2022 Washington St. Cougars Preview

by Matt Fargo

Washington St. Cougars

2021-22 Season Record 7-6 (6-3 Pac 12 North) - 8-5-0 ATS - 5-8-0 O/U

Returning Starters

Offense - 4
Defense - 6

Overview

Former head coach Mike Price turned Washington St. into a winner in the early 2000s with a pair of No. 10 finishes in the AP Poll and then Bill Doba came in and led the Cougars to a No. 9 ranking in 2003 but then it went downhill quickly. Mike Leach came on board and after starting with three losing seasons, the winning resumed with five straight bowl appearances highlighted by an 11-2 record in 2018 that resulted in a No. 10 final ranking. Nick Rolovich made it 11 games only before being fired after failing to comply with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for state employees. Interim coach Jake Dickert closed the season 3-3 which included a bowl bid and he was hired full time. The situation is not great as after returning 18 starters in 2021, only 10 are back this season to go along with a No. 119 returning production ranking as transfers will be playing a major role for success.

Offense

The Air Raid offense from Leach was absent the last two seasons but that is about to change. The Cougars finished No. 73 in total offense and No. 69 in scoring offense as the passing game was slightly above average but was unable to outscore opponents when needed as three losses came by a combined nine points. Dickert hired Incarnate Word head coach Eric Morris as his offensive coordinator and fireworks should ensue after possessing one of the best offenses at the FCS level. Joining him from Incarnate Word is quarterback Cameron Ward who threw for over 4,600 yards and 47 touchdowns last season with one of his favorite targets being Robert Ferrel who is also transferring over. Only two starters are back on the offensive line but the up tempo attack should lead to fewer sacks and they will have to open holes for a depleted running game that loses it leading rusher.

Defense

After a slow start to the season, the defense came up big as it allowed 400 or more yards only three times over the last 10 games while holding opponents to 24 points or fewer eight times. Overall, the Cougars were No. 68 in total defense and No. 48 in scoring defense and they have solid production coming back. They were tied for No. 5 in the country with 29 takeaways and that is something they cannot count on again especially with a few of the playmakers having departed. The strength is up front with defensive ends Ron Stone, Jr. and Brennan Jackson combining for 107 tackles and 9.5 sacks last season to go along with a veteran middle. The linebacking corps loses two key starters including its leading tackler and this is where the transfers are going to play a big role. The secondary loses both starting safeties and will be headed by nickel back Armani Marsh coming off a 70-tackle season.

2022 Season Outlook

Things are about to get exciting again in Pullman, at least that is the hope, but it should work just fine with Ward playing for his former coach in the same system with very little tweaks. Dickert was the defensive coordinator here for two years so the only thing that changes on that side is new personnel. The schedule sets up pretty well for Washington St. as it has seven home games for a second straight season with four of those coming in the first five games. They open with Idaho and then travel to Wisconsin before three more at home that includes Oregon. Three of the four conference road games are doable with a game at USC being the toughest. Additionally, they get Utah and Washington at home. The O/U win total is set at 5.5 and there are six wins on paper with two swing games to go along with the four games against elite opposition so the Cougars could be in position to go bowling again. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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