In 2020, Max Borghi gave Washington State fans a small sample of what he could do in Nick Rolovich’s run-and-shoot offense. In 2021, they’ll get a full serving.

After missing three of WSU’s four games due to a back injury that was sustained during preseason camp, the junior running back announced Saturday evening he’ll put an NFL career on hold and return to the Cougars for a fourth season.

“2021 the year of 21!” Borghi, who wears No. 21 for WSU, posted on Twitter. “Excited to run it back with my boys!!! Lets do something special. GO COUGS!!!”

Many anticipated Borghi would take on a bigger role in Rolovich’s more run-oriented offense, as opposed to the Air Raid he played in as a freshman and sophomore, and media members voted him to the preseason All-Pac-12 first team.

At some point during the final two weeks of preseason camp, Borghi sustained an injury that held him out of the team’s first three games, though the exact details of the injury were unspecified. The running back was prepared to play in a Dec. 12 game against California and warmed up with the Cougars before the game was canceled due to a last-minute positive COVID-19 test within the Golden Bears’ program.

Borghi did play in the season finale, and helped the Cougars race out to a 28-7 halftime lead over Utah before the Utes stormed back in the second half to win 45-28. The game offered a brief glimpse of how easily Borghi seemed to fit in the run-and-shoot as the running back rushed 10 times for 95 yards, scampering into the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Borghi’s late fumble was one of four turnovers in the second half for WSU and aided Utah’s comeback.

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While Borghi had the option to leave for the NFL to potentially become the first WSU running back drafted since Jerome Harrison, his professional stock presumably dipped as a result of an injury that kept him off the field for the better part of two months.

Borghi, who’s drawn comparisons to Colorado native and Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, has already proven he can be a multi-dimensional back, leading the country in RB receptions as a sophomore, but spending another full season in college playing in a more balanced offense should boost his value among NFL front offices. As a fourth-year player, he’ll also have the opportunity to pick up an invitation to the Senior Bowl – a prestigious all-star event in Mobile, Alabama, designed for college seniors to showcase their talent to NFL scouts.

Returning to school also gives Borghi the chance to cement his legacy as one of the most productive offensive players in WSU history. With 29 total touchdowns in three seasons, Borghi needs only 13 more to break Steve Broussard’s career record (41), and would need 14 rushing TDs to break Broussard’s record of 33. 

Fellow running back Deon McIntosh hasn’t announced whether he’ll take advantage of the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility and return to WSU for a second senior season, but if the former Notre Dame player elects to do so, the Cougars could conceivably bring back the best backfield in the conference. In Borghi’s absence, McIntosh rushed for 304 yards in three games and scored two touchdowns, adding a third TD in the loss to Utah.

A variety of returning starters have announced intentions to return to school in 2021. Seniors Liam Ryan (LT), Calvin Jackson Jr. (WR), Renard Bell (WR), Jahad Woods (LB), Justus Rogers (LB) have all indicated on social media or in interviews with media they’re coming back.

Up to this point, only two players have said they’ll do the opposite. Just days after WSU’s finale at Utah, punter Oscar Draguicevich III announced he’d be declaring for the NFL draft, and Cougfan.com reported Friday that left guard Josh Watson, a 29-game starter for the Cougars, has decided not to use the additional year of eligibility and retired from football to become a firefighter.

Starting right tackle Abraham Lucas is considered to be a NFL prospect, but the the Everett native hasn’t announced whether he’ll return to WSU for his senior season, or leave early to embark on a professional career.