Part II of Leach: Medical hardship for Tuel?

THE COUGARS ARE in the process of filing papers with the NCAA to seek an additional year of eligibility for Jeff Tuel and offensive lineman Wade Jacobson via medical hardship waivers. It was one of a number of subjects Leach discussed with CF.C in part II of a wide-ranging interview.

Tuel, a senior-to-be, has played three seasons for the Cougars but this past campaign was spent mostly on the sidelines with injuries. Jacobson's fourth college season (including two years of junior college ball) ended after the fourth game last season due to back surgery. He was the starter at right tackle.

Leach said he's hesitant to predict how the NCAA will rule on the players.

Both cases tend to be more gray in scope than black and white.

With medical hardships, the rule is basically built around two benchmarks: First, that the player played in less than 30 percent of the season and second, that the injury/illness occurred prior to the first game of the second half of the season.

For Jacobson, if the NCAA says he played in four games, that means he's at 33 percent of his season, though the NCAA's history indicates they tend to round down, (i.e. 33 becomes 30).

With Tuel, the issue isn't the 30 percent threshold, because he's well below that, but rather, one of timing. The rule says the injury, in a 12-game season, has to occur prior to the seventh game. Tuel played in just three games all year, but his last one was in Week 7 against Oregon State. Here's where it gets interesting: In the three games he played in, Tuel effectively took only 50 percent of the offensive snaps, meaning he truly played in about 1 ½ games this past season. So the spirit of the rule suggests the Cougs may have an argument for him getting an extra year.

LEACH SAID SPRING BALL as well as fall practices "until the last week, week-and-a-half" will be open to the public.

"We'd like to have them come and check us out," Leach said.

WSU practices have virtually never been closed to the fans or media. The Rogers Field practice facility, adjacent to Martin Stadium, is located in the middle of campus.

"There'll be stuff around the fence (at Rogers)," Leach said. "It's more to keep our focus inside rather than people from outside looking in. We're not playing anybody that's not going to have 12 (game) films of us, ya know."

SPRING BALL WILL not end with the Crimson and Gray game. Leach said the Cougars will hold "one or two" practices in Pullman after the spring game at Spokane's Albi Stadium on April 21. The final practice will be April 24.

Leach said he considers it "short-sighted" to end spring ball with the final scrimmage.

"You've got good film on it," Leach noted. "We want to have the opportunity to watch it with our players, make corrections and go out there and practice and refine those corrections."

The Cougars' 15-practice spring session begins on March 22.

LEACH ALSO STRAYS from the norm in that WSU's winter workouts are held at 10 p.m. instead of early in the morning – he figures late nights tie in better with game times for the players' body clocks – and he likes to have players run in sand.

"Great for conditioning, great for lateral muscle work," Leach said.

LEACH REITERATED THAT THE starting quarterback job at Washington State is up for grabs.

He said Tuel, the Cougars' No. 1 quarterback the past 2½ seasons when he's been healthy, will have to fend off Connor Halliday when spring practice opens.

Asked if Tuel is the clear-cut No. 1 quarterback heading into spring ball, Leach said, "I look for him (Tuel) and Halliday to battle it out in the spring." Tuel, an honorable mention All-Pacific-10 Conference player as a sophomore in 2010, broke his collar bone in the season opener last year and then suffered an acute compartment syndrome injury to a calf against Oregon State.

Halliday passed for 494 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Arizona State in his first extensive action last season as a redshirt freshman. Halliday made his first start the following week and played most of the game with a lacerated liver in an overtime loss to Utah. Halliday sat out WSU's only remaining game, a loss to Washington.

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