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‘Excitement is through the roof’ as WSU begins fall camp

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It’s the time of the year when optimism abounds for almost all college football teams, when practices for the upcoming season are set to begin and everything is still possible.

Coach Jake Dickert said he is so excited for the start of Washington State’s fall camp, which begins with Wednesday’s 9 a.m. practice, that he didn’t think he would sleep Tuesday night.

“I’m just looking forward to finally getting out there and seeing the gains that we’ve made,” said Dickert, whose team finished 7-6 last season and opens the season Sept. 2 at Colorado State. “We put a lot of hard work in over the nine-week training session this summer, and we have to see the fruits of the labor, and we have to take the [next] step as a team. What I’m calm about is I know we have what it takes to be really successful.

“Now the onus is on us. We have the talent, and we’ve worked hard as a coaching staff to get on the same page. But the excitement is through the roof.”

There has been a lot of turnover at several positions for the Cougars, and Dickert had to hire two coordinators.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that Cameron Ward is set to be the quarterback after joining the Cougars last year amid great fanfare. Ward was a star at FCS Immaculate Word for two seasons before transferring to WSU.

Ward threw for 3,231 yards and 23 touchdowns last season for WSU while often under heavy duress. Dickert expects Ward to be more aggressive this season under new offensive coordinator Ben Arbuckle.

“One of the biggest things about bringing Ben Arbuckle into our program was his downfield passing and how we’re going to attack the ball down the field,” Dickert said Tuesday. “And I think that squarely fits Cam’s game.”

Dickert said he sees a quiet conviction in Ward’s game.

“I think Cam knows who he is better than he ever has before,” Dickert said. “This isn’t FCS sensation Cam Ward. This is Washington State quarterback Cam Ward. I think there’s great comfort in that.

“He’s learned from the extreme highs and some lows of last season, and he’s grown. I think his maturity level has just taken steps forward. And I think he’s ready to grow into a great leader for this team.”

Another reason Dickert is excited about the passing game is a mostly new group of receivers. When asked which position group he was most excited to see the development of during fall camp, Dickert quickly said receiver.

“I think they were a very bright spot in spring ball,” Dickert said. “I thought you got a chance to really see our guys catch the ball five yards [from the line of scrimmage] and turn it into 50. We have some explosive playmakers that can take the ball down the field.

“I think that’s a great feeling for coach Arbuckle, and obviously for Cam, and really for our team to know that we got a bunch of playmakers out there. Now it’s [a matter of] consistency. … But it is going to be a position group that I know is beyond capable.”

The defense, which will be led by new coordinator Jeff Schmedding, needs “to continue to evolve and take the next step,” Dickert said. “We’re really excited about the playmakers we have on that side of the ball.”

Notes

The Cougars will have 13 practices and two scrimmages. Nearly all the practices are in the morning, but the Aug. 16 practice will begin at 7:20 p.m., and the Aug. 19 scrimmage will start at 6:15 p.m.

“Last year we were 1-4 in night games,” Dickert said. “We are a morning practice team. We’re a morning preparation team. … [But] we’ll always have night games here on the West Coast. I think it’s important to us and our fans that we perform better in those moments.

“I took a hard look back, and we didn’t really train [players] for those. So our second scrimmage will be a night scrimmage. Let’s play under the lights. Let’s learn how to compete that way.”

  • Dickert said redshirt freshman David Johnson has moved from defensive back to receiver.
  • Dickert said redshirt freshman defensive tackle Rashad McKenzie will miss fall camp because of a lingering injury from spring practices.

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