clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
PULLMAN, WA - OCTOBER 23: Washington State wide receiver Lincoln Victor (85) runs out of the tunnel prior to a non-conference matchup between the BYU Cougars and the Washington State Cougars on October 23, 2021, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, WA.

Filed under:

Breaking down WSU’s 2022 offensive personnel

Boy, are they young!

Jack Ellis/CougCenter

This is the next installment in our series of stories previewing the 2022 Washington State Cougars football season. Other installments can be found here.


Welcome back, Air Raid.

It’s only been two years since the architect of some of the most explosive offenses ever seen in WSU’s history left Pullman for Starkville, Miss., but it feels like longer than that, given all that’s gone on in the world and in Pullman since then. We were introduced to the Run and Shoot during the abbreviated 2020 season, then got the real deal last year, ending in an Apple Cup victory and Sun Bowl appearance.

The Run and Shoot is gone, the result of Nick Rolovich’s mid-season firing, and back comes the Air Raid, thanks to Mike Leach acolyte Eric Morris, who comes to WSU as its offensive coordinator after leading his version of the Air Raid at University of The Incarnate Word.

Following Morris to Pullman is sophomore quarterback Cam Ward, one of the more intriguing players in the conference this season. Ward — a second team FCS all-American in 2021 — knows Morris’ system, which hopefully makes for a smooth transition.

The 2022 WSU offense boasts solid receivers, but lots of questions on a young and inexperienced offensive line. The running backs seem to be taking a committee approach. Should we be worried about that? Oh, and this version of the Air Raid uses tight ends, a position that hasn’t played in a game on the home side of Martin Stadium in more than a decade.

Ladies and gentlemen, here is your 2022 WSU offense:

Quarterback

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 23 Washington State Spring Game Photo by Oliver McKenna/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Arm Talent

Player Height and Weight Year
Player Height and Weight Year
Cameron Ward 6'2, 220 Sophomore
Xavier Ward 6'2, 205 RS Freshman
Chris Irvin 6'3, 200 RS Freshman
Luke Holcomb 6'5, 205 RS Freshman
John Mateer 6'1, 205 Freshman
JP Zamora 6'3, 175 Freshman
Emmett Brown 5'10, 190 Freshman

Notable Departures: Jayden de Laura transferred to Arizona, Cammon Cooper transferred to Hawaii, and Victor Gabalis transferred to Utah Tech

Notable Arrivals: Cam Ward and John Mateer

Most Intriguing: Cam Ward

Cam Ward leads a young quarterback room, and getting him to Pullman might have been Jake Dickert’s best offseason move. Transitioning to a new coaching staff and a new system is difficult. Having Cam Ward, who manned the Air Raid at UIW under Morris, makes for a smoother transition.

Cam Ward showed up as the no. 1 guy, but the backup position is up for grabs, though. Xavier Ward and true freshman Mateer seem to be neck and neck. Whoever earns the no. 2 spot will need to be ready, because this next position group is teetering on Threat Level Midnight territory.

Offensive Line

EL PASO, TX - DECEMBER 31: Washington State offensive lineman Konner Gomness (77) lines up at center during the first half of the 2021 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl matchup between the Central Michigan Chippewas and the Washington State Cougars on New Year’s Eve at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, TX. Jack Ellis/CougCenter

Massive Human Beings

Player Height and Weight Year
Player Height and Weight Year
Grant Stephens 6'4, 305 RS Senior
Jarrett Kingston 6'5, 302 RS Junior
Jack Wilson 6'11, 338 RS Junior
Konner Gomness 6'5, 295 RS Sophomore
Ma'ake Fifita 6'5, 305 RS Sophomore
Rodrick Tialavea* 6'5, 308 Sophomore
Christian Hilborn 6'5, 300 RS Freshman
Brock Dieu 6'3, 285 RS Freshman
Jernias Tafia 6'3, 302 RS Freshman
Fa'alili Fa'amoe 6'5, 295 RS Freshman
Quinn McCarthy 6'5, 300 RS Freshman
Devin Kylany 6'5, 300 RS Freshman
Landon Roaten 6'5, 300 Freshman
Luke Roaten 6'5, 270 Freshman
Nolan Byng 6'2, 290 Freshman
Jonny Lester 6'5, 275 Freshman
Jakobus Seth 6'3, 295 Freshman
Zack Miller 6'7, 305 Freshman
Eric Wilder 6'6, 290 Freshman
Kendall Williams 6'2, 300 Freshman

*Out for the season (injury)

Notable Departures: Abe Lucas is in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks, Liam Ryan exhausted his eligibility, and Brian Greene transferred to Michigan State

Notable Arrivals: Grant Stephens, Fa’alili Fa’amoe

Most Intriguing: Fa’alili Fa’amoe

OK, bear with me here.

