You ready for some (college) football?

A familiar face provides a fresh look at Washington State's "new" head coach who's steered the program to the other side of a couple pretty turbulent years.

This is the first day of the second year of my micro-media project here at The Dang Apostrophe, and there’s another first: a contributor! Jessamyn McIntyre is the person who — more than any other — is responsible for my transition from newspaper reporter to radio host. She produced the afternoon show where I filled in two days per week in 2012, and saw potential by putting me next to Jim Moore and Dave Wyman. She was the person who held “Danny, Dave and Moore” together through countless off-subject tangents and assorted shenanigans. In addition to being an exceptionally good friend, Jess is the sideline reporter for Washington State football, and she was generous enough to offer her perspective on the upcoming season.

Here’s a testament to how much I appreciate Jess as a professional and like her as a person: I’m going to offer NO Cougs-related barbs though that just may be an attempt to make up for years in which she was the collateral damage of the WSU-related digs that were aimed at Jim. If you enjoy the piece, please thank Jess in the comments.

A new era on the Palouse

By Jessamyn McIntyre

This is the kind of job Jake Dickert always wanted. It came with circumstances no one could have predicted.

“A dream I’ve always had: to be a power five coordinator,” Dickert said, “and there’s only 60 of them out here - we did it for the long term.”

After seemingly endless turmoil and tragedy for Washington State, there is a new era of football and a fresh breath of coaching philosophy in Pullman.

Coaching through an extreme shift in schemes from whence he came, a shortened season marred by the COVID-19 pandemic, the tragic loss of team member Bryce Beekman and the dismissal of Head Coach Nick Rolovich mid-season looks like an insurmountable list to overcome.

“Everyone’s got a choice to make,” Dickert said. “Going through all those things together it was a unique opportunity to try to mentor young men in getting through that. We’re still doing that to this day.”

The ups and what seemed like endless downs through the 2020 season took its mental toll, which is something the team came together on, rather than falling apart. After a somewhat normal spring season of 2021, being unexpectedly thrust into the interim head coaching role mid-season was yet another hurdle to overcome.

Once again, the team came together — a feat which Dickert credits the players.

“To have that group stay together was, I think, the biggest coaching moment I’ll ever have in my life,” Dickert said. “They wanted to do it – the players. I was a vehicle to take that energy and point it in the direction. And thankfully, we had a lot to play for. The biggest thing I keep telling people is that we got to write our own story.”

That story ended the regular season with an Apple Cup win in Seattle – a victory no current player on the team had seen in their career. The next chapter in Dickert’s story was just beginning, as Athletic Director, Pat Chun named head coach of Washington State the next day.

A look ahead: Get ready for some magic

The buy-in from the team is there, but Dickert is reticent to take credit for it. However many philosophies exist in coaching across the nation, he has his own as well.

“Player-run programs — that’s not it. It’s player led,” he said. “We will set the messaging and the mindset and they will lead it.”

Along with a fresh new coaching staff comes a fresh new quarterback in Cam Ward, transfer from Incarnate Word who is already being touted by some as a dark horse Heisman candidate. Aside from poring over IW highlights and the Spring Game, there’s much we’d still like to know about the future at the position.

Coach Dickert is happy to oblige.

“I’m really proud of how he’d just come in here and just worked,” Dickert said. “I told him this team is going to be build around hard work. He’s done that since the moment he’s been here, he’s an ultimate competitor and he’s ultra talented.”

So what can we expect on the field? Hold on to your bootstraps.

“He’s one of those guys that, some of the things he’ll do will drive a coach nuts,” Dickert said. “But that’s who he is and you’ve got to let him play that way.

“If you try to put him in a box, you lose that magic – and Cam has that magic. None of us can describe or identify – we’re always trying to find it. The biggest thing I try to do is let him know that I trust that. I always tell the quarterbacks that ‘you’re the biggest decision maker in this program besides me’.”

Dickert points out that Ward is not only growing from a freshman to a sophomore, but doing so in two different places. However, he is doing so under the direction of offensive coordinator, Eric Morris who made the trip from Incarnate Word as well. The new offense is much like the Air Raid we’ve seen in the past, but will incorporate the RPO and some traditional spreads as well.

This will serve Ward well, according to Dickert.

“It’s an offense he’s really, really comfortable with,” Dickert said. “It’s amazing to see him check plays and go – it’s fun to watch. And his synergy with Coach Morris is off the charts and he probably wouldn’t be here without that.

“I’m excited to see both these guys take this thing to the next level, and do it with great energy.”

Speaking of energy, the first real offseason they’ve had since 2019 brought this team together in ways Dickert doesn’t think are talked about enough. The camaraderie that comes from eating lunch together, going to movies and that matter to team building were taken away in many ways throughout the pandemic.

“We look bigger, faster, stronger,” he said. “But there’s things like that in that moment that you can’t replace, you can not replicate and you cannot understand how much that matters to a team … to be able to do those things again … there are so many things that just matter to a team that were taken away.

“Just to be back to that vibrant campus – this is life, this is campus and this is what being a student it supposed to be … there is nothing like being here at GESA Field. Hopefully starting new and fresh with a new energy and attitude and team – hopefully that’s exciting to a lot of people.”

It is all upside and potential this time of year for each team in the country, so as you head over to the Palouse, listen on radio (please do!) or pull up on your favorite chair to watch the Cougars this season, know that there is constant brotherhood and renewed hope for the Crimson and Gray.

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