Posted on November 19, 2020
It is early, very early. WSU freshman quarterback Jayden de Laura has played just two games in a year that will not even count toward eligibility, but he has already established himself as a force in this Conference.
When de Laura was named the starter (reluctantly because head coach Nick Rolovich clearly wanted to wait until the first snap of the season) the goals of the season changed for the Cougars.
Fans started to view this season as a “redshirt” year, one in which WSU would develop a young quarterback and lay the foundation for the future. So much for that.
While the future of the program is being built, and de Laura has developed, he has far exceeded his preseason expectations.
The freshman has played with the composure and poise of a veteran starter. Far from looking like he was playing his first college snaps against Oregon State in the opener, de Laura brought to mind the line of impressive quarterbacks who proceeded him at St. Louis High School in Honolulu: Tua Tagovailoa, Marcus Mariota, and Jason Gesser, to name a few.
I can’t blame anyone for not knowing about de Laura after Week One of the Pac-12 schedule. He threw for 227 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He didn’t do anything crazy, but he proved he could hang in this Conference.
With more eyes on him in week two, de Laura proved to even more people that he belongs as a starting quarterback in the Pac-12, throwing for 321 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions against what might be the best defense, and secondary, in the Conference.
Not only has de Laura established himself as a consistent starter and the future of this Cougar program, but he has also staked his claim as one of the top quarterbacks in the Pac-12. The numbers back it up: He currently ranks second in the Conference in passing yards with 548, and third in passing touchdowns with five.
In fact, I have the freshman from Hawaii as the fifth-best quarterback in the Pac-12 right now, based on the games played so far.
Two games is a small sample size, to be sure, but it isn’t difficult to make a solid argument for de Laura over the quarterbacks below him.
I wrote last week about how de Laura did against Oregon State, so I am not going to repeat myself, but there are a handful of reasons why de Laura has already separated himself from the lower tier of Pac-12 quarterbacks.
• The first reason is his ability to take care of the ball. De Laura has thrown just one interception, and it came in the first quarter of his first ever college football game.
• Only one quarterback, Slovis, has thrown just one interception with more passing attempts, but de Laura has thrown one more touchdown.
• He has the best touchdown to interception ratio of every starter that is not Mills, who has one touchdown and no interceptions. Even Thompson-Robinson, who has thrown seven touchdowns, has also thrown two interceptions.
• Once you add in the fact that de Laura is a freshman showing this kind ball security – he has not fumbled the ball either – it makes it even more impressive.
Pro Football Focus has also noticed the playmaking and skills of the Cougars’ true freshman. He graded out as the best player from the Pac-12 during the conference’s opening weekend. Not the best freshman, not even the best quarterback, the best player in the entire conference.
PFF gave him a 90.3 grade, which made him the seventh-best quarterback in the country for that week. He even received a better grade than BYU quarterback Zach Wilson, who is widely regarded as one of the best players in the country.
I am not saying that de Laura is better than Wilson. I have seen what happens to people that anger that fanbase (see Trojan Dash host Nathan Ackerman for reference). I am just using the comparison to show just how good de Laura can be, and he has not even reached anywhere near his ceiling yet.
There is still a long road ahead for WSU’s freshman sensation, although the season is very short. If de Laura can just keep doing what he is currently doing, he will have an incredible year. If he is able to grow and improve over the course of the remaining five games, he can have a first year for the ages.
Kedon Slovis and Jayden Daniels were the undisputed freshman stars last season, but the future of the Conference might just reside in Pullman, and his name is Jayden de Laura.
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Schoeler: Cougar Football Lessons Learned in 2020Nick Rolovich’s first-year turnaround was compounded by injuries and the pandemic - January 7, 2021
Schoeler: Cougar Football Position RankingsEvaluating this team is tough because there have been so many ups and downs - December 11, 2020
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