Liam Ryan still remembers Washington State’s loss to Eastern Washington in 2016.
Ryan redshirted that season, and he watched from the sidelines as quarterback Gage Gubrud completed 34-of-40 passes for 474 yards and five touchdowns. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp caught 12 of those passes, finishing with 206 yards and three touchdowns.
“I just remember Gage … just running like a 50-yard touchdown on us right up the middle,” Ryan said at Wednesday’s Pac-12 media day. “I was like, who the heck is that kid?”
Linebacker Jahad Woods remembers playing against Gubrud, too. But his memories come from last season, when Washington State won 59-24. Woods finished that game with a half-sack and a diving, bobbling interception. And when Gubrud arrived at Washington State, the QB wanted to know if Woods actually had possession of the ball.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah I did,’” Woods said with a grin. “It was fun playing against him. It’s kind of cool that he’s on our team now.”
Neither Ryan nor Woods ever expected to share a uniform with Gubrud, but that’s exactly what happened when Gubrud decided to transfer to Washington State after graduating. He’ll spend his final season of eligibility with the Cougars.
“I always thought he was good at Eastern Washington,” said Washington State coach Mike Leach. “No, he’s a really good player, has kind of a presence and maturity to him. He’s had a lot of success, too, as a player.”
Gubrud finished his Eastern Washington career with three career, 11 season and seven single-game school records. But now that he’s joined the Cougars, he’ll have to win a competition in order to take over the starting quarterback spot.
“Dedicated, hard-working player,” Leach said. “Smart. Student of the game. He looked good in the spring, but we had a lot of guys look good in spring. It will be very competitive for that position.”
Gardner Minshew earned the starting role last season after transferring from East Carolina. But now Washington State will be looking for a new quarterback before its season opener against New Mexico State.
Gubrud, a two time FCS All-American who missed all but the final spring practice with a leg injury, looks likely to follow Minshew’s path to the starting role. But he’ll be be contending with two redshirt seniors: Anthony Gordon and Trey Tinsley.
“Basically (Gubrud’s) in the same situation as Gardner,” Ryan said. “The opportunity is right there. It’s just take it, or one of the other two people could take it. Whoever gets it is going to be good either way because we got a good O-Line and we can protect our butts off for him.”
Gordon impressed in the spring game, completing 21-of-30 passes for 234 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Tinsley completed 11-of-21 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown. He also threw two interceptions. Gubrud didn’t participate.
Perhaps Gubrud’s greatest advantage is his experience. While Gordon and Tinsley have each appeared in two games at quarterback, Gubrud started 28 games at Eastern Washington. He had a 21-7 record.
“I really don’t know who is going to start the position but whoever wins the position is going to do a great job,” Woods said. “They’re all really good friends but they are obviously all trying to win the same job so they got to be competitive.”