PULLMAN – One of Washington State’s most productive and well-supplied position groups of the 2021 season took a hit to its depth, losing experienced edge rusher Willie Taylor III to the NCAA transfer portal.
Taylor, a five-year Cougar, announced Thursday over Instagram that he intends to depart Pullman and play his final year of eligibility elsewhere.
Taylor split reps with several other capable WSU edge rushers this year. Although he wasn’t a regular starter, Taylor was a staple in the Cougars’ defense for the third season. He rotated into the lineup frequently as WSU distributed edge rushing snaps among five players.
A 6-foot-4, 245-pound Georgia native, Taylor registered 14 tackles, three tackles for loss and 2½ sacks this season to bring his WSU career totals to 69 tackles, 15 TFLs and 9½ sacks across 40 appearances.
“My time here has been some of the best moments of my life,” Taylor wrote in his farewell letter. “I met some of my best friends and created memories that will last forever. I’ve had the opportunity to grow on and off the field, as well as being a part of some amazing Cougar football history moments.
“To all my teammates I’ve crossed paths with, I want to thank you. We have been through a lot and grown from all of it. To all my coaches, I want to say thank you for the impact you have made on me. And finally, to Cougar nation I appreciate all the support you have given to us. You guys are some of the best fans in the country.”
Taylor played safety and outside linebacker at Bleckley County High in Cochran, Georgia. A two-star prep prospect, Taylor weighed just 210 pounds when the Cougars signed him in early 2017.
But he packed on muscle and broke out as a promising pass-rusher with a high motor during his redshirt freshman year in 2018, starting 10 games and tallying four sacks. Taylor retained his starting role as a sophomore but wasn’t as productive as he’d been in his debut season. Taylor missed all but a couple of plays in 2020 after sustaining an ACL injury in Week 1.
In his final season on the Palouse, Taylor shared edge rushing responsibilities with Ron Stone Jr., Brennan Jackson, Quinn Roff and Andrew Edson.
Stone and Jackson, both juniors, saw the most usage and turned in exceptional campaigns. Stone picked up All-Pac-12 first-team accolades while Jackson received an honorable mention.
Roff, a sophomore, worked his way into playing time early in the season. The minutes for Edson – a freshman from Snoqualmie, Washington – decreased as Roff improved.
Sophomore edge Marquise Freeman entered the transfer portal later Thursday.
The 6-3, 215-pound product of Cocoa, Florida, did not appear in a game during his two years in Pullman.