- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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It’s been a tough year for Washington State and quarterback Jeff Tuel. But he remains one of the most honest and candid interviews in the Pac-12. For this Friday’s Q&A, he opened up about the team’s struggles, his growth as a quarterback and why he loves football regardless of the record or scoreboard.
What have you been doing to keep your spirits up during what has obviously been a frustrating season?
Jeff Tuel: Just the fact that I get to play this game and I’m blessed to be in the position I’m in. I play this game because I love it. It’s simple. There is no extra motivation needed other than I’m doing what I love to do day in and day out. It’s a blessing.
When a team has the kind of struggles you guys are having, do you start with the little things and try to make small improvements or is there that temptation to try to bite off big chunks to get better?
JT: I think it starts with the little things. Preparation day in and day out. Watching film, watching extra film and making sure your preparation is right, and then it’s on to training and work ethic. A bunch of little things will add up to those big chunks. It’s like that saying a bunch of twigs tied together are real strong. If you can get a bunch of those twigs together, you’ll have improvement.
What have you learned about yourself as a quarterback this season?
JT: Man, I haven’t really thought about that … . (extended pause) I’ve learned to battle through this adversity and to keep pushing and keep believing and keep my guys focused and to stay positive with everything that’s happened. It’s too easy to put your head down and throw the towel in and put some bad things on tape. But there are always things to be learned from situations like this and there’s always growth to be had. I think I’ve grown a tremendous amount as a quarterback and a person.
What’s the status of your medical redshirt? If you get it, will you return?
JT: The status is it was passed by the Pac-12. Now it goes to the NCAA. So, that’s the status and as far as whether I’ll come back, I haven’t thought much about it. I need to sit down and have a good long talk with my family about it.
How much of a strain is it going to put on the offense this week without Marquess Wilson?
JT: It puts more of a mental strain than anything knowing that we don’t have him out there and his big-play ability. But we also have to have the next-guy-in mentality. We can’t dwell on it. That will do us no good. So we have to move on, play our football and try to put points on the board.
When you and I talked in the preseason, we talked about the relationship with coach Mike Leach. I believe the term you used at the time was “delicate.” How has that relationship evolved?
JT: We’ve learned a lot about each other. He’s learned what I’m about and how I feel and I’ve learned about what he expects out of his players and his quarterback. He and I have really grown in terms of on-field communication and what he expects from me and what he allows me to do on the field and the freedom he gives me. We’ve definitely grown.
What’s the dynamic been like between you and backup QB Connor Halliday?
JT: It’s great. He’s still one of my real good friends on this team and we always have each other’s back. It’s been, since day one and always will be, our motto has been all for one and one for all. He’s got my back and I’ve got his. It’s as simple as that.
What positives do you take out of this year?
JT: I think we did a lot of good things at times as an offense and a defense. We haven’t come together many times as a unit and as a team. If we can find a way to do that, we’re going to be a real good football team. But we’ve come out and played some good football at times and other times we haven’t. I think there’s been a lot of growth that’s happened and I think going into next year we’ll take a lot from it and learn to be prepared and play good football week in and week out.