered for the job: Hilborn, Grant Stephens and Jack Wilson.
“It’ll be a work in progress,” Dickert said. “(Hilborn) will be one of the options, but we really gotta feel it out between him and Grant and Jack, and probably getting a variety of seeing all three of them at some points and (finding) what is best.
“(O-line coach Clay McGuire) has done an amazing job prepping for every situation that come could up, and here we are in Week 10 of the season. I think everyone has some of these issues. We’ll kinda see where it goes, but at the end of the day, Christian, Grant and Jack give us the best options at left tackle.”
Stephens, a senior transfer, has held down the right guard spot throughout the season. He played tackle over the past three years at Northern Colorado. Stephens took some reps at right tackle in the first quarter against Stanford. WSU rotated Stephens and starter Fa’alili Fa’amoe at right tackle early in the game. Jack Wilson, the 6-11 former Division I basketball player, worked at right tackle late in the game, when the Cougars emptied their bench.
When Kingston went down, the Cougars sent Stephens back to right guard and plugged Fa’amoe in at right tackle for good. Ma’ake Fifita replaced Hilborn at left guard. Fifita, the Cougars’ starter at right guard last year, had been WSU’s first-team right tackle for the first six games of the year, but was benched last month in favor of Fa’amoe, a redshirt freshman and former defensive lineman. Fifita saw some action at right guard in the first quarter, too. Center Konner Gomness is the only starter on WSU’s offensive line to have played the same position all season.
Despite all the movement in the trenches, the Cougars O-line had its finest performance of the season. The group did not allow a sack – its first sack-free game of the year – and provided steady push in the ground game, paving the way for a 306-yard rushing day. It was the Cougars’ first 300-yard rushing day since 2006 and only WSU’s sixth 300-yard rushing game since 2000. Stanford entered the week ranked 10th in the Pac-12 in rushing defense, but the Cardinal were among the most effective pass-rushing teams in the conference, tied for third with 21 sacks on the year.
“Our offensive line, when you watch the tape, it was by far their best day, getting a body on a body and finishing, and straining,” Dickert said. “There’s no secret to that success. Toughness is a choice. They went out there and did it. I’m proud of that group, and it’ll take another effort like that Saturday versus Arizona State. When it’s 30 degrees out, you gotta be able to run the football.”
Starting tailback Nakia Watson returned to the lineup last weekend after missing two games with an injury. He piled up 166 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Backup tailback Jaylen Jenkins sustained an injury Oct. 27 versus Utah and missed the Stanford game. But Dickert expects WSU’s ground game to play at full health against the Sun Devils.
“We’re hoping for full clearance this week,” the coach said of Jenkins, a true freshman speedster. “We’ll see how he goes through practices. Those are things that are out of my hands, but right now, we’re hoping he comes back for a full game here on Saturday.”
Injured receiver Renard Bell worked through individual exercises during the nonpadded period of warmups before the Stanford game. Bell has missed the past three games with an arm injury sustained Oct. 8 versus USC. His right arm is no longer in a sling. Dickert said Bell is “a little bit ahead” of schedule in his recovery process.
“In the next week to two weeks, we’re going to start getting him back in a return-to-play protocol,” Dickert said of the seventh-year senior. “That’s all very, very encouraging. Trust me, his motivation is through the roof.
“The best medicine is ‘want-to,’ and Renard wants to be out there with this team so bad. You see that and he’s going to push the limits of what we’re supposed to do, but obviously he’s following protocols. I’m excited about him and his leadership, even in the last game, being on the sidelines. So, I think sooner rather than later, Renard will be back.”
Senior strong safety Jordan Lee was sidelined last weekend after going down with an injury in the first half against Utah. The Nevada transfer, who missed three games earlier this year with an injury, will be a game-time decision versus ASU, Dickert said.
Redshirt freshman Jaden Hicks has been a pleasant surprise in relief of Lee. Hicks earned the Pac-12’s freshman player of the week award Monday after scooping up a fumble and returning it 17 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter against Stanford. Hicks added six tackles and a QB hurry. Hicks, named a midseason freshman All-American last month by USA Today, ranks second on the team and 12th in the Pac-12 with 58 tackles – most among all freshmen in the conference.
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