Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich was clearly more interested in talking about his football team Thursday afternoon than COVID-19 vaccinations, or the lack thereof, one day before his team begins practicing for the upcoming season.
Certainly, there is a lot to talk about when it comes to WSU football, starting with what appears to be a three-way battle at starting quarterback — and Rolovich is looking forward to getting back out on the field for his second season as the Cougars coach after a turbulent past year.
WSU went 1-3 last season during a shortened season that saw three games canceled because of COVID-19 outbreaks. Rolovich then made national news last month when he tweeted he would not be going in person to Pac-12 media day, held July 27, because of his decision to not get vaccinated.
Rolovich said Thursday that he had no updates on the number of WSU players or coaches who are vaccinated — which was 75% at Pac-12 media day. As for himself, he referred to his statement two weeks ago when he said not getting a vaccine was a private decision and would not comment further.
When it came to his football team, however, the coach was much more expansive. There is a lot to figure out before the Sept. 4 season opener at home vs. Utah State, and the process starts at 8:15 a.m. Friday with the start of fall camp.
“I kind of like the early morning, attack-the-day type of deal,” said Rolovich, who has scheduled most of his August practices for 8:15.
That is a big change from the tenure of the late-sleeping Mike Leach, who started his practices mid-afternoon.
What hasn’t changed since Luke Falk was a senior in 2017 is an uncertain situation at quarterback entering training camp.
Sophomore Jayden de Laura, who started last season, graduate transfer Jarrett Guarantano from Tennessee and junior Cammon Cooper, who played in two games last season are the three who appear in contention to be the starter.
De Laura was suspended for spring practices after being arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor DUI charges. He was found not guilty late last month.
“I assume, and I think everyone can assume, that going through something like that is a maturing experience. … I know he is excited and looking forward to putting that behind him,” Rolovich said.
Rolovich said it would be best if he knew who the starting quarterback was now, but because that is not the case: “We want to make sure we make the right decision, and we want to make sure that guys continue to get reps and improve if they are not the starter because I believe they will be counted on. Try to have as open communication as we can.”
Rolovich said it was difficult to “get a barometer” on his team based off last year because of all the stops and starts.
“There were times when I thought we had a lot of fight in us, and I thought there were times when we folded,” Rolovich said. “… I know the mindset is much better than it was going into last fall, and you would think that would translate into wins. But this is a funny game with a funny shaped ball, and there will be highs and lows.
“I am very excited to go into this season with this team. They are wonderful to be around, they care about the right things, and to me that should translate to success on the field. It’s what I believe in.”