The Washington State football team secured a major recruiting victory Monday, signing an immediate-impact player in Nevada transfer linebacker Daiyan Henley.
One of the top available defenders in the NCAA transfer portal, Henley recently announced over social media that he had narrowed his potential landing spots to WSU, Washington, USC and Kansas State.
Henley disclosed his plans to finish his college career in Pullman during a Monday evening signing celebration, which he broadcast from his home via Instagram Live.
The Los Angeles native sat at a kitchen table with four small cakes placed in front of him. Each dessert dish featured a school logo drawn with colored frosting.
Henley first pushed aside the K-State treat, then shocked his family and friends when he turned down a taste of USC, saying, “I don’t want that.”
With UW and WSU still on the table, Henley snatched a knife and said, “Once a Coug, always a Coug,” before carving into the crimson cake.
“I made this decision based off, (first), the coaching staff — I feel like the coaching staff I’m choosing is going to help me better my future,” Henley said. “The school I’m going to has a great foundation, as far as teammates go, and a good staff.”
After revealing his destination, Henley hopped on a video call with recently hired WSU coach Jake Dickert and defensive coordinator Brian Ward, who both looked ecstatic.
As they should be. Henley, who followed Ward out of Nevada, is a plug-and-play piece for the Cougars, who will lose veteran linebackers Jahad Woods and Justus Rogers after WSU caps its season Dec. 31 against Miami in the Sun Bowl.
Woods and Rogers share the top spot on the program’s leaderboard for career games played (55), but the Cougars won’t be inexperienced in the heart of their defense next season.
Henley is expected to start alongside WSU junior Travion Brown, who has appeared in 27 games since 2019. Henley saw action in 49 games at Nevada.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder will be a sixth-year senior next season. He’ll enroll at WSU in January and participate in spring camp.
This season, Henley earned second-team All-Mountain West honors after leading the Wolf Pack with 103 tackles, adding four interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
Ward left Nevada this month to take WSU’s defensive-coordinator job, and with the Wolf Pack undergoing a wholesale coaching change, Henley put his name into the transfer portal Dec. 8.
Henley finished third among Nevada players with 49 tackles across nine games in 2020. He redshirted in 2019 after suffering a season-ending injury early in the campaign.
During his upperclassmen years, Henley played sparingly as a wide receiver, catching 17 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns. Nevada started to work Henley in on the defensive side of the ball in 2018.
Former Wolf Pack coach Jay Norvell called Henley perhaps the team’s most athletic player, according to an article published by Nevada Sports Net on Sept. 9.
He was a standout pro-style quarterback at Crenshaw High and committed to Nevada as a two-star receiving prospect in early 2017.
The Cougars’ 2022 class increased to 11 signees after Henley put pen to paper.
WSU is expected to hire Joel Filani and Mark Atuaia to coach its wide receivers and running backs, respectively.
Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports reported Monday that Filani — a former Cougar staffer under coach Mike Leach — will leave Texas Tech and return to Pullman. Atuaia is leaving the University of Virginia.
Filani worked at his alma mater the past three years, tutoring the Red Raiders’ outside receivers. He played at Texas Tech in the mid-2000s under Leach and alongside newly hired WSU offensive-coordinator Eric Morris.
Atuaia coached running backs for the Cavaliers the past six seasons. He previously held the same job at BYU for three years.