Jake Dickert Adds to 2022 Football Coaching Staff
PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University Head Football Coach Jake Dickert announced Monday the additions of assistant coaches Mark Atuaia (running backs), Joel Filani (wide receivers), Pete Kaligis (assistant head coach/defensive tackles), Clay McGuire (offensive line) and Brent Vernon (football chief of staff) to the Cougars' coaching staff. The group joins previously announced offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Eric Morris and defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Brian Ward, on Coach Dickert's staff.
"I'm excited to officially announce the new additions to our staff," said Dickert. "Throughout the process it was easy to see why this group of men really fit WSU and our football program. They all share the same passion for teaching the game of football as they do in developing our players into the best versions of themselves that they can be. Join me in welcoming them and their families to WSU."
Atuaia (Ah-too-why-ah) arrives in Pullman having spent the past six seasons at the University of Virginia. This past season, he helped the Cavaliers produce over 5,000 yards in total offense for the third time in the past four seasons. Senior running back Wayne Taulapapa averaged 6.7 yards per game for his career and scored 19 touchdowns, as the Cavaliers reached their fourth bowl game in Atuaia's six seasons in Charlottesville.
"Mark has a proven track record of recruiting and developing some of the toughest RB rooms in the country," said Dickert. "His passion and energy are easy to see and I believe our players will excel with his coaching style."
Prior to Virginia, Atuaia spent three seasons (2013-15) on Bronco Mendenhall's staff as running backs coach at BYU, helping the Cougars to three bowl games during that time. Atuaia has a history of working with big, strong and powerful running backs. As a student assistant at BYU from 2005-11, Atuaia was instrumental in the development of former NFL running backs Fahu Tahi, Fui Vakapuna, Harvey Unga and Manase Tonga during their time at BYU.
A former running back at BYU during the 1991 and 1994-96 seasons, Atuaia first joined the BYU athletic department in June 2012 as the assistant to the athletics director for student services. He previously worked as the assistant to the dean of Student Life at BYU. He accepted that position after graduating in 2011 with both a doctor of jurisprudence from BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and a master of public administration from the George W. Romney Institute of Public Management at BYU's Marriott School of Management.
During Atuaia's four-year playing career, BYU achieved a 39-11-2 record, won three conference titles and was ranked in the final top-25 national rankings three times. In addition, the offense was ranked in the top 10 nationally during three of his four seasons.
A native of Laie, Hawaii, Atuaia and his wife Elizabeth, an accomplished recording artist and lead singer for the 1980s pop group The Jets, are the parents of seven children. His brothers Alema (1993, 1995-96) and Donny (1995-1999) also played football at BYU.
Filani, who spent the 2015 in an offensive quality control position for the Cougars, returns to Pullman having spent the past three seasons as the outside receivers coach at his alma mater, Texas Tech.
"Joel's experience in our offensive system combined with his ability to recruit and connect with his players make him a great fit for WSU," said Dickert. "He understands what it takes to be in Pullman and what makes this place so special and I can't wait to see what he does with our wide receiver group."
In 2021, Filani mentored junior receiver Erik Ezukanma, who earned All-Big 12 Second Team honors after garnering first-team honors in 2020. Through Filani's tutelage, Ezukanma became the first Red Raider wide receiver to garner first team All-Big 12 accolades by the conference coaches since Texas Tech great Michael Crabtree did so in 2008.
Prior to Tech, Filani accepted his first full-time coaching position at North Texas where he was part of a Mean Green program that won 23 games during his three seasons (2016-18). In comparison, North Texas combined for only 23 victories in the five seasons prior to Filani's arrival and had not reached a bowl game since 2013.
The Mean Green boasted one of the nation's top passing attacks during Filani's tenure thanks in part to the play of Rico Bussey Jr. and Jalen Guyton. Bussey was among the top receivers in the country in 2018 after hauling in 68 passes for 1,017 yards and 12 touchdowns, while Guyton received the Conference USA Co-Newcomer of the Year and second team all-conference accolades in 2017 after the junior-college transfer finished with 49 catches for 775 yards and a team-leading nine touchdowns during his debut season.
During his playing days at Texas Tech, Filani was a two-time All-Big 12 first team selection and remains one of the top wide receivers in school history. He recorded 2,667 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns through the air during his career from 2003-06, both of which still rank among the top career leaders in school history.
Filani was selected by the Tennessee Titans in the sixth round of the 2007 NFL Draft. He enjoyed a three-year NFL career with stops with the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions, St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers as well as the Titans. He concluded his professional career as a member of the Arena League's Chicago Rush in 2011.
Filani, a native of Phoenix, Arizona, received his bachelor's degree in finance from Texas Tech in 2006 and his master's degree in educational leadership from Boise State in 2014. He and his wife, Shayla, have three sons, Caleb, Levi and Asher, and a daughter, Tenley.
Kaligis arrives at Washington State having spent the previous 13 years at the University of Wyoming, where he worked with current Cougar Head Coach Jake Dickert and Edge's coach A.J. Cooper.
