Washington State starting quarterback Jayden de Laura in the transfer portal
When Jake Dickert was introduced as the next Washington State head coach on Dec. 2, when the interim tag was removed, the man who’d just helped Washington State win the Apple Cup for the first time since 2012 offered a promise.
“The biggest philosophy I have on offense is ‘players over plays,’ ” Dickert said at his introductory presser. “We’re going to center this around Jayden (de Laura) and his development, and what he can do in the future. He’s just starting and he’s just blossoming into what he can become.”
As a second-year freshman, de Laura won Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year honors and led the Cougars to a seven-win regular season despite turmoil and upheaval all throughout. He led the Pac-12 in passing yards and looked to have them positioned for more success moving forward.
But, on Friday, de Laura entered his name into the transfer portal and said goodbye to Pullman.
I appreciate all the support these past two years!!! pic.twitter.com/XSucLukVIT
— Jayden de Laura (@jayden_delaura) January 8, 2022
Though there are some signs that point to why such a move makes sense for de Laura, it’s a shocking departure in that, from Washington State’s perspective, the keys to the whole thing had seemingly been handed over to de Laura.
He started all four games during the abbreviated 2020 season, becoming the first true freshman quarterback to start an opener in program history.
This season, de Laura threw for a conference-leading 2,789 yards and 23 touchdowns. He completed 63% of his passes and only tossed nine interceptions. In the Cougs’ 40-13 win over Washington to close the regular-season, de Laura went 27-for-32 passing for 245 yards. The week prior, he threw four touchdown passes in a 44-18 win over Arizona.
“He’s grown, he’s matured, and the best thing about him, he’s really rallied this team around him,” Dickert said during a radio hit in early November. “He’s been the single biggest catalyst for our turnaround.”
But the 6-foot quarterback from Honolulu, Hawaii, didn’t commit to Dickert or his style; de Laura was originally a Mike Leach commit in 2019, and when Leach left to take the Washington State job, de Laura stuck with the program when WSU named Leach’s replacement, Nick Rolovich. The former Hawaii coach had been recruiting de Laura himself, and with incoming offensive coordinator/QB coach Craig Stutzmann, de Laura built what seemed a good bond.
Both coaches fired by the program on Oct. 18 for failing to comply with a state COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Dickert was named the interim and Washington State pressed forward.
Whereas Rolovich’s style was more akin to what de Laura ran during his high school days, Dickert’s offense with new offensive coordinator Eric Morris will be more Air Raid than Run-and-Shoot.
“I’d like to thank all the helping hands who (have) been by my side through my entire journey at WSU,” de Laura wrote in a short message posted to Twitter Friday. “Many bonds have been created that I will never forget.”
His departure leaves Washington State with only one scholarship quarterback on the roster—freshman Xavier Ward—though reinforcements might be on the way.
Victor Gabalis nearly led a comeback from down 21-0 in the Cougars’ Sun Bowl game against Central Michigan last month, and according to multiple reports the walk-on sophomore could go on scholarship soon. Gabalis replaced de Laura at halftime after a series of hits knocked the starter from the game with an unspecified injury.
The Cougars could also be in play for former Incarnate Word quarterback Cameron Ward. Morris was Ward’s offensive coordinator this past season as the duo helped power UIW to a 10-3 record and the Southland Conference title. Ward entered the transfer portal shortly after Morris’ departure.
He’s one of the hottest names in the transfer portal at the moment. Washington State offered him after the Sun Bowl game. Ward threw for 4,648 yards and 47 touchdowns with 10 interceptions this fall, helping UIW to the second round of the FCS playoffs. He owns school records for career passing touchdowns (71) and yardage (6,908).
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior has three seasons of eligibility remaining and is a name to keep an eye on going forward.
As Dickert looks to keep the momentum of the 2021 season rolling into his first full year at the helm, a position that looked settled is now in a state of flux.