Can The Lobster claw his way back?

MARSHALL LOBBESTAEL, recovering from the knee injury that ended his 2008 season in early October, started doing dropbacks and throws last week in Pullman. The quarterback from Oak Harbor is healing nicely, Washington State head man Paul Wulff told on Friday. The coach also offered insight on the sophomore-to-be's status for spring practices and fall camp.

Barring any unexpected setbacks, Lobbestael is on a glide path to be fully ready for what figures to be a battle royale behind center when fall camp opens in August, Wulff said.

Lobbestael took a major step in the rehab process last Monday when he began doing drops and throws.

Lobbestael will participate in a very limited fashion in spring workouts, which run from March 26 to April 25. "He'll do some skelly (skeleton drills)," Wulff said of the game plan for the spring.

"But he'll be 100 percent ready for the fall," Wulff noted.

The return of the 6-2, 195-pound Lobbestael is welcome news -- and not just because of the physical tools he brings to the field. He also possesses strong leadership skills.

There is no pre-supposed No. 1 quarterback heading into 2009, Wulff said.

The competition among Lobbestael, senior-to-be Kevin Lopina and true sophomore J.T. Levenseller will be wide open this spring and again in August when Lobbestael will be able to compete, he said.

"All three of those guys will get better," Wulff said. "One of them will step up and improve their production."

Lobbestael played in four games last season -- and started three -- before tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee in the fourth quarter of the Oct. 11 game at Oregon State.

For the season, he completed 51.5 percent of his 103 pass attempts for 571 yards, four TDs and four interceptions. His efficiency rating was 103.77. He was named Pac-10 offensive player of the week after coming off the bench against Portland State to complete 9 of 12 passes for 149 yards and 2 TDs

Lopina played in nine games last season, starting seven. He completed 56.9 percent of his 153 passes for 841 yards, no TDs and 11 interceptions. His efficiency rating was 88.66.

Levenseller saw action in four games in 2008, starting none. He completed 71 percent of his 34 passes for 134 yards, no TDs and two interceptions.

Third-year walk on Dan Wagner, who saw limited game time last season at quarterback and punter, also is in the mix.

And two rookies will join the fray in August – Jeff Tuel of Clovis West High in Fresno and invited walk on David Gilbertson of Redmond High.

Tuel's high school coach – a former Baylor assistant – last week told CF.C that the youngster had NFL-type potential. On Friday, at the annual "Night with Cougar Football" in downtown Seattle, Wulff didn't say anything to dissuade that high praise.

"This guy has all the raw ability," Wulff said of Tuel. "He's got a great arm – he can throw a baseball 90 miles per hour, he's competitive, tough, makes people miss with his feet, and has an even keel demeanor. He has a bright, bright future."

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