Cougar Football Announces Hiring of Eric Morris and Brian Ward
PULLMAN, Wash. (December 8, 2021) – Washington State Football Head Coach Jake Dickert announced Wednesday that Eric Morris and Brian Ward will join the Cougar Football staff. Morris will serve as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, while Ward will be the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.
"Throughout the process it became evident to me that Eric Morris was the best fit for the future of our program," said Dickert. "He is a bright offensive mind that attacks defenses in a multitude of ways and will use the skill sets of our players to create an explosive offensive identity. His experience building a successful program as a head coach was just another factor of why we are so excited to have him lead our offense for many years to come.
"I have known Brian Ward a long time and he has proven at every stop to be a tremendous leader and teacher of our defensive scheme," Dickert said while discussing WSU's new defensive coordinator. "There is no one I trust more than Brian to continue to build on our defensive success well into the future."
Morris, who spent the 2012 season coaching inside receivers for the Cougars, returns to Pullman after spending the past four seasons as head coach at the University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. This past season, Morris guided the Cardinals to the Southland Conference title, reached the NCAA FCS Second Round, and finished with a 10-3 record, the winningest record in program history.
"My family and I are excited to return to Pullman and the Pac-12 Conference," said Morris. "I have seen what Coach Dickert has done with this team and it is truly impressive. His vision for the future of Cougar Football is exciting and the trust he has in me to be a part of this program is greatly appreciated. I can't wait to start meeting the players and staff, and re-immersing myself into this program."
After becoming head coach prior to the 2018 season, following UIW's 1-10 record in 2017, Morris twice was named the Southland Conference Coach of the year (2018, 2021), led the Cardinals to two Southland Conference titles (2018, 2021), twice reach the FCS playoffs, and leaves as the program record holder for most wins with 24.
During his time in San Antonio, Morris orchestrated an offense that finished in the top 10 nationally for total offense in three of his four seasons, including leading the nation in 2020-21 at 552.3 yards per game. His teams finished in the top five in scoring each of the last two seasons, third in 2020-21 (42.0 ppg) and fifth this past season at 39.5 ppg.
Prior to Incarnate Word, Morris spent five seasons (2013-17) as the offensive coordinator at his alma mater, Texas Tech. During that time, Morris helped the Red Raiders to three bowl games and guided one of the top offenses in the nation. From 2013-17, Texas Tech's offense scored over 30 points per game all five seasons, and all five years was ranked among the top 16 teams in total offense, including leading the nation in 2016 at 564.4 yards per game. The Tech offense was highlighted by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who Morris recruited and coached in Lubbock.
Morris began his coaching career in 2020 as a graduate assistant under Kevin Sumlin at the University of Houston, a position he held for two years. In 2012, Morris was part of Mike Leach's first staff at Washington State, helping the Cougar offense to 3,965 passing yards, at the time the second-most in school history.
A four-year member of the Texas Tech football team (2005-08), Morris received his degree in communications studies in 2008. He and his wife, Maggie, are parents to sons, Jack and George.
Ward begins his first season in Pullman having spent the past two years as defensive coordinator at the University of Nevada. This past season, Nevada posted an 8-4 record and earned an invitation to the Quick Lane Bowl against Western Michigan.
"My family and are excited about this opportunity to be a part of a great program and community at Wazzu," said Ward. "My values as a husband, father, and coach are in line with Coach Dickert's vision for what a football program can and should be. I can't wait for my family to join me in becoming a part of the Pullman community and Washington State family."
Ward guided an opportunistic defense during his time in Reno, showing marked improved in total defense, scoring defense, and most notably, turnovers gained from the year prior to his arrival (2019) to this season. The Nevada defense allowed 24.4 points per game this season, 7.5 better than in 2019. The Wolf Pack defense also improved from 48th in turnovers gained in 2019 (19) to eighth this season with 25.
In his first season at Nevada, Ward coached five defensive players who earned All-Mountain West recognition, led by linebacker Lawson Hall and defensive linemen Sam Hammond and Dom Peterson, who were all second-team selections. That season, the Wolf Pack defense improved its total defense by 23.4 yards per game and its scoring defense by 8.6 points per game.
Prior to his time in Reno, Ward spent four seasons (2016-19) at Syracuse, where he served as the defensive coordinator and worked with the linebackers. The rise of the Syracuse defense played a large role in the Syracuse's win over No. 2 Clemson in 2017 and its 10-3 season in 2018 where the Orange finished the year ranked 14th in the nation and defeated No. 15 West Virginia in the 2018 Camping World Bowl.
Ward's defenses at Syracuse were nationally relevant, including back-to-back seasons (2017 and 2018) in which the Orange led the nation in turnovers forced in 2018, forced more turnovers in 2017 and 2018 than any other FBS team in the nation, and finished in the top 15 in third-down defense. Syracuse was also top-six nationally in 2018 in turnovers gained, interceptions, fumbles recovered and sacks, while also setting the school record for sacks.
Ward has also coached collegiately at Western Illinois, Drake, North Dakota State, where he was on staff with Dickert, McPherson College, Missouri Southern State, Wabash College, Glendale Community College and got his coaching start in 2001 at McPherson.
Ward earned his bachelor's degree in history from McPherson College, where he played three seasons, and a master's degree in organizational management from the University of Phoenix. He and his wife, Amy, have three children, son, Travis, and daughters Ellie and Erin.
"The energy and passion that Eric and Brian have not only for the game, but to help develop young men into the best versions of themselves is just another reason why they are the right fit for Washington State."