"I am excited to add one of the best leaders and mentors of young men that I have ever been around in Pete Kaligas,' said Dickert. "His depth of knowledge and teaching will be key for the development of our interior defensive line and his longstanding relationships with the high school coaches in the state of Washington will be crucial in our recruiting of in-state players."
Kaligis began his tenure at Wyoming in 2009 working as the offensive line coach, adding assistant head coach and running backs to his title in 2012 and offensive coordinator duties in 2013. In 2014, when Current Cowboy Head Coach Craig Bohl was hired, Kaligis remained on staff, moving to the other side of the ball to working with defensive tackles. In 2020, Kaligis added defensive run-game coordinator to his title.
During his 13 seasons in Laramie, Kaligis coached for six bowl teams and was a part of some of the best defenses in the country. In 2017, he coached First-Team All-Mountain West defensive tackle Youhanna Ghaifan, while also mentoring notable players Sidney Malauulu and Patrick Mertens, both of whom signed NFL free agent contracts.
Prior to Wyoming, Kaligis spent four seasons at Montana, the last three as the offensive line coach. He also worked at the University of Washington as a strength and conditioning coach (1999-04) and began his coaching career at tin 1994 at Western Washington, working with the tight ends and strength program.
An outstanding college football player and track and field athlete, Kaligis started all 12 games at offensive guard for the Washington Huskies and late head football coach Don James when they captured the 1991 National Championship. The Huskies posted a perfect 12-0 record and defeated Michigan, 34-14, in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 1992, to win the national title. Kaligis was a member of the Husky Football team from 1990-94.
He was an All-American in track and field in the shot put. He won the gold medal at the 1995 U.S. Olympic Festival, and placed third in the 1995 University Games. He participated in the 1996 Olympic Trials in track and field in the shot put.
Kaligis earned his B.A. degree in sociology and law enforcement at Washington in 1994. He and his wife, Kristine, have a daughter, Harlie Grace, and a son, Cooper.
McGuire begins his second stint as the Cougars offensive line coach, having worked previously on Mike Leach's staff from 2012-17. During that time, he recruited and mentored such notable Cougars as two-time (2016-17) All-American first-teamer Cody O'Connell, also an Outland Trophy finalist in 2016, 2015 All-Pac-12 first team pick Joe Dahl, who spent five seasons with the Detroit Lions, Cole Madison, two seasons with the Green Bay Packers, current Philadelphia Eagles first-round pick Andre Dillard, and four-time All-Pac-12 Conference selection Abe Lucas.
"We are excited to have Clay back in the Crimson and Gray and truly welcome him Back Home," said Dickert. "He is a proven offensive line coach and knows what it takes to find and develop some of the best talent in the Pacific Northwest."
McGuire returns to Pullman after spending the 2021 season as the offensive line coach at USC. Last season, the Trojans led the Pac-12 in total offense at 443.9 yards per game, was first in passing offense at 298.3 ypg, and was first in both pass attempts and completions. The Trojan offensive line allowed the third-fewest sacks in the conference during the 2021 season.
He arrived at USC after coaching the offensive line at Texas State in 2019 and 2020. Bobcats left tackle Dalton Cooper was a 2020 Freshman All-American second teamer.
McGuire was the offensive coordinator and running backs coach at Texas Tech, his alma mater, in 2018, working under head coach Kliff Kingsbury. The Red Raiders ranked in the national Top 16 in both total offense (485.2) and points (37.3).
During his first at Washington State, the Cougars finished among the nation's top 10 teams in passing offense throughout McGuire's tenure and played in 4 bowl games (2013 New Mexico, 2015 Sun, 2016 and 2017 Holiday). McGuire has also coached at East Carolina (2010-11) after beginning his coaching career at Texas Tech in 2006.
McGuire lettered four years (2001-04) as an H-back for Texas Tech, catching 32 passes for 320 yards with two touchdowns in his career. The Red Raiders played in the 2001 Alamo, 2002 Tangerine, 2003 Houston and 2004 Holiday Bowls. He earned his bachelor's degree in history in 2004 and a master's degree in secondary education in 2007, both from Texas Tech.
He and his wife, Jeri, have two daughters, Jorja and Addison.
Vernon arrives in Pullman after spending the previous 13 seasons at the University of Wyoming, where he worked alongside Coach Dickert. As Dickert's chief of staff, Vernon will oversee multiple facets of the Cougar Football program, including operations, travel, management and student-athlete welfare.
"During my time working with Brent, I know him to be one of the most trusted and professional operations people in the business and we are excited about having him join us at WSU," said Dickert.
Vernon began at Wyoming in 2009 as an offensive graduate assistant for two seasons before becoming the director of recruiting in 2011. While a member of the Cowboy Football staffs, Vernon served as Executive Assistant to the Head Coach and Assistant Director of Football Operations (2012), Assistant Athletics Director for Football Operations in the spring of 2017, and his most recent position, Associate A.D. for Football Operations in the summer of 2018.
Vernon completed his bachelor of science degree in business administration, with an emphasis in management, at Missouri in December of 2008. Vernon achieved Dean's List honors all four years of college and was also named the University of Missouri Athletics' Student Assistant of the Year in 2008.
He and his wife, Emily, were married in the summer of 2017. Their son, Theo, was born in January of 2019.