PULLMAN – Running back Kannon Katzer, who walked on at Washington State after a standout prep career in Spokane, announced Thursday over Twitter that he will be entering the NCAA’s transfer portal.
“My love and respect goes out to all my teammates, coaches and staff at WSU,” he tweeted. “I will forever be grateful for the impact and connections I made at WSU.”
Earlier Thursday, Cougars coach Jake Dickert confirmed to local media members that Katzer had left the team.
A third-year freshman, Katzer impressed WSU’s first-year coaching staff this preseason, working his way up the depth chart and into a potential playing role. Earlier this season, it seemed as though Katzer had established himself as the Cougars’ No. 3 option at tailback.
He suited up last weekend for WSU’s matchup at Oregon State – a 24-10 Cougars loss – but did not see the field. True freshman Jaylen Jenkins held down first-team responsibilities at running back in place of injured starter Nakia Watson. Redshirt freshman Dylan Paine made his first career appearance in the WSU backfield and took reserve reps ahead of Katzer.
Dickert didn’t provide specifics on the Cougars’ shakeup at running back.
“Some of those things are internal and we’ll keep them internal, and D. Paine was ready to play,” Dickert said.
Katzer earned player of the year honors in Washington’s 3A classification after piling up more than 3,000 yards from scrimmage and totaling 39 touchdowns during his senior season at Mt. Spokane High in 2019. But he didn’t receive much recruiting interest, so he enrolled at WSU as a preferred walk-on and served on the Cougars’ scout team until he got his chance to vie for snaps.
Senior running backs Max Borghi and Deon McIntosh left WSU after the 2021 season. Katzer moved a couple of slots up the depth chart this preseason and entered a position battle for playing time. Watson was the clear-cut starter. Four young running backs – Katzer, Jenkins, Paine and Djouvensky Schlenbaker – were in the mix for backup duties during fall camp. Jenkins, the speedster from Texas, eventually separated.
Before Saturday’s game against OSU, Watson and Jenkins had shouldered all of the reps at tailback across seven games this season – except for one drive. Katzer made his collegiate debut Sept. 17 in WSU’s 38-7 home win over Colorado State. The 5-foot-9, 195-pounder picked up 54 yards on six carries, capping the Cougars’ final drive of the game with a touchdown.
Watson is out of the lineup indefinitely due to an unspecified injury sustained in the second quarter against USC on Oct. 8. Until he returns, the Cougars (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) will presumably lean on Jenkins, with a dash of Paine.
“I thought he did a good job,” Dickert said of Paine’s effort against the Beavers. “We had trouble, issues with protection (WSU gave up six sacks and netted 23 rushing yards). Oregon State did a good job of showing us some new stuff and overloading us.
“And Jaylen is a freshman. Some of those things are hard. I think there are a lot of (takeaways) from that, but I don’t put that on Jaylen. I put that on us. As coaches, we gotta prepare them better.”
Paine, a third-year freshman from Tumwater, Washington, recorded 2 yards on three carries versus the Beavers. At 5-9 and 193 pounds, Paine was mostly used as an extra blocker. The Cougars abandoned the run in the second half and looked for a spark through the air.
“Knowing we had to pass, he gave us the best opportunity at the end of the game to make sure we were cleaner in protection,” Dickert said.
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