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Washington State mailbag: On the ramp-up to the (potential) Pac-12 season and recent Cougar transfers

UPDATED: Thu., Sept. 17, 2020

I expected we’d broach one of the topics discussed in today’s mailbag, that being Washington State’s recent transfer exodus, but it certainly wasn’t a given we’d be talking about the other.

In what could be one of the last nonfootball season editions of the WSU mailbag, I break down how the Cougars and other teams would “ramp up” to the potential 2020 fall season, and examine why six WSU players have entered the transfer portal in just over a month’s time.

Is the football team still practicing in the event that the Pac-12 joins the rest of the NCAA, or would they be coming in cold?

- Andrew B.

The furthest Washington State’s football team got was the 20-hours-per-week access period that started on Aug. 3, not too long before the Pac-12 made a call to postpone the fall season. The Cougars still have not held an official practice – footballs, helmets and the rest – under Nick Rolovich.

When the Pac-12 postponed the season, the conference let each program decide how it would move forward with workouts and so forth. It’s my understanding most of those reverted back to the voluntary workouts that were being held in June when football players began trickling back onto campus.

It was my impression that’s where the Cougars were, and a school official confirmed with me Thursday they were in the voluntary workout stage, meaning players have access to on-campus strength facilities, and can work out with the guidance of team strength coaches (I believe), but are not required to do so.

Now that the Pac-12 is nearing a return, the next phase could be mandatory eight-hours-per-week workouts. The Cougars originally went through that phase from July 20-30, although it wouldn’t be too surprising if instead they jumped right to the 20-hour access period I mentioned above. Some coaches have cited the need for a five- to six-week ramp-up period, while others feel as though eight weeks are necessary. Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday the majority of Pac-12 programs indicated on a call they could be ready in six weeks or fewer if they could begin the ramp up to the season on Monday, putting the conference on track for an Oct. 31 start.

The majority of WSU football players, if not all, are on campus, and I’m sure they’ve been encouraged to maintain a regular workout regimen.

They’re not out of shape by any means, but it’ll take two weeks to build the conditioning and strength base needed in order to start practicing, let alone start competing.

Why are players entering the transfer portal? How do we compare with other programs in the conference in this regard?

- Tom W.

On the surface, it’s understandable why this would feel disconcerting from the fan perspective. Without direct access to the transfer portal, it’s hard to know how the Cougars compare to other teams in the Pac-12, but I know they’re not the only program to see players leave since the conference postponed the season more than a month ago.

WSU’s transfer situation is probably easier to digest if you look case by case, rather than at the batch as a whole. Six players have entered the portal since the start of August, but as far as I can tell, there isn’t a common thread tying them all together.

Tay Martin, WR: Sought out an opportunity to play his senior season closer to home at a point when it seemed the Pac-12 wouldn’t be playing until January.

Rodrick Fisher, WR: Left program on his own terms in February, but didn’t enter the portal until last month.

Kassidy Woods, WR: Announced intentions to transfer nearly one month after debacle with Rolovich regarding opt-out, Pac-12 unity movement.

Skyler Thomas, DB: Initially entered the portal with hopes of playing a fall season elsewhere before announcing plans to return to Cougars.

Mike Pettway, WR: Reasons for transferring were unclear, but could be seeking an opportunity closer to home state of Alabama.

Cosmas Kwete, EDGE: Also didn’t cite a reason for transferring.

You might attribute a few of these transfers to the natural turnover that takes place in the wake of a coaching change.

Frankly, there hadn’t been too much of that since Rolovich took over in January, and programs that don’t go through a coaching transition often lose half a dozen players to the transfer portal during the offseason anyway.

I’m somewhat curious about the timing of a few of these transfers. What triggered Pettway and Kwete to leave the team now, rather than in February or March?

The COVID-19 pandemic is surely a factor. Players who traveled to the other side of the country to play college football may be more keen on moving closer to home with so much uncertainty.

Are there any players in the portal who haven’t transferred yet?

- Eric S.

Of the WSU players who entered, only Martin (Oklahoma State) and Thomas (WSU) have made decisions.

That leaves Woods, Fisher, Pettway and Kwete as undecided.

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