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Washington State receiver Renard Bell, running back Nakia Watson sidelined indefinitely with injuries

Washington State receiver Renard Bell (9) scores a touchdown during a game against Idaho on Sept. 3 at Gesa Field in Pullman. Bell, along with starting running back Nakia Watson, will be sidelined indefinitely due to injuries sustained Saturday at Southern California.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

PULLMAN – Washington State receiver Renard Bell and running back Nakia Watson will be sidelined indefinitely due to injuries sustained last weekend, Cougars coach Jake Dickert told local media members Monday.

Dickert expects Bell and Watson to return to WSU’s lineup “at some point, but it won’t be until a little bit later” in the season.

“We’re going to be without Renard and Nakia for some time,” he said. “But their leadership is going to be much-needed and much-appreciated.”

The Cougars offense had avoided significant injuries throughout the first five weeks of the season, but WSU’s Air Raid will be missing two of its key pieces for a considerable stretch of time. The Cougars will tweak their lineup ahead of their Pac-12 game Saturday at Oregon State.

Bell left the field in the first half of WSU’s 30-14 loss at Southern California on Saturday. He emerged from the locker room after halftime with his right arm in a sling.

“It’s still Go Cougs 4 Lyfe,” Bell tweeted Sunday evening.

Bell missed the entire 2021 season with an ACL injury. He was granted a medical redshirt and came back to WSU for a seventh and final season. Voted a team captain before the season, the slot receiver from L.A. logged 282 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 20 catches in his first five games of the year. WSU will now be without its most experienced player, a downfield threat who is also perhaps the team’s top playmaker in the quick-passing game. Bell has registered 1,938 yards and 18 touchdowns on 167 receptions over his career.

“I can’t say enough about Renard and what he’s done in his seventh year and his leadership abilities,” Dickert said. “He’s gonna be really mentoring those guys out there.”

Watson suffered an unspecified lower-body injury late in the second quarter. He reappeared on the Cougars’ sideline midway through the third quarter, wearing street clothes and walking with a limp in his step. Watson, who transferred to WSU ahead of the 2021 season out of Wisconsin, was WSU’s third-string tailback last year and took over the starting job after seniors Max Borghi and Deon McIntosh departed. Watson has totaled 473 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns so far this season.

Lincoln Victor, who was shifted to outside receiver earlier this year, will likely move back to the slot in relief of Bell. Reserve slotback Orion Peters will see his playing role expand.

“Guys will step up,” Dickert said. “Orion Peters showed that on Saturday, being ready to go. We’ll start moving guys around. Lincoln will maybe slide back inside and have a role there.”

Watson will be replaced in the first-team lineup by true freshman Jaylen Jenkins, who had a breakout game at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, rushing for 130 yards on 13 carries – and adding 54 yards on two receptions. Redshirt freshmen Kannon Katzer and Dylan Paine, and true freshman Djouvensky Schlenbaker will compete for backup reps.

“We’ll see how the week of practice goes. All three of those guys have been nothing but ready to go,” Dickert said. “Those guys are bulldogs. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do and this will be no different. Jaylen can’t play the whole game. We know that. His role has been increasing each week to get to this point, where he’s ready to be the starter and the main guy. I’m excited for his growth and what he’s brought to the table.”

Jenkins was named the Pac-12’s freshman of the week on Monday. The speedster out of Allen, Texas, broke off runs of 41, 29, 21 and 19 yards against the sixth-ranked Trojans and came down with a 45-yard reception in the second quarter to set up WSU’s second touchdown. Jenkins’ performance marked the first 100-yard rushing game by a Cougars freshman since James Williams ran for 126 yards against Idaho in 2016.

“I had a conversation with him before the game. I said, ‘You’re going to go out there and make a big play,’ ” Dickert said of Jenkins. “He said, ‘Coach, I think you’re right.’ To go out there and catch that (45-yard) ball, and some of the runs. … I’m just proud of him, because there’s a lot of work behind the scenes that he’s really doing to mature, to do things the right way. He has a lot of pride in what he does. A big congratulations to Jaylen and the work of a lot of people to get him to that point. This is just the beginning.”

Senior nickel Armani Marsh suffered an injury late in the game at USC, but the defensive captain is expected to be available this weekend.

“Armani will be just fine,” Dickert said.