Cougars might lose Tuel for rest of season

THERE WERE GRANDIOSE proclamations that Washington State finally would emerge this season to advance to its first bowl since 2003. But much of that optimism centered around the Cougars' standout signal-caller, and coach Paul Wulff said during his Thursday teleconference that situation is worse than he imagined earlier in the week.

It was discovered after Saturday's 44-21 loss against Oregon State at CenturyLink Field that junior quarterback Jeff Tuel had acute compartment syndrome, which is a compression of nerves, blood vessels and muscles inside his calf. The condition can be life threatening, but Wulff said it was caught an early stage. But he said that injury coupled with aggravating an injury to his left clavicle means Tuel might not play again this year.

Wulff said he does not know if Tuel, who completed 29 of 45 passes for 276 yards and a touchdowns in parts of three games this season, will return. Obtaining a redshirt for Tuel appears difficult because he played against the Beavers, which is a game in the second half of the season.

That is "a big part" of the equation when determining a redshirt, Wulff said. The NCAA also factors number of games and other factors.

"It doesn't look positive at this point," Wulff said.

He also said he has not dismissed the possibility that Tuel could return this season. It is the second setback for the quarterback, who suffered a broken left clavicle Sept. 3 against Idaho State.

This marks the second time in three seasons that a WSU player has suffered acute compartment syndrome. Former running back James Montgomery also sustained that injury in September 2009. When Wulff heard that another one of his players suffered that injury, he said his first words were not "writeable."

"Once I heard it was caught early and they handled it, it was like, ‘Boy, it just must not be meant to be this year for Jeff,' " he said. "In all my years of coaching, I've never been exposed to that thing. He's really sore in both the areas he's injured in."

Meanwhile, Wulff said senior offensive lineman Wade Jacobson underwent season-ending back surgery Thursday morning at Stanford University. He said the surgery involved removing "fragments of disks that had been displaced." Jacobson, who started the first four games of the season at right tackle, hopes to obtain a medical redshirt. Wulff, who replaced Jacobson with junior Dan Spitz, said his recovery time will be 3 to 5 months. That might allow him to participate in spring ball depending on how quickly he recovers.

Wulff said there is a proposal to change the redshirt year in football and allow each player five years of eligibility. He said that would be beneficial in cases with Jacobson and Tuel.

Such a change might disrupt Wulff's fundamental mission of redshirting players and producing older teams than his opponents. But he does not see it that way. Wulff said if the rule were in place this season, he might have used more players early in the season in blowouts against ISU and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He also said others could play "some special teams when normally they wouldn't."

THE COUGARS (3-4 overall, 1-3 Pac-12) play at noon Saturday at No. 7 Oregon (TV: Root Sports). The Ducks (6-1, 4-0) defeated WSU 43-23 last year in Pullman. Only four other teams had a smaller margin-of-loss against Oregon during the regular season a year ago.

"Our players played hard," Wulff said. "They did a nice job up front. The teams that have had success against them have slowed them down."

Wulff is 0-3 against the Ducks, and the Cougars have not won in Eugene, Ore., since a 55-16 victory in 2003. But he does not think the venue matters much when it comes to Oregon.

"I don't know if they're any different, but their fans create more problems," he said. "Oregon is very consistent wherever they're at."

Wulff said limiting turnovers -- the Ducks had three turnovers to one for WSU last year -- will be significant, particularly early in the game.

"We don't want to give them a situation where we turn the ball over and give them easy scoring opportunities," he said. "Defensively, we don't want to give up a lot of big plays."

  • Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Kalafitoni Pole suffered a pinched nerve in his neck during Wednesday's practice. Wulff said senior Brandon Rankin will start if Pole is unavailable. Spitz also was injured during the practice, but Wulff expects him to start.

  • Wulff said he recruited Oregon offensive lineman Hroniss Grasu, the younger brother of former WSU kicker, Nico, but he elected to play for the Ducks with high-school teammate Bryan Bennett, a quarterback. Wulff said the older Grasu is coaching kickers in the Los Angeles area.

  • Standout Oregon cornerback Cliff Harris is suspended indefinitely after another being pulled over for a second time since June for driving with a suspended license and other infractions. Harris, an All-American, broke up 23 passes and averaged 18.8 yards per punt return last season.

    Wulff said Harris' suspension will have little impact on game planning, though.

    "He hadn't been playing that much corner, anyway," he said. "If it ain't him, it will be the next guy in, anyway."

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