The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

WSU Football Fall Camp Preview

What to watch for as the Cougs ramp up toward regular season play
WSU+head+coach+Jake+Dickert+talks+to+his+players+during+practice%2C+Aug.+17%2C+at+Martin+Stadium.
COLE QUINN
WSU head coach Jake Dickert talks to his players during practice, Aug. 17, at Martin Stadium.

With an uncertain future for the Pac-12 Conference and a large amount of turnover within the WSU football program, the Cougs finally get to something certain: fall camp.

Heading into his second full season and second fall camp as head coach, Jake Dickert has big expectations for his reshaped and revamped roster and coaching staff.

“The next three and a half weeks in fall camp will be a big indicator of what we’re capable of doing,” Dickert said. “I think we’re more athletic on the offensive side of the ball. I think we’ve learned from the adversity of last season and are really ready to grow on these things. I think defensively, we need to continue to evolve and take the next step and I’m really excited about the playmakers we have on that side of the ball.”

With those expectations in mind, here are the keys to watch for in WSU’s 2023 fall camp.

Changes to Camp

Going into year two, Dickert is not going to be doing things exactly the same as last year, he said. One big change is the pace of camp. The goal is to work to reduce unnecessary injuries and be prepared but still fresh for the regular season.

“We’re going to start a bit slower and ramp up. I want to make sure early through our catapult numbers that we’re not just wearing guys out. I think you can have some major setbacks and some small tissue injuries you don’t need to have,” Dickert said. “Our guys need to be calloused, they don’t need to go into the season blistered.”

Another change Dickert is implementing is nighttime practices and a scrimmage under the lights, he said. WSU was 1-4 in night games last year. As a west coast team, the Cougs play at night often. Dickert intends to better prepare the team for that this year.

“We are a morning practice team or a morning preparation team, but we got to get better at being able to sit around all day and getting our energy dial right so we can ramp up and go play and perform at night,” Dickert said.

New Coordinators

Turnover has been a huge part of the offseason for WSU but the sense is the new offensive and defensive coordinators can help right away. Offensive Coordinator Ben Arbuckle and Defensive Coordinators Jeff Schmedding both have impressive resumes, but things don’t always click right away.

“Legendary head coach John Stiegelmeier at South Dakota State, who just retired this year after winning a national championship, when I was with him he would say it takes a staff three years to get on the same page. It does take a long time, so we spend extra time to gain clarity in every facet of our program including the coaches,” Dickert said. “There are things that will come up but we’re professionals, we have the same vision of what we want to accomplish. What I really like about both of them is that they understand that the Cougs win.”

Arbuckle boasted a top-two passing offense at Western Kentucky and Schmedding ran an SEC defense at Auburn last year. The question now is: will it all come together by week one?

Roster Turnover

WSU relied heavily on the transfer portal this year to replenish position groups struck ironically enough, by the portal. The two biggest positions of change were wide receiver and linebacker.

At receiver, WSU lost key guys like Donovan Ollie, De’Zhaun Stribling and many more to the portal, and also lost a key slot guy in Robert Ferrel, who graduated. The linebacking core lost Daiyan Henley to the NFL Draft and key pieces like Francisco Mauigoa and Travion Brown to the portal.

They gained quite a bit of depth with wide receiver transfers like Kyle Williams, Josh Kelly and Isaiah Williams and linebacker transfers in Devin Richardson, Ahmad McCullough and Davon Hicks. All of these players came from Division-I FBS schools.

The wide receiver position has quite a few new faces and is the position Dickert is most excited to see develop in fall camp, he said.

“I think they were a very bright spot in spring ball. I think it’s a great feeling for coach Arbuckle, obviously Cam and really for our team to know we got a bunch of playmakers out there. Now, consistency, day over day can we stack days and get better and better and better and chase that 1%,” Dickert said.

With a key player and leader like Henley leaving as well as vets like Brown and Mauigoa, there is a lot up for grabs at linebacker. The core of the defense is the main point of focus going into camp, Dickert said.

“Settling who that’s going to be is going through our fall camp will be very, very important for our future success,” Dickert said.

He mentioned Texas transfer and fifth-year senior Devin Richardson and his stability and maturity and the presence he already has in the linebacker room. Another big name to watch is redshirt junior Kyle Thornton, who has had his role elevated.

Dickert is also looking for redshirt freshmen spring standouts Taariq Al-Uqdah and Hudson Cedarland to take sophomore leaps this season. 

WSU has several position battles going on, with multiple new coaches in the mix and a new camp strategy being implemented. So the big question is: will it all click before the record counts?

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About the Contributors
LUKE WESTFALL, Evergreen sports co-editor
Luke Westfall is a junior in Broadcast News from Custer, WA. He is an avid fanatic of the many sports at many levels who spends all his available time indulging in them. Luke began working at the Evergreen in Spring 2022.
COLE QUINN, Evergreen Sports Photographer
Cole Quinn is a photographer and columnist for the Daily Evergreen. Cole primarily shoots sports for the Daily Evergreen and writes album reviews in his spare time. Cole is a junior broadcast production major and sports communication minor from Snoqualmie, Washington. Cole started working for the Evergreen in the fall of 2020 as a photographer. Cole was the Photo Editor during his sophomore year and Deputy Photo Editor for the fall 2022 semester.