Nick Rolovich’s absence, pending QB battle and other Washington State storylines to watch on Pac-12 media day

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — One thing is already inherently clear about Washington State’s experience of Pac-12 Media Day in 2021: It will be unlike any other since the conference’s inaugural gathering there. 30 years.

Which is saying something given that last year’s event, held exclusively via Zoom, was quite unique in its own right.

The 2021 event should provide more normalcy for schools in attendance, but recent developments at Pullman ensure a different media day for a smaller-than-usual contingent of Washington state officials. We’ll start there by focusing on five Cougar storylines to keep an eye on Tuesday as WSU takes to the podium — and the virtual podium — Tuesday morning at the W Hollywood Hotel.

Rolovich’s Absence

When he was at the University of Hawaii, Nick Rolovich was usually hard to miss on Mountain West media day. One year he brought an Elvis Presley impersonator with him to the annual event. Another year, someone dressed as Britney Spears joined the UH coach. In 2019, he hired a fortune teller to accompany him.

But, not only will Rolovich be without a plus on Pac-12 Media Day, but the sophomore WSU coach won’t be there himself. Last week, Rolovich announced on Twitter that he had opted out of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and therefore would not be attending Media Day. Members of the media can attend without proof of vaccination, but coaches and players must be vaccinated as they will be participating in many activities without a mask, ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura reported.

In his statement, Rolovich said he “will not comment further on my decision.” Of course, these questions will come up when Rolovich is invited to the virtual runway in Hollywood. Additionally, the two vaccinated WSU players in attendance at Tuesday’s event, running back Max Borghi and linebacker Jahad Woods, will more than likely answer questions about their coach’s absence, his stance on the COVID vaccine -19 and if/how that will affect the Cougars on the field this fall.

Rolovich can close questions about his vaccination status and direct reporters to other topics — he’s certainly not obligated to provide an answer — but he also needs to understand how this approach might be received and how it may actually attract more attention to a problem. would surely prefer squash.

Nonetheless, reporters unaffiliated with WSU who have often ignored the Cougars on Media Day in favor of more prominent schools such as USC and Oregon, and other pressing issues across the the conference, will be in their seats, armed with questions when Rolovich’s face appears on a Zoom screen at 9:20 a.m. Tuesday.

Outside of the conference realignment and potential recruiting violations at Arizona State, there may not be a more intriguing scenario at Media Day this year than the one involving WSU and its coach of second year. There’s no way the Cougars can dodge the conversation at this point, but how it progresses will ultimately depend on how Rolovich and his players broach the subject Tuesday with new commissioner George Kliavkoff and virtually everyone involved. at the conference.

The race for QB1

If it hadn’t been for Rolovich’s tweet last Wednesday, WSU’s impending quarterback battle would have returned to Media Day as Cougar’s main storyline for the fourth year in a row.

When the Cougars open fall camp at some point in the next week or two, returning starter Jayden de Laura, backup Cammon Cooper and transfer graduate Jarrett Guarantano will likely have equal chances of winning the team No. 1 position.

We think the three will split the reps for the first week or two of fall camp until the coaches narrow the competition down to two players. Those two will trade blows for another week or two until the Cougars identify a starter, theoretically at least a week before the season opener against Utah State.

Rolovich won’t be able to offer much more information on the QB battle than he did after the last day of spring camp, but Media Day serves as something of a checkpoint.

Whether any of the QBs have made significant progress in the weight room, learning of the offense on paper or, in Laura’s case, regaining the trust of their teammates after serving a suspension during spring camp , Rolovich might be able to convey this information to reporters. .

It’s unclear where de Laura or Cooper spent their summer, or what their off-season training regimens entailed, but an article by The Athletic revealed that Guarantano spent at least part of his summer in southern La California to work with QB guru Jordan Palmer, who has coached NFL signal-callers such as Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Josh Allen, Sam Darnold and Joe Burrow, among others.

Void Impact

New rules allowing athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness are still less than a month old, and 24 of the Pac-12’s most marketable football players will be in attendance for Tuesday’s rally.

