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Sports >  WSU football

Report: Washington State plans to hire two new assistants in receivers coach Joel Filani and running backs coach Mark Atuaia

Dec. 20, 2021 Updated Mon., Dec. 20, 2021 at 6:37 p.m.

Texas Tech wide receivers coach Joel Filani is reportedly leaving the Red Raiders to join Washington State's staff in the same position.  (Courtesy Texas Tech Athletics)
Texas Tech wide receivers coach Joel Filani is reportedly leaving the Red Raiders to join Washington State's staff in the same position. (Courtesy Texas Tech Athletics)
By Colton Clark The Spokesman-Review

Washington State’s football program has been working quickly this month to build a new staff on offense.

Now, the Cougs are just a step or two away from completing it.

WSU is expected to hire Joel Filani and Mark Atuaia to coach its wide receivers and running backs, respectively.

Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports reported early Monday that Filani – a former Cougar staffer under coach Mike Leach – will be departing Texas Tech in favor of a return to Pullman, while Atuaia is leaving the University of Virginia.

Filani worked at his alma mater over the past three years, tutoring the Red Raiders’ outside receivers. He played at Texas Tech in the mid-2000s under Leach and alongside newly hired WSU offensive coordinator Eric Morris.

Atuaia mentored running backs for coach Bronco Mendenhall’s Cavaliers over the past six seasons. He previously held the same job at BYU for three years.

The Cougs began their hiring spree shortly after Jake Dickert was lifted into the permanent head-coaching job Nov. 27.

About a week later, the Cougs landed Morris, who left his post as coach of FCS Incarnate Word. He’ll install a balanced version of the Air Raid at WSU, where he taught inside receivers in 2012.

Within days of Morris’ reported hiring, WSU found its next offensive line coach. Clay McGuire left Southern Cal for an encore in Pullman, where he oversaw the Cougs’ O-line from 2012-17.

“Right now, it’s just important to get an offensive coordinator and an offensive line coach and get those guys in sync,” Dickert said Dec. 14. “We’ll announce the rest of the staff when it comes to the new year. We’re still working through that. We’re going to keep vetting assistant coaches and I think that’s important to find the right people here.”

Morris’ Air Raid will introduce tight end principles next season. The Cougs haven’t employed tight ends in over a decade, so they’re presumably still looking for an assistant to fill that new role.

It’s also uncertain whether WSU plans to hire a slotbacks coach, or otherwise tasks Filani to supervise all of its receivers. Air Raid staffs typically include two receivers coaches.

Filani, who hails from Phoenix, was a two-time All-Big 12 outside receiver at Texas Tech before a three-year stint in the NFL with six teams. He started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Boise State from 2013-14 before a season in Pullman as a quality control staffer and a four-year stop as receivers coach at North Texas.

Atuaia, a running back at BYU in the mid-1990s, served as a student assistant at the Provo, Utah, school from 2005-11. The Hawaii native was promoted to RBs coach at BYU in 2013.

Monday’s news all but confirms that WSU’s offensive staff will experience a total makeover after the Cougars meet Miami in the Sun Bowl in El Paso on Dec. 31. WSU will retain its current assistants for one more game, then replace the run-and-shoot offense and bid farewell to four coaches who specialize in the system.

Incarnate Word quarterbacks coach/pass-game coordinator Mack Leftwich will apparently join Morris at WSU, though probably not in an on-field role. It seems more likely that Leftwich works as either a quality control assistant or analyst.

Leftwich edited his Twitter bio to read “coach at Washington State,” but did not reveal his title.

He taught UIW’s signal-callers over the past three seasons and helped the Cardinals become one of the country’s most productive passing teams this year.

After playing quarterback for UTEP from 2013-15, Leftwich helped out with the Miners’ program as a student assistant, then accepted a position as OC at Denton High in Texas. He was the state’s youngest prep coordinator in 2017.

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