PRIMER: Quarterback

JEFF TUEL EPITOMIZED the bigger, stronger, better trend at Washington State this spring. And with the receiving weapons that are in this year's cupboard, he now knows one thing for certain.

He doesn't need to be perfect.

During his first two years, like most young quarterbacks, Jeff Tuel tried to be at times. He tried to thread the needle when he didn't have to. He tried to force balls, and they became interceptions.

That's not to say he didn't, overall, play well. With little protection and a young receiving corps last season, Tuel turned in some excellent work. But if he's going to take that next step and move into the elite, there are things he can improve on.

This past spring saw him make strides in those areas. At the end of his first year, Tuel's eye level began to drop, as the pass rush was on him seemingly as soon as he took the snap. The worry headed into '10 was that he would "feel" pressure and get rid of the ball too soon. If anything, though, Tuel went the other way. Undaunted by defenders closing in, Tuel it could be argued, held the ball too long on occasion.

This spring, that was not in evidence. As was necessary, Tuel would tuck and run. He made better decisions, and would throw it away when needed. Mixed in between, a whole lot of chain moving completions and touchdowns.

Tuel is a much more complete quarterback headed into 2011. It will only be his third year, having never redshirted, yet physically this spring he looked like a like a Pac-12 senior, a sharp departure from the scrawny QB who arrived at Wazzu in the summer of 2009.

The last piece to the puzzle will be for Tuel to sharpen and maintain his mechanics from last year's form.

Behind Tuel, it's an interesting mix between Marshall Lobbestael and Connor Halliday.

Lobbestael is the dependable veteran. He's experienced and he made more plays this spring than in past years, on both thr short and long ball.

He still made some mistakes, all quarterbacks do, but they were fewer and further between. Lobbestael too has seemed to realize forcing the ball gets one into trouble fast, and he was more willing to throw it away or take off when the situation called for it.

Halliday has sky-high potential and all the tools. Unlike Tuel, he does tend to force the ball at this stage, and that gets him into trouble. How soon he realizes he doesn't need to try and make the perfect play all the time, just as Tuel did early in his career, will determine how soon he takes that next step.

But there were plenty of occasions where Halliday showed why he has so much potential this spring. Whether he or Lobbestael comes out of fall camp as the No. 2 will be a compelling story worth watching.

David Gilbertson showed improvement this spring and he's a hard worker. He does however have work to do before rising to the level of the three ahead of him on the depth chart.

Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Todd Sturdy looked more relaxed this spring. Previously, there was a sense of urgency, as if he was trying to will them to learn and develop as fast as was possible. And maybe they have.

While Sturdy says there's plenty more work to do, he seemed more pleased this spring than at any time since he arrived in Pullman. Based on where the QBs are at right now, a little over three months from now when the season gets underway, the fans might just end up quite being pleased themselves.

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