Dickert primed for first full season as Washington State coach

·4 min read

Aug. 3—PULLMAN — Talking at his pre-fall camp news conference, first-year Washington State football coach Jake Dickert almost was giddy with excitement about the "new Wazzu" and the upcoming weeks of preparation ahead of an opening Sept. 3 date against Idaho at Gesa Field.

But the well-spoken, 38-year-old coach also talked with a poise and confidence more akin to bosses with years of head coaching experience in the college ranks.

The Cougars kick off their first fall practice at 9 a.m. today at Rogers Field.

"There's just a buzz throughout the building today that you just, if you're a football person, which I believe that I am to my core, you love fall camp," Dickert said. "You love the teaching, you love the time, you love the moments you're sharing together. There's a buzz to the building that's pretty special."

Dickert's first partial season as WSU coach was as much unconventional as it was a roller coaster for him, his staff and the resilient Cougar players.

Then-head coach Nick Rolovich was dismissed halfway through the 2021 season for refusing to get inoculated against the coronavirus, and Dickert, the defensive coordinator, was chosen as his interim replacement.

With Dickert at the helm, WSU went 3-2, earned a 40-13 victory against Washington in the Apple Cup and finished the season 7-6 overall.

It was enough to earn him the full-time gig in November.

So Dickert set to work rehauling and reworking the coaching staff, adding impact recruits like Incarnate Word quarterback Cam Ward, ditching a decade of the Air Raid offense and preparing for a fresh start he hopes brings stability to the Cougs.

Now, there's a different feel to fall camp than what he had in the past as a coordinator.

"I think 100 percent," Dickert said. "Instead of all my effort and energy going into specifically an opponent and installs and diagrams and practice plans and walkthroughs, you kinda have a new set of the bigger picture.

"To have the first opportunity to really shape fall camp in our vision is something that's unique and different. Had an opportunity to take a lot of input — we have a lot of great minds and great experience on our staff and (we were) able to put that into a plan we feel really confident about."

Dickert shied away from discussing position battles, but stressed the importance of the team's veterans and leaders.

Among them is junior edge Ron Stone Jr., a personality off the field and a menace to quarterbacks and running backs on it. Stone Jr. this preseason already has been named to three award watch lists: the Bednarik Award, the Lombardi Award and the Nagurski Trophy.

Ward, a sophomore, is poised to pilot the Cougar offense after throwing for 4,648 yards with 47 touchdowns last season in the Football Championship Subdivision ranks. He was named to the Maxwell Award watch list, an award that goes to the most outstanding player in college football.

"I want to be on the record and saying I'm a believer in Cam Ward," Dickert said at Friday's Pac-12's media day. "Cam has come in and earned the trust of this football team through repetitive action and hard work. He's put in the hard work behind the scenes.

"I'm excited about what he's going to do with the weapons that we have on offense under the direction of one of the best offensive coordinators I believe in the country in Eric Morris."

Other leaders Dickert mentioned include junior edge Brennan Jackson, senior defensive back Armani Marsh, senior transfer defensive back Jordan Lee and senior defensive back Derrick Langford on defense.

On offense, there's junior receiver Lincoln Victor, sophomore offensive lineman Konner Gomness and Ward, among others.

"The list keeps growing and growing," Dickert said.

Dickert said he's not concerned about preseason rankings, calling them "one of the most overrated things in all of sports" — the Cougs were picked seventh in the Pac-12 preseason poll.

But he said WSU is used to being the underdog. Not that it'll be on the players' minds when they're hyped and ready to begin fall camp.

"I know that at Washington State we're used to being the underdog and maybe being overlooked ... (But) predictions are here and there and that's for sports radio and commentators and talk," Dickert said. "The real work is going to happen on that field come tomorrow morning."

Wiebe may be contacted at (208) 848-2260, swiebe@lmtribune.com or on Twitter @StephanSports.