The Washington State quarterback situation is a lot more clear after a week of interesting developments that left the program with just 3 deep in the rotation. Graduating senior Jeff Tuel decided to give up on his pursuit of a 6th college season due to medical hardship and instead enter the NFL Draft. Redshirt freshman Cody Clements reportedly is transferring to a junior college in California before moving forward with his career. And David Gilbertson decided to forego his RS senior year in the football program and graduate from WSU.
And so, it’s all about junior Connor Halliday and redshirt freshman Austin Apodaca in the Spring battle for the starting job in 2013. Halliday is the favorite, but it’s not as clear cut as some people may think. Though he’s been in games during his first 2 seasons, he only has about a half season of starting experience over Apodaca and the decision-making process of Halliday is his achilles heel, so to speak.
In the early stages of the 2012 season, Connor said in a post game press conference “I’ve always been able to throw guys open”, continuing on to say that he can still do that at the college level if he learns spacing a little better. As we found out throughout the year, it’s maybe not quite that easy. Also, it’s a tell-all sign that he’s not directly worried about being the accurate quarterback and trusting his reads to make the right decision.
This was very evident in 3 separate plays over the course of the year. Halliday forced the same interceptions over the middle into dropping linebackers and near the redzone against both Colorado and Oregon State, then against UCLA he never picked up the backside safety on a deep heave into the endzone throwing back across his body.
Apodaca is the opposite of that, grasping both offensive and defensive concepts with a high I.Q. and trusting his reads to take him to the right throw and/or decision. He is also a fiery competitor and has been vocal in his confidence that he can be the quarterback here at WSU since he sent in his LOI last winter. Leach has been vocal too, saying multiple times how he loves the accuracy and composure that Austin brings to the position, even that he may be the “most accurate qb I’ve ever recruited out of high school.” Since Leach is a guy who values accuracy and decision making above all else, that is a big, positive check mark in Apodaca’s box. By the way Apodaca threw for nearly 4,000 yards his senior season while taking his Longmont, CO Raptors to their very first state title game.
But there’s another factor to be considered, named Tyler Bruggman. The verbally committed quarterback from Brophy Prep in Pheonix, Arizona will now undoubtedly have the opportunity to compete for that starting spot as well. But Bruggman won’t be able to compete until the Fall and it’s quite clear that Leach would much prefer to use a redshirt year on a freshman than play him. Those factors should give both Halliday and Apodaca the mentality of a mono-a-mono battle for the quarterback job.
No matter who wins the right to take that first snap against Auburn, it’s highly possible that both will get a shot early on to impress in game situations. So may the best man win and the next man be ready when his number is called to keep the offense going.