What’s Up With the NCAA?
According to sources in the Washington State program, we are probably less than a month away from the NCAA’s decision on granting Jeff Tuel’s requested 5th year, due to injury hardship and other technicalities. So what does the future hold if they should approve his request? Well, first there’s the ‘decision’ by Tuel on whether to move on and try to play at another level (or simply avoid any more injuries, of which there have been many in his 4 year career), or come back for another run at Washington State.
How Did We Get Here?
First of all, I think Paul Wulff thought he was doing the right thing for the team, but after burning Tuel’s redshirt halfway through his Freshman season Wulff brought him back before he was ready during his Junior year. To that point I wasn’t happy about either decision when they were made. I thought since we had already wasted half of the year, why burn the RS? And then last season why not just ride out the “Lobster” through the end of the year, since he was so much more effective than expected and Jeff wasn’t fully recovered and still had the opportunity to RS due to the injury?
I understand the reasoning from Wulff’s standpoint though. He had to generate excitement in the program in ’09 and then in ’11 he was fighting for his job and needed his best players on the field, even if it wasn’t right for the program moving forward. Either move reversed and Jeff would be looking at a RS Senior season in ’13.
What’s Tuel Thinking Now?
So here we are. I gotta think this is a pretty simple decision for Tuel if it’s not based on injury and his appeal is granted. He hasn’t had enough time on the field to get evaluated at a level which puts him anywhere in the draft, or to even land in a mini-camp. There’s always the way of Alex Brink in in the CFL, but honestly…? Also, there would definitely be the desire to finally get the Cougs bowl eligible again, which is what Tuel came for in the first place. He would still have to beat out Connor in another Spring battle, assuming Connor didn’t transfer, but he has the inside track to do just that after finishing the season strong with that performance against Washington.
What About Halliday and The Rest of the QB’s?
This becomes a very interesting decision for Connor Halliday if Tuel comes back. There’s the battle: Next season it’s possible he could win the starting job outright if he improved a great deal and had an unbelievable Spring, but more than likely he would be up against 2 freshman Qb’s, probably, for the backup spot. After not making a seamless transition to Leach’s system this year, there’s no guarantee he would win that spot either, though it is pretty likely that his experience would eventually earn it in the Fall. But a continued string of turnovers against a (hopefully) much improved and aged Cougar defense in the Spring or Fall could have Connor on the outside looking in.
Then there’s the thought that Tuel has barely had one year without a somewhat significant injury that keeps him out of games. Connor got about half the snaps in game this year, all because Jeff was injured. The probability of playing significantly while in the backup role is still very much there, and if he were to play well we know that Leach likes to ride the hot hand.
And finally, there’s the scary idea (for Coug fans that like Connor, which is most of us) that Halliday thinks hard about transferring. He’s still got a redshirt season, along with 2 more full seasons to play, so he would have the option to go to another BCS school or move to the FCS and play immediately for a team in need of a talented Qb. There aren’t too many FCS schools who won’t throw the starting spot at a BCS level Qb, so that’s an intriguing thought as well. I’m sure Connor wouldn’t be too excited about Tuel playing a majority of the snaps in ’13 and then Leach bringing in ‘his guy’ in either Apodaca or Bruggman the year after.
What’s Best for the Washington State Football Team?
Tough to say, honestly. I don’t know that there’s anyone in the WSU community that wouldn’t welcome Jeff back, but if there were someone to not like it, it would be Connor. Not publicly of course, as the two are good friends. However, if Tuel is granted another season and decided to come back, Connor would be as good as gone in my opinion. The quarterback position would now be overloaded with guys that Leach loves, so the possibility of being passed over in his Senior year after being an injury reliever next year, would really not appeal to a guy who really could and should be playing somewhere as a full time starter next year.
As much as I love Jeff and really think he would flourish next season if he could stay healthy, I really think it would be best if the program were just to move forward with Connor at the helm. I think either way the offense will be more dynamic next season, but if Connor has 2 years inked in as the starter (or penciled anyway), he will take the bull by the horns and play up to his capability. Not only that, but if it’s close (and I think it is) I’d rather see 2 years with an experienced guy in Connor leading us, than 1 in Jeff and then starting over with the young alternatives. Of course that all hinges on Halliday’s decision to stay or transfer.
Leach is the master at letting guys learn his system for 2 seasons and then inserting them into big numbers for their Junior and Senior years. If you’ll notice, he almost always had an experienced guy in his system at the quarterback position at Tech. Basically that means if Connor stays around 2 more seasons as the starter, he will give way to a guy that will have been in the system for 2 or 3 years. That is a key to continued success here, so I’m for that more than the alternative. Lots to think about.