Armed with QB Cameron Ward, what are expectations for WSU Cougars?
For the first time since 2012, the WSU Cougars won the Apple Cup in 2021, which came after a season filled with plenty of drama as head coach Nick Rolovich was fired due to him not receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
But the team rallied around interim head coach Jake Dickert, finishing the regular season with a 7-5 record an Apple Cup victory, which earned Dickert the full-time head coaching job.
So what do the WSU Cougars look like heading into Dickert’s first full season as head coach in 2022?
Steele thinks WSU is one of the hardest teams in the country to forecast, saying the Cougars could win as few as three games or as many as nine.
What Steele is optimistic about is the offense, which has a new quarterback in Cameron Ward.
Ward transferred to WSU from FCS Incarnate Word after throwing 47 touchdowns, and Steele thinks the Cougars could take a big leap forward with Ward, similar to last year when Western Kentucky shined with quarterback Bailey Zappe under center. Zappe set an FBS record with 62 passing touchdowns and 5,967 passing yards in his lone season with the Hilltoppers after starring at FCS Houston Baptist and he was a fourth-round pick of the New England Patriots in this April’s draft.
Additionally, Ward’s head coach at Incarnate Word, Eric Morris, has joined the WSU coaching staff as offensive coordinator.
“So (Ward) knows the system extremely well,” Steele said. “They’ve got solid receivers like Renard Bell, Lincoln Victor, (De’Zhaun) Stribling (who are) all solid.”
The offensive line, Steele said, is the WSU Cougars’ biggest question mark.
“No doubt about it,” he said. ” …Can they protect (Ward)?”
Dickert’s background is on the defensive side of the ball, so how does that unit look heading into 2022?
“Defensively when you look at them, I like Brennan Jackson at defensive end,” Steele said. “I think (Daiyan) Henley at linebacker coming over from Nevada, he’s actually an NFL-caliber linebacker, so he’s a big pickup there. And then I like the secondary with (Armani) Marsh and (Derrick) Langford.”
But WSU has a tough schedule, especially compared to rival Washington.
“They draw a tougher schedule than does Washington. They play both Utah and USC, who I have near the top of the charts,” Steele said. “… It’s a tough team for me to forecast. Only 10 returning starters. But the possibility is there for them to surprise, especially if Ward plays like he did at Incarnate Word.”
Listen to the full conversation at this link or in the player below.