SPRING PREVIEW: Sturdy runs down QB picture

WITH MARSHALL LOBBESTAEL slated to sit out spring contact as he rehabs a knee, Kevin Lopina and J.T. Levenseller are likely to see a ton of reps. For WSU offensive coordinator and QBs coach Todd Sturdy, the spring will be about simply getting better. But how does one go about that?

"You stick to your guns and you teach. You approach it with great enthusiasm and you just continue to teach, teach, teach," said Todd Sturdy.

Sturdy expects to see improvement from Kevin Lopina this spring now that he has a year under his belt. The senior-to-be was 87-for-153 for 841 yards in nine games last season (8 starts). He also had 11 interceptions and did not throw a touchdown pass. A good runner as a quarterback, he has 194 total yards gained last year, but also incurred 176 hashes in sacks and losses.

"Really, last year was the only time he had ever played at the college level...he did some good things at times and there were times he really showed his inexperience," said Sturdy.

Shoulder issues that hampered Lopina towards the end of the season have since healed. He's 100 percent coming into spring drills, said Sturdy.

"I hope he takes last year and builds upon it, takes the times he was successful, builds upon it and uses them as a confidence builder," said Sturdy.

With quarterbacks, it's about getting enough practice time ands reps in an offensive system -- getting to the point where all the little things about running an offense become second nature. J.T. Levenseller didn't have that last season.

He started the year as the No. 4 quarterback on the depth chart and then saw his redshirt burned with five games remaining after an unprecedented run on injuries at the QB spot.

"It's just repetition for him, he just needs repetitions. In fairness to him, he didn't have the reps -- he wasn't a guy we were planning on getting ready to go," said Sturdy.

Marshall Lobbestael (5 games, 3 starts) will still be throwing the ball around this spring but he won't be involved in scrimmages and other full contact drills. Lobbestael was 53-of-103 passing for 571 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions last season before tearing his ACL in Week 7 against Oregon State.

"He's been progressing really well. But even though it's feeling really good it's still a little week so you've got to be careful about it that way. As far as where he should be and where he's at, he's doing really, really well," said Sturdy.

Dan Wagner is also in the quarterback fold, a walk-on who played in two games last season when injuries hit hardest and who also punts for the Cougars. Peter Roberts, a celebrated walk-on after he was picked out of the student body in the middle of last season to work the scout team due to the spate of injuries, is no longer with the team.

With Lobbestael not fully participating, unless Lopina or Levenseller takes off like a rocket this spring, a starting quarterback is not likely to be named until the Cougs get into fall camp. Sturdy's goals for the position this spring? They're broad, and extend to the offense as a whole.

"We'd like to stay healthy obviously but the biggest thing is no secret, we've just got to get better. As far as throwing the ball--at times last year we weren't great at protecting, we weren't great at running routes and catching the ball and we weren't great at throwing the ball," said Sturdy.

Incoming freshman Jeff Tuel will arrive in the fall but college quarterbacks who play their true freshman year are few, and true freshman signal callers who become rousing success stories their first year are virtually non-existent.

"The kid we signed is pretty darned good (but) the plan would be to redshirt him," said Sturdy.

In the here and now, Sturdy said continuity at a number of positions needs to occur before the Cougars get to where they need to be in the passing game.

"It would be easier if it was one guy (to solve it). It's a bunch of young guys, a lot of inexperience. It broke down, at times, in all facets of the throwing game (last year). We've just got to get better at what we do, have guys that produce and become more efficient in all aspects of the throwing game," said Sturdy.

Cougfan Top Stories