It may not be that Nick Rolovich didn't understand the premise of the question. He just didn't agree with it.
During the Pac-12's virtual media day held last Wednesday, Rolovich was asked if Washington State, picked to finish last in the North division, would be more inclined to use the truncated, conference-only 2020 season as an opportunity to build for the future, rather than gun for an unlikely championship.
"I know you guys are in a competitive environment and want to win every game," the reporter started, "but the unique nature of the season, you don't have a QB right now..."
Rolovich interrupted: "We've got QBs. We've got QBs."
The implication, of course, was the Cougars don't have a returning starter at quarterback, and on the heels of Anthony Gordon's departure, will be one of five Pac-12 schools ushering in a new signal-caller this season. But, even with nearly half the league bringing in new faces, WSU is confronted with an especially unconventional situation.
Just look across the conference.
Oregon is replacing Rose Bowl-winning QB Justin Herbert but returns backup Tyler Shough, who was once the country's sixth-rated pro style QB. The Ducks also have a solid insurance policy in Boston College grad transfer Anthony Brown. Utah welcomes in South Carolina transfer Jake Bentley to replace Tyler Huntley and Washington has Kevin Thompson, a productive Big Sky QB at Sacramento State, as an option if the younger signal-callers don't pan out.
Since snaps themselves aren't necessarily recorded, here's how many returning pass attempts each of WSU's 11 conference foes have: Arizona State (310), Arizona (185), California (625), Colorado (6), Oregon (695), Oregon State (60), Stanford (280), UCLA (556), USC (498), Utah (1,011), UW (596).
Then there's WSU (0).
"None that I really remember," Rolovich said when asked if he could recall coaching a team that didn't have a returning snap at the QB position. "Probably in some of the JC years we did it. But it's probably a fairly unique situation. But they're working. They've all got things they need to work on to get better as a group, but even some of the stuff now I see a lot of improvement from when we first got to see them and I think (QB coach Craig Stutzmann) has done a really good job mentoring them and bringing them along."
Because of the seniority in WSU's QB room last season, the Cougars' two returning signal-callers, redshirt sophomore Cammon Cooper and redshirt freshman Gunner Cruz, were buried behind a trio of seniors — Gordon, Trey Tinsley and Gage Gubrud — and, outside of Thursday Night Football scrimmages designated for young players, seldom had the opportunity to sharpen their skills.
Cooper and Cruz return as two of the four candidates to replace Gordon as WSU's starting QB, while the others are highly-touted freshman Jayden de Laura and walk-on Victor Gabalis.
After three days of preseason camp, there isn't a clear pecking order, or really anything resembling one, but all four players are getting opportunities to lead Rolovich's run-and-shoot offense, and if the abbreviated time frame allows for it, the coach would love to have a starter nailed down with two weeks to spare before WSU opens at Oregon State on Nov. 7.