When Liam Ryan and Abe Lucas opted out of the Sun Bowl, it was a bummer, but at least it gave us a glimpse of what the future might look like. And it didn’t look great, based on the Sun Bowl performance. Christian Hilborn started the Sun Bowl at right tackle, but gave way to Brock Dieu in the second half. Neither of those players have solidified a starting gig yet this preseason. Dieu has been banged up, too. Hilborn and Dieu spent the early part of camp battling for the left guard position.

Grant Stephens transferred from Northern Colorado and all signs point to the FCS transfer starting the season at right guard. Ma’ake Fifita was set to start at right tackle in his second season, but an injury early in camp has forced him to the sidelines. Dickert indicated Fifita would be back for the season opener, so cross your fingers.

There are only three guys who’ve solidified starting spots: Stephens, Jarrett Kingston and Konner Gomness, with Fifita a likely starter if he’s healthy. Hilborn, Dieu and Fa’alili Fa’amoe are all in the mix at left guard; Fa’amoe was a defensive lineman until this season and is ... now perhaps the frontrunner?

Yes, that’s a converted defensive lineman jumping ahead of the two guys who were presumed to be in the driver’s seat for a starting spot on the o-line.

With the caveat that things could change and that Dickert has indicated the coaching staff is looking for five guys who could play on the line (meaning some guys may rotate to other spots on the line if necessary), here’s where things stand as of this writing, from left to right:

Kingston | ??? | Gomness | Stephens | Fifita (if healthy)

??? = Fa’amoe, Hilborn or Dieu. Massive Human Being Jack Wilson is the backup at right tackle.

Behind the starters and those vying for a starting spot are a bunch of green offensive lineman. Stephens, Kingston and Wilson, a former Idaho basketball player, are the only upperclassmen on the roster. This is a very young position group. Let’s hope they keep Ward upright and the offense on the field.

Running Backs

NCAA Football: Washington State at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Carrying the Rock

Player Height and Weight Year
Player Height and Weight Year
Nakia Watson 6'0, 223 RS Junior
Jouvensly Bazil 5'10, 185 RS Sophomore
Kannon Katzer 5'9, 195 RS Freshman
Dylan Paine 5'9, 193 RS Freshman
Jaxon Sawyer 6'1, 205 RS Freshman
Djouvensky Schlenbaker 6'0, 212 Freshman
Jaylen Jenkins 5'8, 177 Freshman

Notable Departures: Max Borghi is bouncing from one NFL team to the next (he’s with the Pittsburgh Steelers as of this writing), and Deon McIntosh exhausted his eligibility.

Notable Arrivals: Djouvensky Schlenbaker and Jaylen Jenkins

Most Intriguing: Jaylen Jenkins

Nakia Watson is the only running back on the roster with WSU game experience, and that is just 110 yards on 34 carries. He was presumably a shoo-in to be the guy this fall, given his experience previously at Wisconsin, where he had 522 total yards gained in two seasons.

While Dickert has said they may take a committee approach to the running back position, it seems as if Watson will be the no. 1 guy. Based on a report from Colton Clark of The Spokesman-Review, Jenkins, a true freshman, may be the first off the bench. The team held him out of most of the recent scrimmage, presumably because he’s shown the staff enough. Fellow true freshman Djouvensky Schlenbaker reportedly was in a battle for the no. 2 spot, but an injury has slowed him down.

Jouvensly Bazil has battled an injury this preseason, too. The redshirt sophomore is in his fourth year in the program but has hardly seen any action. So does Dickert decide to hold Schlenbaker to four games and preserve his redshirt and put Bazil in as the third option? Or do walk-ons Kannon Katzer and Dylan Paine slot in? Both Katzer and Paine have received plenty of reps this preseason. Lots of decision to make!

Previous Air Raids at Washington State have used multiple running backs, and it’s been successful. I mean, Jamal Morrow, Gerard Wicks and James Williams were a good trio. Even when it’s been two players—like Williams and Borghi in 2018—we’ve seen success. So, regardless of whether someone has risen to the top, we’re sure to see multiple running backs get carries and catches in this offense.

Let’s just hope we get good consistency out of this group.

