Future Coug QB has NFL potential, says coach

JEFF TUEL RAN out of time. Not in the pocket. In the recruiting rankings. The Clovis West rocket man is highly rated on Scout.com -- at 3-stars and among the nation's top 60 QBs. But as a one-year prep starter, that's about as high as he could have risen. His prep coach says if Tuel would have had one more year, he'd be a 4- or 5-star guy. He also opines that the NFL will one day come calling.

Tuel spent his junior season, the all-important year in terms of star rankings, at Clovis West with a clipboard in his hand, backing up touted Cal-bound senior Beau Sweeney. When prospects don't have any junior tape -- especially a quarterback -- they're decidedly behind the eight-ball in terms of recruiting ratings.

"It's really hard for (one-year starters) to move up the ladder," says Gary Kinne, head man at Clovis West. "He can make all the throws. He'll be a guy the NFL scouts in 3-4 years will definitely be looking at and know he can make all the throws."

Tuel, one of the first players to verbally commit to WSU this recruiting season, had what Kinne calls a "tremendous season" in 2008 and his 3-star rating reflects his 2,177 all-purpose yards, 1,573 passing yards on 126-of-247 passing with 12 TD passes and 584 rushing hashes. But, says Kinne, it is also true that Tuel is underrated by the recruiting services.

"Based on the things they knew about him, (3 stars) is probably accurate. In terms of reality, in terms of what I think his potential is, how I think he compares to the other quarterbacks that are rated ahead of him, I think he's definitely too low," said Kinne.

Star projections are particularly difficult for QB's, adds Kinne, and he knows firsthand. He was on the forefront of college recruiting for two seasons at Baylor where he was an assistant coach. He says prep quarterbacks are such a gray area because every school's offensive system is different -- a highly touted QB might perform poorly in a certain system. The opposite also holds true.

"It's kind of a beauty contest," said Kinne. "You look at Sam Bradford who was a three star, he won the Heisman. Colt McCoy, a three star, who could have won the Heisman. Guys like them, they were three stars and they were obviously too low. I think Jeff is the same kind of guy.

"I think if Jeff had another season, he would definitely have been a 4- or 5-star guy."

SO HOW DOES Washington State's system, a tempo-dictating, no-huddle, multi-set motion offense, set up for Tuel?

"I think it sets up perfectly for him...he's very good at checking the fronts, checking the coverages, making the adjustments for the offensive line and calling the protections," said Kinne. "I think he'll definitely fit the 'skills set' mentally. Physically, he's a guy who can throw the ball but can also run, he's a dual threat who can make things happen with his feet."

For QB's with good feet, there's more than than rushing yards -- there's getting out of trouble when things break down, moving the pocket, sprint-outs, bootlegs, the list goes on. Tuel, says Kinne, gets high marks on all of it.

Arm strength is probably the most overrated predictor of college success. But it's also the thing fans notice first, and most. And with Tuel, says Kinne, fans will notice.

"It's off the charts. That won't be a question for anyone. He's also got a great, high release, he's 6-3 and has very long arms...comebacks, out routes, obviously the go route, he can do it all," said Kinne.

Tuel is also a star pitcher on the diamond, one who has hit 90 mph with his fastball. But Kinne said Tuel likely won't play baseball this season -- he wants to be a starter on the Pac-10 gridiron and there's work to do to make that happen. Namely, physical growth.

Tuel wasn't ready to start his junior year behind Sweeney in part because of inexperience but also because he weighed just 165 pounds. Today, says Kinne, Tuel has added about 40 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame. But there's more yet to do before he's physically ready to play in the Pac-10.

"His best football is ahead of him," said Kinne. "He's a tireless worker. It will really just be a maturation process, to get physically bigger and then get the opportunity to play. I've been around a lot of great quarterbacks and he has that mental makeup that you want in a quarterback.

"We definitely stress our quarterback, we put a lot of pressure on them. Personally, I put a lot of pressure on him...putting him under the fire.. And he's a guy that can get out there and lead by example and take coaching. He just thrives on anything that can make him get better."

"People came in and inquired how solid he was there, if he might change his mind or if he would come up and take a visit. But he's definitely firm there, he's a loyal guy...It wouldn't have mattered who came in the door, he had made up his mind he was going to Washington State. There were (Pac-10 schools), and some of (WSU's) close competitors, there were several that definitely inquired about him," said Kinne.

"Another great thing about him, he doesn't mind waiting (until) his time. A lot of kids don't want to wait..he waited his time here and then had a tremendous senior year. And whatever it takes at Washington State, when he's called upon, I think he'll be ready," said Kinne.

Keep an eye out for junior Tanner Lareau at Clovis West, a 6-3, 220 linebacker prospect. He's already on Washington State's radar, said Kinne.

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