WSU's Tuel knows how to roll with change

April, 11, 2012
4/11/12
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It didn't exactly take clairvoyance to see a coaching change coming at Washington State in the wake of a 4-8 season. But that's not why Jeff Tuel was expecting a shakeup.

The Washington State quarterback played in four different offenses under four different head coaches in high school, so shaking hands with a new skipper and opening a new playbook have become as clockwork to Tuel as the passing of the seasons.

"I think for some other guys it would be easy to get frustrated, having to learn a whole new system," Tuel said, who begins his senior season in September. "But it's actually something I've gotten used to. I never really had the chance to become accustomed to an offense and really know the ins and outs. Change is something I'm used to so I haven't really struggled picking it up because I'm used to it with my past experiences."

And if you're a quarterback learning a new system, what better scheme to study than Mike Leach's vaunted passing attack, which makes its debut in Pullman this season.

"Playing for coach Leach is a daily surprise," Tuel said with a laugh. "You never know what he's going to say or what his commentary is going to be about this play or that play. He demands perfection, which I love. He doesn't ever tell you how great you are, but he never tells you how much you suck, either. He's pretty level-headed and it's a good medium."

[+] EnlargeJeff Tuel
AP Photo/Dean HareA strong spring game helped Jeff Tuel in his bid to be Washington State's starting QB.
For now, Tuel is just happy to be back on the field. After an injury-plagued 2011 campaign limited him to just three appearances, he's finally healthy and eager to showcase what he can do. He admits it was frustrating last season -- watching his team start the year 3-1, only to close out the year by losing seven of eight.

"I tried to stay positive, 24/7, but that's not always easy," Tuel said. "I was doing whatever I could to get healthy or help teammates and I helped Marshall [Lobbestael] whenever I could. Really, I was just trying to stay positive. It's all you can do. It's easy to hang your head and get down and go into that hole and get out of shape. So I just focused my concentration on doing anything I could to help the team."

When healthy, Tuel is considered an NFL-caliber quarterback. He's 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, has a big arm and can also make plays with his feet. But he also has the attitude to match. There's speculation that Tuel and sophomore Connor Halliday, who missed the majority of spring recovering from a lacerated liver, are headed for a quarterback competition in the fall. If that's the case, Tuel says he's ready.

"The way I look at it, it's my job to lose," Tuel said. "I'm not going to sit back at all. If coach Leach says there is a quarterback competition, there's a competition. In my mind, there is always a competition. I'm still going after it 100 percent. I go into every spring and every practice the same and practice the best I can -- whether I'm a starter or it's a competition. But competition brings out the best in all people. For someone to press me for the job is a blessing and it's going to make me better."

Tuel's roommate, wide receiver Gino Simone, said Tuel has responded to all adversities like a pro.

"If he has any insecurities, he hasn't let anyone see that," Simone said. "I think he's continued to be the confident guy that he is. He's ready to work every day. If there is a quarterback competition, he's going to be ready to fight for his job -- as I know Halliday would be. We've got guys who are ready to work hard right now."

Tuel said he's confident with his progress in learning the new offense. But stressed that it will take "reps and reps and then more reps" during the summer to get to a point where they can call it polished.

"I'm the head of this thing," Tuel said. "If I'm not 100 percent confident or if I don't know exactly what's going on, it's going to spread. It's important for me and the offense to get a grasp on the plays and concepts so we don't have to think and we can just fly around."

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