WSU’s Borghi and Woods will join a group of announced Pac-12 stars that also includes USC quarterback Kedon Slovis, Oregon defensive lineman Kayvon Thibodeaux and State quarterback of Arizona Jayden Daniels.

While many athletes, both in the Pac-12 and elsewhere, await sponsorship opportunities that best suit them and their individual brand, others have already agreed to sponsorship deals – some with smaller-scale businesses in their hometown or college towns and others with national recognition. companies such as Raising Cane’s and T-Mobile.

Borghi recently announced a partnership with video messaging platform Cameo, which allows celebrities to send personalized videos to fans for a set price. WSU’s beloved senior RB will have the opportunity on Tuesday to talk about NIL’s impact, the sponsorship deals he’s signed or ones that may be in the works and the motivation behind sharing 100% of Cameo’s profits with the Cougars starting offensive line.

Additionally, most Pac-12 coaches have not answered NIL-specific questions in a public setting since the NCAA announced its interim NIL policy in early July. They will, however, have their dose on Tuesday.

vast worries

The Cougars expected to enter the 2021 season with plenty of talent and even more depth at wide receiver. With COVID-19 rules giving seniors another year of eligibility, WSU had the chance to fire all four starters and 1,019 producing yards from the four-game 2020 season.

With news coming Friday that Renard Bell tore his ACL, forcing starting receiver Y to miss the entire season, and Jamire Calvin and Lucas Bacon leaving the program, WSU’s receiving corps is down to just one starter. return in 2021 and 415 yards from the return of production.

WSU’s starting QB will either be from Laura, one of the youngest comers in the country, or someone who has never started a game in Rolovich’s offense, and a productive and experienced receiving corps should have been a luxury for the man under the center.

Instead, the Cougars won’t just have to huddle together to find the pass thrower this fall, but also the catchers. Bodies will not be in short supply. The Cougars should be spoiled for choice, with more than a dozen scholarship recipients on the roster and two or three extras who looked promising in the spring.

But none are as experienced as Bell, who was instrumental in 30 wins during his time with the Cougars, and it’s possible none have the top-notch talent of Calvin, who has been consistently hailed. by coaches towards the end of the season as someone who found his rhythm in Rolovich’s run-and-shoot.

The magnitude of those losses may not be felt until the Cougars take the field in September, but by Tuesday we should at least get an idea of ​​what Rolovich thinks of the group as a whole, and who might be best equipped to step into the starting roles. this autumn.

Woods’ weightlifting feat

On June 24, Woods generated a buzz on social media when the all-conference linebacker posted a Twitter video of himself bracing a loaded 704-pound deadlift trap bar off the floor.

Woods dropped the bar, stopped for about 15 seconds and grabbed the handles before making another successful attempt at the same weight. When Woods was drafted to play in the defense of Alex Grinch, he was rated as a speed specialist who would have to rely on his experience on the track – and a lot of work in the weight room – to enter the land in the Pac-12.

Now in sixth grade, the San Diego native is able to lift more than three times his body weight at 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, and apparently hasn’t lost the foot speed that made him so attractive in “Speed ​​D” by Grinch. ” diagram.

In a comment on Woods’ deadlift video, teammate and WSU cornerback Jaylen Watson said the linebacker was clocked at 21 mph by the Catapult speed-tracking system the Cougars used under the new coach. Strength and Conditioning Dwain Bradshaw.

Journalists who have seen the video will be eager to learn more about Woods’ transformation this offseason, how one of the league’s oldest players plans to approach his sixth and final season at Pullman and, more generally, where WSU’s defense (38.5 ppg allowed in 2020) needs to improve to secure more success this fall.

As for weightlifting feats, Woods has previously received a challenge from Pac-12 Networks analyst Yogi Roth, who tweeted “Let’s do it on set @Pac12Network Media Days. You have 705 pounds, we will do 5 pounds :)”

According to Cougfan.com, Woods, who represented the Cougars on the final in-person media day of 2019 with offensive lineman Liam Ryan, will be the only WSU player to make a repeat appearance since the inaugural event in 1991.

Eleanor C. William