PULLMAN – Wide receiver Zeriah Beason is no longer a member of Washington State’s football program, Cougars coach Jake Dickert told media members Monday.
Beason joined WSU this offseason after two years at Oregon State. He captured a role in the Cougs’ receiver rotation during fall camp, but never appeared in a game. A few days before WSU’s season opener, Dickert informed reporters that Beason would be out indefinitely as he worked through unspecified “eligibility issues.”
Throughout the preseason, Beason had been one of WSU’s primary backup options. He held down second-team duties at outside receiver, impressing onlookers with his speed and reliable hands. Beason had been expected to be the Cougars’ No. 3 target at outside receiver this season – behind starters De’Zhaun Stribling and Donovan Ollie. But his Cougar career is over before it could begin.
“Zeriah won’t be with the program (going forward),” Dickert said during his weekly news conference.
A third-year sophomore, Beason appeared in 20 games – making 13 starts – with the Beavers. He totaled 384 yards and four touchdowns on 36 receptions. The three-star recruit from Duncanville, Texas, showed promise as a true freshman and drew some preseason honors entering his second year at OSU, but never reached his potential with the Beavers and transferred to WSU this summer, adding a solid reserve player to an already well-stocked Cougar receiving corps.
Depth hasn’t been an issue for WSU’s receiver positions this season. Stribling and Ollie have been dependable at the outside spots. Veteran slotback Renard Bell is pairing nicely with senior transfer Robert Ferrel, who has emerged as a reliable playmaker after missing WSU’s preseason and first two games with a foot injury. With Ferrel now settled into the lineup, the Cougs will experiment with Lincoln Victor – a starting slotback for the team’s first four games – at outside receiver.
“Everyone sees what Rob can do,” Dickert said of the former Incarnate Word standout, who produced 193 yards and two touchdowns on 17 catches in his first three WSU games. “That has allowed us to be more flexible with Lincoln, and using him a little bit more outside. That’s what you saw on Saturday (in a 28-9 win over Cal) and we’ll continue to do that if we stay healthy at all positions.”
True freshman Leyton Smithson and redshirt freshman Tsion Nunnally were fall-camp standouts as backup outside receivers and both have appeared in spurts off the bench early this season – Smithson (35 yards on four catches) rotates in more often than Nunnally (7 yards on two catches). Orion Peters (25 yards on four catches) is locked in as WSU’s No. 4 option in the slot.
“Orion can be rotating inside and you saw Josh Meredith get out there (Saturday) and make his first catch,” Dickert said. “Tsion, Leyton, Lincoln, Don, Strib – we want to keep those guys fresh and playing fast.”
Ollie leads the Cougar receivers in yards (298) and catches (27).
Stribling has a team-high four touchdown catches to go along with 286 yards and 22 catches. He tallied 66 yards on three receptions last weekend despite playing on a weak ankle.
“Credit to Strib. He really played through a hard ankle injury last week, and I’m really proud of his toughness and some of that grit he showed on Saturday,” Dickert said.
“We got a hungry group,” he added of the receiving corps. “That (Week 1) Idaho game, to where we are now – it feels like worlds apart. I’m excited about their growth as a group.”
Jordan Lee likely to return this weekend
Lee, a senior starter at strong safety, missed the Cougars’ past three games after sustaining an injury against Wisconsin on Sept. 10. He suited up for warmups in each of the last two games, but was a late scratch.
Dickert expects Lee to return to the Cougs’ secondary Saturday, when WSU visits No. 6 USC at 4:30 p.m. at L.A. Memorial Coliseum.
“We feel very confident to get Jordan Lee back this week, and I’m excited about that,” Dickert said. “We need him, his experience. He’s seen everything, and his physicality – those are things that are going to help, and obviously keeping guys fresh.”
Second-year freshman Jaden Hicks has started in place of Lee and performed to mixed results. Hicks totaled double-digit tackles in each of the past three games. The Cougars’ safeties had a tough outing in a 44-41 loss to Oregon, but bounced back last weekend in the win over Cal.
With Lee out of the lineup, Hicks and free safety Sam Lockett III have shouldered heavy workloads. Now, the Cougs will presumably move Hicks to the bench and use him as a substitute at both safety positions – he cross-trained during fall camp.
“Against Oregon, I think you saw (the safeties) wear down,” Dickert said. “Jaden Hicks can play both positions. I think that will help our versatility back there. (Lee) brings a sense of calm confidence. When you have played that long, and he’s been in this defense and he’s seen a lot of things that will help our confidence back there.”
Lee registered 147 tackles in 46 games over the past four seasons at Nevada. He transferred to WSU in January, following defensive coordinator Brian Ward from Reno to Pullman. Lee claimed the starting job at strong safety during spring camp and played well in his first two WSU games.
Senior cornerback Kaleb Ford-Dement, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery this offseason, is still with the team. He can be seen on the sideline during games. It’s uncertain whether Ford-Dement is pursuing a medical redshirt in hopes of returning to WSU for a final season.
“We haven’t had those conversations yet,” Dickert said.
Oregon State game time announced
WSU will play just its second night game of the season when it meets Oregon State in Corvallis on Oct. 15.
The Cougars and Beavers are set to kick off at 6 p.m., the conference announced Monday. Pac-12 Network will carry the broadcast.
WSU began its season with a 6:30 p.m. kickoff at home against Idaho, but each of the Cougars’ next five games received afternoon start times.