The Cougars have four quarterbacks waiting in the wings following the departure of Gardner Minshew, the Pac-12 offensive player of the year. They could add another, who's close by.
PULLMAN – On Thursday, Gage Gubrud followed a handful of Twitter accounts associated with the Washington State football team.
That trend continued Friday for the Eastern Washington quarterback, who recently dropped his name into the NCAA Transfer Portal and, provided he’s granted a sixth year of eligibility, might be looking to play somewhere other than Roos Field.
Pullman is apparently on the short list for the FCS All-American and two-time Walter Payton Award finalist, and a source confirmed to The Spokesman-Review on Friday that Gubrud is “looking at WSU” as a potential landing spot.
Another source with access to the NCAA transfer database compared the search engine to a “shopping list” and provided The S-R with a screenshot of Gubrud’s “notification of transfer,” which was initiated Monday.
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Gubrud followed the official WSU football Twitter account on Thursday, along with multiple position coaches – inside receivers coach Dave Nichol and outside receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. On Friday, he followed Cougars running backs coach Eric Mele and an offensive line quality control coach.
Over the past few days, Gubrud has also followed various assistant coaches, recruiting coordinators and player personnel staffers from other programs, including Utah, Boise State, Mississippi State, TCU and UCLA.
For Gubrud to play another college season, he’d first need to be granted a medical redshirt by the NCAA. EWU’s run to the FCS national championship in Frisco, Texas – which the Eagles lost 38-24 to North Dakota State – was a boon for the Big Sky program in Cheney. But on a personal level, it was also a positive twist of fate for Gubrud, who suffered a season-ending toe injury in a Sept. 29 game at Montana State.
NCAA law states a player can only obtain a medical redshirt if he’s participated in one-third, or fewer, of his team’s contests. Gubrud’s season ended after five games, but because the Eagles played in three postseason games – therefore, 15 total – the QB would technically be eligible for a redshirt, though the NCAA would still need to examine his case.
Sophomore Eric Barriere replaced Gubrud after the toe injury and lifted the Eagles to the second-best season in school history. It’s widely thought he’d return as Aaron Best’s starting QB in 2019, even if Gubrud was back in the picture.
WSU is looking to replace Gardner Minshew, the fifth-year grad transfer-turned-national sensation who led the Cougars to the first 11-win season in school history, guided them to a 28-26 victory over Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl and earned Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year honors after leading the country in passing yards per game.
Both quarterbacks who pushed Minshew for the starting position in the fall – Anthony Gordon and Trey Tinsley – return as redshirt seniors in 2019. Playing sparingly behind Minshew, Tinsley completed 7 of 9 passes for 63 yards and one touchdown. Gordon was 3 of 5 for 17 yards and one interception.
The Cougars will continue to develop former four-star high school prospect Cammon Cooper, who redshirted in 2018. Another promising QB recruit, Gunner Cruz, signed with WSU in December and is already enrolled in classes on the Pullman campus.
All four of those QBs will split reps during spring camp, along with walk-on John Bledsoe and redshirt sophomore to-be Connor Neville.
More grad transfer rumors circulated on Twitter on Thursday when the official Cougar football account followed the account of Alabama QB Jalen Hurts, another NCAA Transfer Portal entry.
That prompted WSU President Kirk Schulz to voice his support for the current Cougar QBs.
“Let’s remember we have some pretty outstanding Coug QBs who are already enrolled at WSU and are ready to compete. #GoCougs” Schulz tweeted.
Liam Ryan, the Cougars’ starting left guard, posted a similar tweet Friday afternoon: “Y’all don’t have to believe in the QBs we have right now. Keep listening to the transfer rumors because we all trust the guys we have here.”
Leading up to the Alamo Bowl, WSU coach Mike Leach said Tinsley and Gordon were still a notch ahead of the other QBs on the roster and stated his confidence in both players.
But Leach didn’t discount the possibility of shopping for another grad transfer.
“It’s a little early yet on that,” the coach said Dec. 17. “Really nothing specific. I feel good about the two guys here, but then also we’ll see what’s out there as well.”