Is big season on tap for Tuel, Cougs offense?

IN TWO YEARS, Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel has gone from a little known true freshman to a player national writers predict has an NFL future. Those future NFL prospects have fans wondering how Tuel's next two seasons at Washington State might play out…

The wins weren't there in 2010 but Tuel made strides last season by any measure.

And Tuel's progress is perhaps the biggest reason Cougar fans feel Saturday afternoons might well play out quite differently in 2011 on the scoreboard.

"I think people realize the big thing here, that he hasn't had a lot of experienced guys around him, and so it's probably been more challenging for him than some other guys around the conference," Paul Wulff told CF.C recently.

Tuel threw for 2,780 yards and 18 TDs last year, despite defenses knowing the pass was coming much of the time. WSU's leading rusher averaged just 43 yards per game. Tuel ranked No. 50 nationally in QB rating (133.31), and sixth in the Pac-10.

His first year, as the pass rush descended upon in less and less time, Tuel's eye level began to come down. And injury forced him to miss the end of the season. The worry then, headed into last year, was that he might be a little too quick to break out of the pocket, that his feet might get a little too happy.

It turned out exactly the opposite. Tuel was pretty much fearless -- if anything, Tuel last season held fast in the pocket too long at times and, on the plays where no one was open, took the sack.

After a little less than two full years at the helm, Tuel will be a junior this season. All the hard work that's been put in by Tuel and the offense, all the time spent building together, should produce dividends and wins in ‘11.

"The good thing is that Jeff has worked with some guys for a full year plus -- the improvement that he's made, and that they've made, that should allow them all to perform at a high level," said Wulff.

Still, there's always room to improve.

"I think a continued comfort level and working at a fast pace, and to get rid of the ball a little quicker, is something a QB can always do," said Wulff. "But he should be mentioned with all the other experienced quarterbacks, he's in that group.

"And then, let's just let it play out."

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