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Ex-Washington State QB Gunner Cruz explains why he's transferring to Arizona

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NCAA Football: Washington State at Southern California Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Gunner Cruz officially put his name into the NCAA transfer portal on Friday afternoon. Less than a day later he committed to the Arizona Wildcats.

On the surface this might seem like a rushed decision, but for Cruz the process didn’t need to take any longer once he heard new UA coach Jedd Fisch’s sales pitch.

“Just getting on the phone with them right away you could feel the energy,” Cruz told Sports360AZ’s Brad Cesmat on Monday. “They made sure to emphasize that it’s not a rebuild, it’s a refocus. They have athletes down there, they have players down there, they have a lot of support from the community. It’s not like we’re starting from square one.”

Cruz, who was a redshirt freshman at Washington State this past season, is a former 3-star prospect from the 2019 recruiting class. He played for Casteel High School in Queen Creek, where he threw for 9,383 yards and 100 touchdowns in his prep career.

The 6-foot-5, 217-pound Cruz appeared in one game for WSU, completing 5 of 7 passes for 34 yards and a TD in a December loss at USC. The Cougars are set to return Jayden de Laura, who started all four games in 2020 as a true freshman, and added former Tennessee QB Jarrett Gurantano for 2021, prompting Cruz to look elsewhere.

He said Arizona was on the phone with him within hours, with the entire offensive coaching staff involved talking to him and his parents. Other schools showed interest, he said, but he felt it was important to commit as soon as possible.

“It’s time-sensitive right now, obviously, because I want to get there for spring ball,” Cruz said. “The longer you wait, the harder it is to enroll. Once we felt comfortable and I knew it was a good situation over there I pulled the trigger.”

Cruz gives Arizona three scholarship quarterbacks, the others being redshirt sophomore Kevin Doyle and freshman Will Plummer. Combined they have appeared in four college games.