This year’s college football coaching carousel has already been an all-time crazy one, and bowl season has not even officially started yet.
Lincoln Riley left Oklahoma for USC. Brian Kelly bolted from Notre Dame to go to LSU. Mario Cristobal went back home to coach Miami, leaving Oregon. And many more coaches have changed logos on their polo shirts and visors.
It has been very easy for coaching hires to go under the radar with everything that has gone on. You may not have known that Joe Moorhead became the new head coach at Akron. Or that Sonny Dykes was tabbed to lead TCU forward.
An extremely under the radar hire has been made in Pullman, Washington. And no I am not talking about new head coach Jake Dickert, although that could certainly also qualify as unnoticed. The hire I’m talking about is the Cougars’ new offensive coordinator: Eric Morris
If you read that name and have no idea who I’m talking about I don’t blame you. I was in the same boat when I found out about the decision. I knew WSU wasn’t going to make a huge splash with their new OC, but I thought it might be someone that I was familiar with.
That did not turn out to be the case. Morris was named as the guy to take over the Cougar offense. And after some Googling and researching who he is, I am now prepared to answer the question that is probably on every WSU fan’s mind right now: Who is Eric Morris?
To understand who Morris truly is, we have to go back to 2005 through 2008. That was when he was playing football at Texas Tech and racked up 1,965 receiving yards and 22 total touchdowns during his tenure in Lubbock. Morris spent those four years playing under Mike Leach, a name that is very familiar to Cougar fans.
That is not the only connection between WSU’s new offensive coordinator and their outspoken former head coach. Leach brought Morris in as an inside wide receivers coach in 2012, Leach’s first season in Pullman. Morris left Leach’s staff after one season to head back to Texas Tech and take on the same role, along with assuming co-offensive coordinator duties.
Morris’s next big break came in 2014 when he was promoted to offensive coordinator of the Red Raiders under head coach Kliff Kingsbury. He held that position until 2017 and most notably oversaw the seasons with Patrick Mahomes under center for Texas Tech.
Since these are the only years of experience Morris has as an offensive coordinator (we will get into what he has been doing for the past four years in a bit), this is the first place we can use to try to figure out what Morris will bring to the Cougs.
In those four years as offensive coordinator, Morris’s offenses averaged between 474 and 579 yards per game. To put that into perspective, WSU averaged 390 yards per game in 2021.
Some Cougar fans might be concerned that Morris’s Air Raid ties to Leach and Kingsbury will be a step backward for a team that seemed relieved to see the offensive system leave Pullman with Leach. I can assure you that Morris’s version of offense will be much different from the offense that Leach ran to a lot of fans’ dismay in seven straight Apple Cups.
Morris’s offenses averaged over 32 rushing attempts a game in three of his four seasons. The one season that didn’t hit that mark was 2014 when his offense attempted just over 29 rushing attempts per game. The highest mark Leach hit in Pullam was 27.7 in 2016.
WSU averaged 4.4 yards per carry in 2016 while Texas Tech averaged 5.2 yards per carry in 2014, so even Morris’s down year in rushing offense was better than Leach’s best.
This makes it seem pretty clear that even if Morris does bring the Air Raid back to the Cougars, it will look different.
Between his time at Texas Tech and now, Morris served as the head coach of FCS team Incarnate Word (yes that is actually the name of a school). If you are like me and only recognize Incarnate Word from their role as the random lower-level college on your team’s basketball nonconference schedule, then you probably aren’t up to date on Morris’s time in San Antonio.
It turns out he was pretty successful at Incarnate Word. Morris led them to two Southland Conference championships (one of them a co-championship), including the first 10-win season in school history in 2021.
His time at Incarnate Word also gives us another chance to see what Morris’s offense looks like. This time around he didn’t have to answer to a head coach above him so this could even be a better indicator.
The first thing that stands out is two letters: TE. You might as well swap those two letters around into ET because tight ends have been about as rare as aliens in Pullman over the past ten years. The last time the Cougars had a tight end on their roster was in 2011.
If WSU does employ a tight end in 2022, they will certainly have plenty of chances to catch the ball. Incarnate Word’s offense passed for a total of 4,680 yards in 2021 along with 48 touchdowns.
This goes to show that the passing game will not be abandoned by the new regime at WSU. We may not get the huge numbers that quarterbacks such as Luke Falk and Gardner Minshew put up in Pullman, but the quarterbacks will be dropping back quite often under Morris.
On the other hand, Morris does not seem to ignore the running game. 2021 was the worst rushing year for Incarnate Word under Morris, with the team racking up 127 yards on the ground per game. That was on over 27 rushing attempts per game, which is similar to the most attempts in a season under Leach.
Morris ran the ball more in his first two seasons, both over 30 rushing attempts per game, so maybe it was just a matter of personnel. It is possible that Morris leaned more into the passing game as he got more of his preferred types of players on the roster. But even if that is the case, it seems like a good bet the Cougars won’t dip under around 27 rushing attempts per game, which is still a healthy amount.
At the end of the day, we have no actual clue how Morris will do calling the Cougar offense. Some people thought Nick Rolovich’s run and shoot offense was exactly what was needed at WSU to shake things up. Then a pandemic happened, and we all know how that ended (poorly).
I predict that Morris will prove to be a great hire for Dickert and the rest of WSU. He has experience as both a coordinator and a head coach so he is seasoned and capable of handling the role he finds himself in. He will pair perfectly next to Dickert, whose one knock could be his inexperience.
I could be wrong. I could be very wrong. But I could also be right. I could hit the nail on the head with my answer to who Eric Morris is. He is the next great offensive coordinator at Washington State University.