After two years apart, the Air Raid and Washington State are reuniting, but the Cougs’ second marriage to the offensive system is expected to differ from the first in some respects.
WSU plans to hire former Cougar assistants Eric Morris and Clay McGuire as its next offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, respectively, according to multiple reports.
Both played for Air Raid guru Mike Leach at Texas Tech in the mid-2000s and learned under him during his eight-year tenure as WSU coach.
Morris mentored the Cougars’ inside receivers in 2012 before coordinating a pass-dominant offense for coach Kliff Kingsbury – now the Arizona Cardinals’ boss – at Texas Tech from 2013-17.
He has served as the head coach at Incarnate Word over the past four years.
The FCS Cardinals went 24-18 and made two playoff appearances with Morris at the helm. They compiled a 10-3 record this year and fell to defending champion Sam Houston State 49-42 in the second round of the playoffs this weekend.
Incarnate Word ranks fifth nationally in both passing offense (350 yards per game) and scoring offense (39 ppg).
The 38-year-old Morris began his career in 2010 as an offensive assistant at Houston after a standout pass-catching career for the Red Raiders and one season with the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The Cougars poached McGuire out of Southern Cal, where he’d worked since early 2020.
McGuire, 39, taught the Cougars’ offensive linemen from 2012-17. He reportedly remained fond of Pullman during his four years away.
McGuire all but confirmed the news Sunday when he tweeted a photo of himself and Riley Sorenson, one of his WSU pupils, then indicated he was about to board a flight to Pullman.
He worked as co-OC/running backs coach in 2018 for the Red Raiders, with whom he played as an H-back before beginning his coaching career at his alma mater after graduation.
Texas Tech ranked in the top 20 nationally in most offensive stat categories during his 2018 stint back in Lubbock.
Afterward, McGuire spent two seasons directing Texas State’s O-line.
On the Palouse, he tutored future NFLers like Andre Dillard, Cole Madison and Joe Dahl, and All-American Cody O’Connell.
WSU coach Jake Dickert, freshly promoted, will move away from the run-and-shoot offense implemented by Nick Rolovich, who was hired in early 2020 to lead the Cougs after Leach departed for Mississippi State. Rolovich lost his job Oct. 18 after failing to comply with a state COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
WSU stuck with the system after Rolovich and four assistants were terminated, hiring a couple of run-and-shoot vets to provide stability.
Although its offensive staff is being rebuilt, the team will field a somewhat familiar set of schemes – considering the comparable spread formations used by both the run-and-shoot and Air Raid.
WSU’s offense is likely to continue operating with balance in its play calling – as it has throughout the back half of this season.
Across five games with Dickert in charge, the Cougars passed and ran the ball at about a 50/50 clip.
Morris’ iteration of the Air Raid employs running backs at a significantly higher rate than Leach’s.
Incarnate Word averaged 127 yards rushing on 27.6 attempts per game this season. The Cardinals dialed up passes on 62% of their snaps.
Dickert has mentioned on multiple occasions the importance of setting a physical standard through the ground game.
Standout running backs Max Borghi and Deon McIntosh will conclude their Coug careers Dec. 31, when WSU faces Miami in the Sun Bowl.
Sophomore quarterback Jayden de Laura, who Mike Leach recruited to play in the Air Raid, will be the clear-cut focal point of the offense going forward.
“The biggest philosophy I have on offense is, ‘Players over plays,’” Dickert said Thursday during his introductory news conference when asked whether he’ll keep the run-and-shoot. “We’re going to center this on Jayden.”
WSU’s been on a hiring spree as of late. The Cougars will reportedly bring in Nevada’s Brian Ward to coordinate their defense next season, and longtime Wyoming assistant Pete Kaligis will take over as defensive tackles coach.
It’s not clear whether the Cougars will retain any run-and-shoot assistants – those being second-year offensive staffers Brian Smith (offensive coordinator) and Andre Allen (receivers), and midseason additions Dan Morrison (quarterbacks) and Dennis McKnight (O-line).
WSU athletic director Pat Chun told media members Sunday he expects all of WSU’s current staffers to participate in the Sun Bowl.
Dickert, a defensive coordinator over the past three seasons – one at Wyoming, two at WSU – said Thursday he intends to devote his time equally to offense and defense.
“That’s one of my biggest visions I shared with (athletic director Pat Chun) is that I believe Washington State needs a true head coach,” he said. “Not a head coach that specializes in defense (or) specializes in offense, but a true head coach – one that can pour into both sides of the ball.”
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