By David Krueger Herald Writer
Not long ago, Austin Joyner was ready to don the purple and gold.
After a coaching change left his future in flux, the Marysville Pilchuck star running back regrouped and reopened his commitment. Friday night he announced that he had decided to head to the other side of the state, verbally committing to play for the Washington State Cougars.
“Got some news for you cougar fans! Staying in Washington and attending WSU #committed #GoCougs,” Joyner tweeted.
Joyner committed to Washington and then-head coach Steve Sarkisian on Nov. 19, soon after his junior season at Marysville Pilchuck ended. About two weeks later Sarkisian departed for the University of Southern California and UW brought in Chris Petersen, formerly of Boise State.
With the coaching change, Joyner withdrew his commitment to Washington, and began looking at schools again. Joyner said he had it narrowed down to Washington State and Boise State — with Colorado also in the mix — before committing to the Cougars.
“I already saw all my options and had all the information I needed. No point in waiting,” Joyner said. “I just feel like I have a chance to play early there. And it’s in the Pac-12, which is kind of what drove me away from Boise State.”
The Herald’s Offensive Player of the Year last season, Joyner is the No. 1 recruit in the state of Washington for the Class of 2015 according to ESPN.com. He is a four-star recruit by Scout after rushing for 1,521 yards and 21 touchdowns his junior season. He had over 2,000 yards on the ground his sophomore year.
However, in college the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Joyner plans on playing defense at WSU. Looking ahead, he saw that defensive backs’ football careers last longer than those at running back. Joyner said that he likely wouldn’t attend WSU if he wanted to play offense, noting head coach Mike Leach’s pass-happy offensive scheme.
“I wouldn’t go there if it was for offense,” Joyner said. “They don’t run the ball enough.”
Playing early was an important factor for Joyner, as was the Pullman area.
“It’s a good location,” Joyner said. “I kind of wanted to stay home and participate in stuff around here. I’m an outdoors person. I don’t like the big city. I like places where I can go fishing and hunting.”
A verbal commitment is non-binding. Athletes can’t officially sign letters of intent until February of their senior year.
Joyner had generated interest from several Pac-12 programs, including Arizona State, Oregon State and Oregon. Once Sark departed for USC, Joyner said the coach contacted him “a little bit but not really.”
Meanwhile, Petersen invited Joyner to a camp to see him play. He wanted Joyner on the defensive side, but didn’t extend an offer to the junior.
“They recruited me and wanted me at camp,” Joyner said. “I didn’t feel like I needed to prove myself.”
Before making his announcement Friday afternoon, Joyner called Leach and the WSU coaching staff to inform them of his commitment. Like Joyner, they were excited to hear of their newest commit.
With the news out, Joyner is happy to be finished with the recruiting process.
“It’s good to be done,” Joyner said. “It’s nice to not have to worry about anything.”