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Three storylines to watch throughout Washington State’s fall camp

Washington State quarterback Cameron Ward (1) throws during the first half of WSU’s Crimson and Gray spring game on April 23 at Gesa Field in Pullman.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
By Colton Clark The Spokesman-Review

PULLMAN – The first fall camp of the Jake Dickert era at Washington State is right around the corner.

The new-look Cougars take Rogers Field at 9 a.m. Wednesday to begin preseason preparations leading up to their opener on Sept. 3 against Idaho. Before then, we should have answers to some of the key questions facing WSU ahead of its 2022 season.

Here are three storylines to watch throughout fall camp:

Staying consistent with a new staff, especially on defense

Since early January, the Cougars have made eight additions to their on-field staff.

WSU’s players had the benefit of a spring camp and several months of offseason work with their first-year coaches. Still, it’ll probably take some more time to fully absorb the new coaching philosophies and tendencies.

It’s fair to expect some trial and error on offense, given the complete overhaul of the system. The good news for WSU’s defenders – in terms of style and system, not much has changed on that side of the ball.

Dickert installed the Cougs’ current 4-2-5 defense ahead of the 2020 season. He handed off the reins this offseason to defensive coordinator Brian Ward, who has made subtle tweaks but won’t transform a proven system. Dickert and Ward come from similar coaching backgrounds and share defensive ideologies.

Under Dickert, the Cougars played a persistent style of defense and kept the team alive in a few games in 2021.

Under Ward, will WSU field another resilient brand of defense in 2022?

How good is Cameron Ward, and how explosive is this new offense?

The sophomore quarterback put up staggering numbers over the past two seasons at Incarnate Word under coach Eric Morris – the new offensive coordinator at WSU and the mind behind the team’s recently installed Air Raid offense.

Ward signed with WSU in January as one of the top-rated transfers on the market. He immediately solidified himself as the team’s starting QB. The expectations surrounding Ward have only grown since he showed flashes of superstar potential during spring camp.

The Cougs believe they got the complete package in Ward, a poised signal-caller who has the arm talent to make any throw and who will be buoyed by a star-studded receiving corps.

And the Cougs think they struck gold with Morris and his “Coug Raid” offense, a flexible system that leans on the pass without forsaking the ground game.

A rebuilt offensive line

Can Ward stay clean in the pocket?

WSU lost three mainstays on its O-line after last season, including longtime starters at tackle in Abraham Lucas and Liam Ryan.

Ward’s protection wasn’t always reliable at spring camp as the Cougars worked through various personnel groupings up front. A few big men have emerged as dependable blockers, but WSU’s O-line remains the biggest question mark among all of the team’s position groups.