Washington State slot receiver Joey Hobert enters transfer portal

Feb. 3—PULLMAN — He seemed to be on the rise up Washington State's depth chart. Instead, he appears to be on the move.

Joey Hobert surprised Cougar fans Wednesday night when he entered his name into the NCAA's transfer portal. The sophomore slot receiver announced his intentions of departing Pullman over his social media channels Thursday morning.

"I am grateful for all of the love I have received while at WSU, but I know that opening this new chapter of my life is what is best for me," Hobert wrote. "The team is in great hands!"

Hobert showed flashes of his potential while playing in a reserve role last season in his second year as a Cougar, registering 15 receptions for 192 yards and a touchdown — a 55-yard catch-and-run versus Oregon State in October.

Most of his action came on special teams. Hobert impressed on the Cougars' kickoff-coverage unit, and blocked two punts against Arizona on Nov. 19.

He and junior Lincoln Victor backed up two of the Pac-12's top receivers in slotbacks Calvin Jackson Jr. and Travell Harris, both of whom have graduated and moved on.

The timing of Hobert's announcement was peculiar, considering he was named to WSU's 13-player leadership council, as voted on by teammates, just two days earlier.

The reasoning behind his decision isn't clear. Perhaps he's looking for a landing spot where he can firmly establish himself as a starter.

If he were to stick around, Hobert likely would be WSU's No. 3 option at slot receiver — behind Victor and Renard Bell, who returns for his final year after missing last season with an ACL injury. Bell appeared in 43 games from 2017-20, totaling 1,656 yards and 16 TDs on 147 receptions.

The Cougars are installing a modified version of the Air Raid offense under first-year offensive coordinator Eric Morris. Unlike the run-and-shoot system — which WSU employed over the past two seasons — the new offense doesn't always include two slots in its formations.

The majority of inside-receiver reps next season will presumably go to Bell and Victor, regardless of whether Hobert is on the roster.

That doesn't mean his departure would be insignificant. He'd probably see an increase in playing time and function as a key relief receiver and special-teamer for WSU in 2022. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder is sure-handed and made for a reliable target on shallow routes last year. He also returned a combined six kicks and punts over the past two years.

A graduate of San Juan Hills High in San Juan Capistrano, California, Hobert committed to then-coach Mike Leach's Cougars program in June 2019 over offers from BYU, San Diego State and Hawaii, among other Group of Five schools.

He stayed with WSU when former coach Nick Rolovich was hired in early 2020.

Cougars coaches took notice of Hobert's work ethic almost immediately. As a true freshman, he got on the field in each of WSU's four games during its truncated 2020 season, making three receptions for 31 yards and appearing on special teams.

The Cougars faithful had been familiar with the Hobert name long before Joey joined WSU. His father, Billy Joe, starred at quarterback for the Washington Huskies in the early 1990s, leading the team to an undefeated season and Rose Bowl title in '92 before a nine-year NFL career.

Billy Joe converted to the crimson side and has been an outspoken Cougars supporter over the past two years.