Who will be WSU coach in 2022? Candidates could be on both sidelines Saturday

Nov 9, 2021, 12:32 AM | Updated: 1:11 am
WSU Jake Dickert...
WSU acting head coach Jake Dickert looks on during the Cougars' win over ASU on Oct. 30. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The WSU Cougars football season has been chaotic at times, but now two weeks removed from the dismissal of head coach Nick Rolovich, it’s surprisingly easy for Cougar fans to put that all in the back of their minds for now.

Opportunistic WSU beats ASU 34-21 for Dickert’s first win

That’s because Washington State will head to Eugene to face the Pac-12 North-leading Oregon Ducks, the No. 4 team in the College Football Playoff rankings, on Saturday in a battle between the two teams with the best chance of winning the division. WSU (5-4 overall) comes into the game with a 4-2 conference record while Oregon (8-1 overall) is 5-1 in Pac-12 play.

Regardless of what the Cougars do in the 7:30 p.m. Saturday game, which will air live on 710 ESPN Seattle beginning with the pregame show at 5:30 p.m., the fact remains that they will have another head coaching search on their hands when the season concludes. And that search should be plenty compelling, as FOX Sports college football insider Bruce Feldman explained Monday to 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy.

“I think they have some pretty good options,” Feldman said, “and it’s very interesting how the interim has made himself a legit candidate just in terms of what he has been able to get out of this team since he’s taken over.”

The “interim” Feldman referred to is acting WSU head coach Jake Dickert, who was elevated from defensive coordinator after Rolovich’s firing. He’s 1-1 so far at the helm, and a strong showing the rest of the way could make him the favorite to lead the Cougars in 2022.

“You gotta give him a lot of credit. I mean, they whooped ASU last week,” Feldman said, pointing to WSU’s 34-21 win in Tempe on Oct. 30. “(The Cougar players) are playing hard for him, I think they’re fighting hard for those coaches. … I think if Dickert can keep this thing on track, and they still have a chance to win the division – I mean, that’d be pretty remarkable – I don’t know how you can’t think he wouldn’t be a candidate. I think it’s just been so impressive.”

So put Dickert on the top of the list. Who else should be on it, however?

Well, perhaps Cougar fans should pay close attention to the offense of Saturday’s opponent.

“Joe Moorhead, the offensive coordinator at Oregon, has been a really good hire for (Oregon head coach) Mario Cristobal,” Feldman said. “Terrific play caller, has head coaching experience.”

That head coaching experience, by the way? Moorhead was former WSU head coach Mike Leach’s predecessor at Mississippi State.

While Rolovich brought a run and shoot offense to the Palouse, Feldman wonders if a more unconventional system under Moorhead – similar to Leach’s Air Raid – would be a good fit on the Palouse.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they looked at staying somewhere in the Air Raid family just because there’s a lot of people who feel like when you’re at a place like Washington State, you need to be a little more outside the box to distinguish yourself,” he said. “Joe Moorhead’s an RPO (run-pass option) guru and he’s a terrific play caller. I wouldn’t bet against him if he jumped in there because I think what we’ve seen with what he’s done with Oregon has been really impressive.”

Feldman had one other name to keep an eye on.

“I could see Jay Norvell, who’s done a good job at Nevada, as a guy who can bring some real leadership to a program that I think has been kind of reeling, to be honest, for a while.”

Norvell is a longtime assistant in the NFL and college ranks, and for the past five seasons has led the Wolfpac to a 32-24 record and three bowl appearances, including wins in the Arizona Bowl (2018) and Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (2020).

For the full conversation with Feldman, including a lot of insight on and reaction to the situation with the UW Huskies and head coach Jimmy Lake, listen to the podcast at this link or in the player below.

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Who will be WSU coach in 2022? Candidates could be on both sidelines Saturday