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Washington State preseason notes (Oct. 28): Nick Rolovich has named Cougars’ starter internally, but three QBs are still taking reps

UPDATED: Wed., Oct. 28, 2020

It slipped out during the first cycle of the virtual “car wash” Nick Rolovich went through on Tuesday with media members from around the state.

No, the Washington State coach didn’t accidentally name a starting quarterback during a radio appearance with KJR host and WSU alum Jason Puckett, but he admitted the Cougars had chosen one internally.

From a preparation standpoint, that of course doesn’t do much for WSU’s first opponent, Oregon State. The Beavers will still sift through the only material they have: high school cutups of redshirt sophomore Cammon Cooper, redshirt freshman Gunner Cruz and true freshman Jayden de Laura.

But Rolovich still wants to exercise caution. He’d been fairly successful there before Tuesday’s slip-up.

“I’m not terribly happy I made the mistake of saying we’d named one internally,” Rolovich. “I don’t want to put anything on our team where they need to worry about it, answer questions about it. So, that’s on me. But I think as much element of surprise as we can do for the first game is something I like to do. Puckett got me.”

So, Cooper, Cruz and de Laura have been filled in on who’s starting in the season opener, as have members of WSU’s football team. The rest of the world may not know until the offense takes the field in Corvallis sometime after 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 7.

The Cougars finalized their starting QB at some point after Saturday’s scrimmage, but Rolovich indicated the results of that scrimmage weren’t necessarily what sealed the decision.

“Probably not, probably the other way,” Rolovich said. “That wasn’t necessarily a play football scrimmage, let’s see what you’ve got. Much more situational. The guys in each group really mix it up, really just to get awareness of the situations, and really how we’re going to handle game day. From the pregame warm-up, stretch, how we’re going to handle the headsets, communicate on the sidelines.

“I would say no, that wasn’t the deciding factor. I don’t think that was a fair opportunity to say that I guess, is a better way to put it.”

Statistically, de Laura was probably the most consistent and productive quarterback in the two scrimmages. The Hawaii native was a combined 20 of 27 (74%) for 179 yards, three passing touchdowns and one rushing score. Cooper was 11 of 22 (50%) for 171 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, while Cruz was 16-of-33 for 118 yards and one rushing touchdown.

Rolovich said the staff placed more weight on the first scrimmage, though also acknowledging the three QBs had less experience with the playbook at that point.

“I think the first scrimmage was, but also they were a week earlier in the offense,” Rolovich said. “I think it was probably a combination of the first scrimmage and all the practices.”

Up until Wednesday, the quarterbacks had been splitting reps evenly. That changed as the team chose a starter, who’s now taking about 50% of the snaps while the other two are taking 25% each.

“He’s getting more,” Rolovich said of the starter. “But we’re still getting the top three guys reps. … It’s really still split with the three guys getting it, but the one, maybe it’s four, two, two. Something like that.”

The coach offered words of encouragement to all three signal-callers earlier in the week when he met with them to relay his decision.

“First day, that’s a hard thing to handle,” Rolovich said. “I told them it’s now your job to prove me wrong and don’t get replaced if you’re the (starter). That’s a hard thing to hear the first day, but I think they all understand, any football season but especially this football season, the worst thing they can do for their teammates and really their selves is take the foot off the gas and start feeling sorry for themselves.”

Parent attendance at games still TBA

It’s still unclear if select parents and family members will have a chance to attend WSU’s home games at Martin Stadium this season.

“I don’t (know),” Rolovich said. “That’s definitely a question I get from the team also. As soon as I hear, I’ll probably let them know and you guys will probably hear before we talk. But no, I do not know.”

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