QUARTERBACK: WSU Fall Camp Preview

PULLMAN -- Washington State kicks off fall camp far more comfortable at the signal caller position than in years past. Senior Jeff Tuel comes into 2012 healthy and primed to lead Mike Leach's Air Raid offense. The position figures to put up some gaudy numbers in 2012, thanks to a new scheme and a plethora of targets. But what else can Cougar fans expect?

Personnel/Stats
Jeff Tuel: Fourth year senior. Appeared in three games last season, starting two of them. Tuel threw just one touchdown in an injury-marred junior year. The senior quarterback currently has 3,845 yards to his name, as well as an impressive 25 touchdowns. Tuel also currently holds an efficient 60 percent completion percentage for his career. He is also considered a mobile quarterback, tallying 206 rushing yards thus far in his career.

Connor Halliday: Third year sophomore. Appeared in four games, earning one start. Halliday has nine career touchdown passes to only four interceptions. The sophomore has 960 yards in his short career, highlighted by a 494 yard passing performance, a WSU freshman record, against Arizona State. Halliday holds a 57.3 percent completion percentage.

David Gilbertson: Has appeared in two games in his career. Played some quarterback against UNLV last season in a route of the Runnin' Rebels. Gilbertson did not complete the lone passing attempt of his Cougar career.

Cody Clements: Redshirt season in 2011.

Newcomers:
FR. Austin Apodaca 6-1, 185

FR. Conner Johnson 6-5, 220

Snapshot:
The Cougs are going to be throwing the ball, and they're going to be throwing the ball a lot. Tuel is a lock to take the reins under center from Day One, although Leach has stressed a quarterback competition is always in the cards for his teams the first couple weeks of fall camp generally.

Washington State has a strong No. 2, as Halliday provides depth that WSU did not have at this point last season. Cougar signal callers will be throwing the ball early and often in 2012, and a 5,000 yard season from Tuel isn't out of the question if he can stay healthy. Boiled down to its essence, Leach's philosophy revolves around scoring a lot of points, so a lot will be placed on the WSU quarterback's shoulders this year. Leach also harps distribution, so don't be surprised if 9-10 receivers have 10 or more catches by season's end.

In the Leach system, quarterbacks and receivers are expected to be on the same page well before the snap. The entire offense must understand route combinations for this unit to really flourish.

Quarterbacks will need to be able to read the defense to determine which route combinations will be used on a given play. If Tuel and Halliday can learn this skill in fall camp, expect a lot of yards and a lot of points to be scored on the opposition.

Quick Hitters:
Quarterback Marshall Lobbestael has graduated, leaving Tuel and Halliday as the only quarterbacks on the roster with any significant on-field experience.

Tuel is considered by many to have NFL ability. Although a career on Sunday's may be in his future, the senior quarterback isn't thinking that way just yet, saying that his ultimate goal is to get this program back to where it was during its glory years.

Tuel said if granted the medical redshirt he's applied for, he would "certainly" consider returning for his fifth year after weighing his options. A decision regarding the medical redshirt is could come in the next few weeks, or it could come in the next couple of months.

Halliday says he is ‘fully recovered" from the lacerated liver he suffered against Utah last season.

The battles:
As noted previously, Tuel is fully expected to be the starting quarterback when Washington State squares off against BYU on August 30 in the season opener. That said, Halliday has shown enough potential and impressed Leach to such a degree that Leach would be confident calling Halliday's number. While the job is certainly Tuel's to lose Halliday is a competitor, and you can expect him to push Tuel all year.

Fall camp will also hold intrigue to see where Gilbertson, Clements and Apodaca fit into the mix over the next several weeks.

If and when Leach reaches a comfort point with how the entire starting offense is performing in fall camp, he may even throw Gilby, Clements, Apodaca and walk-on Johnson some reps with the 1s – with all probably getting in some good work with the 2s throughout.

Worth noting is the quarterback battle that may ensue next season. While Halliday (or Tuel if granted a medical redshirt) is widely regarded as the quarterback of 2013, the situation behind him is a bit more convoluted. Apodaca will be a redshirt freshman in 2013, with a year under his belt and experience gained learning under Tuel and Halliday. Keeping that in mind, heavily recruited quarterback and WSU verbal commitment Tyler Bruggman will be arriving in 2013, and at the least will undoubtedly fight for the backup job with Apodaca expected to be the primary challenger.

Final thoughts and intangibles:
Most of the Air Raid's expected offensive bounty in 2013 will be direct result of the quarterback's actions. With five receivers on the field at times, one or more of them should find open space. It will be Tuel or Halliday's job to get that open man the ball.

The Cougs have question marks – an inexperienced, young defense adapting to a new system chief among them. But one thing Cougar fans should not have to worry much about is the play at the quarterback position.

WSU has the luxury of having a very skilled, experienced senior quarterback at the helm -- as well as a wily sophomore chomping at the bit who also has experienced Pac-12 success.

The Cougs hit the field August 2 for the first day of fall camp. Expect the quarterbacks and wide receivers to show plenty of chemistry from the get-go. The Cougs open the season against BYU, August 30 in Provo, Utah.

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