PULLMAN – Washington State’s defensive backfield showed inexperience last weekend, but a veteran leader is returning to the Cougs’ secondary for the team’s Pac-12 matchup Saturday against Cal.
Senior strong safety Jordan Lee, who missed WSU’s past two games with an injury, was suited up in full uniform when the Cougars (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) took the field for warmups ahead of their homecoming game against the Golden Bears (3-1, 1-0).
Lee was dressed for warmups before the Cougs’ game last weekend against Oregon, but WSU staffers determined before kickoff that the Nevada transfer wasn’t quite ready to play.
With Lee sidelined, the Cougars started second-year freshman Jaden Hicks at strong safety to pair with juco transfer Sam Lockett III at free safety. The Ducks took advantage of WSU’s shorthanded passing coverage, accumulating 446 yards through the air – including two 50-yard completions and two 40-yarders deep down the middle of the field.
Although Lee is available, the Cougars are starting Hicks at strong safety against Cal.
Lee had proven himself as a capable open-field tackler, registering nine tackles – two for loss – early this season before he sustained an unspecified injury in the third quarter of WSU’s 17-14 road win over Wisconsin on Sept. 10.
WSU’s offense is making a change to its first-team lineup. Slot receiver Robert Ferrel is starting in place of Lincoln Victor, who lined up with the Cougars’ first unit in each of their first three games. Ferrel, a senior transfer from Incarnate Word, missed WSU’s preseason and the team’s first two games this year, but earned a promotion after impressing over the past two weeks, recording 114 yards and a touchdown on 11 receptions.
WSU offensive coordinator Eric Morris told reporters earlier this week that the Cougars plan to experiment with a personnel grouping featuring three slot receivers – Ferrel and senior Renard Bell at the inside positions, and Victor at outside receiver.
Reserve slotback Drake Owen missed the Cougars’ past two games after suffering an injury at Wisconsin, but he was suited up Saturday. Backup tight end Cooper Mathers also participated in warmups. He has been sidelined with an unspecified injury since Week 1.
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.