Countdown to Spring: Quarterbacks Preview

PULLMAN — Mike Leach's offense is a quarterback's dream. But they still have to perform and make the right decisions. And when they don't, it's likely to be anything but sunshine and warm feelings for the Wazzu signal callers this spring.

Mike Leach is tough on quarterbacks, says former Texas Tech QB and Green Bay Packers reserve Graham Harrell. He absolutely loved playing for Leach but says Leach has no problem calling his QB onto the carpet if mistakes are made.

"They'll be times when they're going to get mad at him," said Harrell.

But there should also be plenty of smiles this spring for Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday, provided the latter is healed from a lacerated liver. The reason why is the Cougar QBs should pick up Leach's system quickly. There may be 20 different versions of the same play, but for the quarterback the read is the same.

Much will be made, and already has been, about the battle for the starting job between the two. Leach has insisted that both Tuel and Halliday will compete for the starting job and he has no clear No. 1 headed into spring camp.

But unless Tuel does a face-plant, and Halliday has made huge gains this offseason in reading defenses, (a key skill in Leach's Air Raid), it would be a major surprise for Tuel to be supplanted as the starter. Halliday started two games last season and showed both loads of talent (5 TDs vs. ASU) and inexperience (4 INTs in the first half vs. Utah). Tuel missed virtually all of last year with some freak injuries but his abilities and knowledge, and what he's done under center for WSU, speak loudly.

And what ultimately gets lost in the starting QB chatter is that the Cougars have two quarterbacks capable of winning each and every Saturday in the Pac-12.

TUEL AND HALLIDAY will have a quality WR corps to throw to and an offensive line that is talented, though young. What will help the QBs out the most are the wide splits up front. Pass rushers have that much farther to go, and become that much more tired, the more snaps there are with the o-line split out so wide.

Tuel has a great arm, and put on plenty of size last season to develop his game. Halliday has a big arm too, and great instincts. What will also be interesting to see this spring if Halliday has been able to add any size in the offseason because at 6-4, 179 pounds, he definitely wasn't big enough to take the pounding from Pac-12 defensive lineman.

THE COUGARS ALSO have QBs David Gilbertson, Cody Clements and Jesse Brown throwing this spring. Headed into spring, it would appear Gilbertson and Clements will battle it out for the third string job, with Gilbertson having the slight edge because of his experience.

Although Gilbertson doesn't have the big time arm of Tuel or Halliday, he is an efficient passer and mobile. Clements showed some positive work last season running the scout team but he struggled at times with his consistency and threw too many picks. He did show improvement late in the year, firing the ball deep downfield and with good zip on short routes. Brown is a dual threat QB who tore up the Oregon 4A prep scene in 2010 who walked on at WSU last year.

Cougfan Top Stories