Wide Receivers

NCAA Football: Washington State at California Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Pass Catchers

Player Height and Weight Year
Player Height and Weight Year
Renard Bell 5'9, 173 Senior Citizen
Robert Ferrel 5'8, 173 RS Senior
CJ Moore* 6'4, 188 RS Junior
Drake Owen 5'11, 190 RS Junior
Lincoln Victor 5'9, 177 Junior
Donovan Ollie 6'3, 212 RS Sophomore
Anderson Grover 6'3, 195 RS Sophomore
De'Zhaun Stribling 6'3, 204 Sophomore
Zeriah Beason 6'1, 201 Sophomore
Tsion Nunnally 6'3, 210 RS Freshman
Reed Shumpert 5'11, 170 RS Freshman
Orion Peters 5'9, 173 RS Freshman
Tre Horner 6'3, 190 RS Freshman
Josh Meredith 6'0, 185 RS Freshman
Will Eaton 6'1, 200 Freshman
Van Fessler 5'8, 175 Freshman
Cole Pruett 5'7 170 Freshman
Leyton Smithson 6'1, 188 Freshman

*Out for the season (injury)

Notable Departures: Travell Harris and Calvin Jackson Jr. are looking to make an NFL roster, and Joey Hobert transferred to Utah Tech

Notable Arrivals and Re-Arrivals: Renard Bell (from injury), Orion Peters and Tsion Nunnally (from redshirt), Zeriah Beason (from Oregon State), Robert Ferrel (from Incarnate Word)

Most Intriguing: The outside receivers

This is a nice and capable group. While there isn’t a breakout star, guys like De’Zhaun Stribling and Donovan Ollie are poised for breakout seasons. The outside receivers get the Most Intriguing nod because I’m excited for those two and their backups to perform in this Air Raid. Dickert challenged his outside receivers earlier this preseason to step it up, and they’ve reportedly answered the call nice and well.

Of course, the inside guys in the Air Raid get a ton of targets as well. Lincoln Victor is among the leaders on the team, and he showed last season that he can be an explosive player. It’s nice to have Renard Bell back as the old man of the bunch. He and UIW transfer Robert Ferrel are the only seniors on the squad, so this is still a young position group.

Keep an eye on Oregon State transfer Zeriah Beason. He had 36 catches in two seasons at OSU, and that Pac-12 experience is good to have on the roster.

While you might be used to seeing four-wide formations in the Air Raid, you need to start preparing now for a little less of that, thanks to our next position group.

Tight Ends

Washington State v UCLA Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Throwing it back to TE Cody Boyd!

Shiny New Toys

Player Height and Weight Year
Player Height and Weight Year
Billy Riviere III 6'4, 245 RS Sophomore
Cameron Johnson 6'4, 240 RS Sophomore
Cooper Mathers 6'2, 230 Sophomore
Jake Bowen 6'4, 210 RS Freshman
Moon Ashby 6'4, 235 RS Freshman
Andre Dollar 6'5 245 Freshman

Notable Departures: None

Notable Arrivals: All of them

Most Intriguing: All of them

What in the name of Devin Frischknecht is this position? Not since Andrei Lintz in 2011 have we seen a WSU tight end catch a pass wearing crimson and gray.

You’d think with introducing a new position group, it would be difficult to find guys with enough maturity and experience to fill the roster spots. But Dickert and Co. did a fine job getting bodies to Pullman to play tight end. With a mix of transfers and position switches, here’s how the Cougs suddenly went from zero to six tight ends:

  • Billy Riviere III: Transferred from FCS North Dakota
  • Cameron Johnson: Transferred from El Camino College
  • Cooper Mathers: Converted linebacker
  • Jake Bowen: Converted wide receiver
  • Moon Ashby: Converted edge rusher
  • Andre Dollar: Signed NLI last December and enrolled in January

WSU convinced Dollar to flip from Oregon to WSU, too. If preseason reports are to be believed—and who are we to question them?—Riviere looks to be the guy in the starting lineup on Sept. 3.

Yes, that would make three FCS transfers in the starting lineup.

I’m excited to see how Morris uses the tight ends this season. It’s been far too long since we’ve had that position.


Poll

Who most intrigues you on offense?

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    Cameron Ward
    (177 votes)
  • 3%
    Fa’alili Fa’amoe
    (12 votes)
  • 13%
    Jaylen Jenkins
    (43 votes)
  • 1%
    The outside receivers
    (6 votes)
  • 18%
    All the tight ends
    (58 votes)
  • 3%
    Other
    (12 votes)
308 votes total Vote Now
Hot Cougar Action

WSU beats USC to win first Pac-12 volleyball match

WSU Cougars Football

Cougs move up in AP Top 25 despite loss to Oregon

Even in a crushing loss, WSU plays Winning Football