When the Oregon Ducks (1-0) travel to Pullman, Washington this weekend to face the Washington State Cougars (1-0), you won’t see (or hear any strange quotes) from ‘The Pirate’ Mike Leach.
After eight seasons at the University of Hawaii and the last four as head coach, Nick Rolovich was named the 33rd head football coach at Washington State after Leach departed for Mississippi State this past offseason.
In his four years as head coach, Rolovich led the Rainbow Warriors to a 28-27 record and three bowl game appearances.
The Cougars also had to replace quarterback Anthony Gordon who led the Cougs to a 6-7 record last season. Against Oregon State to open Pac-12 play, Rolovich went with freshman quarterback Jayden de Laura. The 6’0”, 195-pound QB from Honolulu, Hawaii recorded 18-of-33 completions for 227 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in Washington State’s 38-28 win at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon.
Not only did de Laura command the Cougs offense well - which was without starting running back Max Borghi - he was tough to bring down on the ground rushing eight times for 43 yards and one touchdown.
“The first thing that has to be stated is he's a phenomenal player,” said Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal when asked about facing the freshman this Saturday. “Does not look like a freshman at all. The big plays he generated, the plays that he kept alive, the way that he had complete command of the offense is impressive. Extremely impressive…”
Here’s a fun fact for you too: de Laura and former Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota both hail from the same high school: St. Louis High School, located in the neighborhood of Kaimuki in Honolulu, Hawaii. Mariota led the Crusaders in 2010 and de Laura did the same in 2018 and 2019.
De Laura was a two-time state champion, went undefeated in two seasons and was named the 2019 Hawaii Gatorade Player of the Year. He was ranked a three-star Pro Style quarterback in the class of 2020 and held offers from Ohio State, USC, and BYU amongst others before committing to Washington State.
St. Louis High School has a history of producing excellent college level talent. Other than Mariota and de Laura, former Duck quarterback Jeremiah Masoli (2008, 2009), Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama and now Miami Dolphins starting QB), and former Washington State QB Jason Gesser (1999-2002) are all names on that list.
Mariota and de Laura are eerily similar in a few ways: they both have great eye discipline in the RPO; the both have cannons for arms; and they both even run like one another. Okay, maybe that's a stretch on that last one, but it's true.
Like Cristobal said above, the Ducks defense will have their hands full trying to contain the young freshman on Saturday. Kickoff time is for 4 PM (PT) in Pullman, Washington.