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Sports >  WSU football

Washington State loses one defensive assistant; Cougars plan on adding two staffers in near future

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 11, 2022

Washington State Cougars coach Jake Dickert watches his team during the second half of the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31 against Central Michigan in El Paso, Texas. Dickert announced several developments Tuesday regarding the Cougars’ 2022 coaching staff.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars coach Jake Dickert watches his team during the second half of the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31 against Central Michigan in El Paso, Texas. Dickert announced several developments Tuesday regarding the Cougars’ 2022 coaching staff. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
By Colton Clark The Spokesman-Review

PULLMAN – One defensive assistant is moving on. Two others are staying put.

With two more hires, Washington State’s on-field football staff for 2022 will be complete.

Cougars coach Jake Dickert announced several developments to the program’s staff Tuesday, confirming that veteran nickels/safeties coach Mark Banker has decided to depart the Pullman school while edge coach A.J. Cooper and secondary assistant Jordan Malone will stick around.

Banker, a journeyman coach who has worked in the football business since 1979, turned down a contract offer to remain at WSU because of “personal reasons,” according to Dickert.

“He’s a valued member of this team and this organization,” Dickert said. “Mark has been a mentor of mine, someone I’ve relied on the last couple of years. He’s done an amazing job and he’ll always be welcome at our program, but I think there’s a lot of sunshine and golf in his future – he’s been in this game for 40-plus years.”

The 66-year-old followed former boss Nick Rolovich to WSU in early 2020 after a two-year stint as associate head coach/inside linebackers coach at Hawaii.

Banker, a key holdover for WSU following Rolovich’s dismissal in mid-October, helped transform the Cougars’ secondary into a proficient unit this season.

Considering the background, it’s no surprise that Dickert asked Banker to stay aboard. His wealth of experience is highlighted by defensive coordinator jobs at Oregon State (2003-14), Nebraska (2015-16) and in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers (1999-2001).

Malone was elevated from defensive analyst to cornerbacks coach shortly after WSU terminated Rolovich and four assistants – including cornerbacks coach John Richardson.

Malone will still oversee Cougar DBs, but it’s not certain which position group he’ll lead. That’ll depend on who WSU adds to fill the hole left by Banker’s departure.

“Coach Malone has really proven over our time together in our past, and obviously in the present, to be very capable of doing a variety of different things,” Dickert said. “Jordan is going to give us some flexibility with our next hire, whether that’s corners for somebody else (a new coach) or if Jordan stays at corners, or if he moves to safeties/nickels … He’ll be in the back end. It’ll be corners or safeties.”

Malone spent three seasons as defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach at Division II Augustana (South Dakota) after two years as DBs coach at D-II Minnesota State – both past coaching stops of Dickert’s.

Cooper had his responsibilities expanded Tuesday. He’ll coordinate the defense’s run game and contribute on special teams while retaining his duties as edge coach.

A second-year WSU assistant, Cooper guided the edge rushers to a breakout season in 2021. The group was consistently disruptive and produced an All-Pac-12 first-teamer in Ron Stone Jr.

Cooper and Dickert shared a sideline at North Dakota State in the early 2010s, and at Wyoming from 2017-19.

“I’ve been with coach Cooper for a long time, so our relationship has obviously grown since we were both (graduate assistants) at North Dakota State,” Dickert said. “His elevated status I think is well-earned. Our production on the defensive line and how our guys have grown up front is a lot due to what he’s been able to do on and off the field working with our guys.”

Dickert said he’s planning to disclose WSU’s hire for the long-vacant tight ends/H-backs position by the end of the week. The Cougars haven’t used tight ends in over a decade, but newly hired offensive coordinator Eric Morris is reintroducing the position group in his version of the Air Raid.

The soon-to-be-announced assistant will also take on the majority of the special-teams coordinator role.

“We’re going to divide (special teams) up more than we have in the past,” Dickert said. “The coach we bring in is going to be the face of it, the energy of it and do the bulk of it.”

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