Tuel decision was weeks in the making

IT WAS GOING to be, or so everyone thought, one or the other -- either senior Kevin Lopina or sophomore Marshall Lobbestael would take the reins at quarterback this season. But WSU coach Paul Wulff said during his Thursday conference call that true freshman Jeff Tuel has been prepared to play for weeks.

Wulff said he approached Tuel "about playing and getting better," and that the true freshman and former Clovis West High graduate was excited about the possibility.

"A lot of these guys are highly competitive kids and want to play right now," he said. "He probably can play and help this team moving forward."

Lobbestael will make his first start Saturday when the Cougars host Southern Methodist, and he took the majority of snaps during practice this week.

Wulff said Lobbestael, who completed 10 of 19 passes for 114 yards and an interception this year, looked good this week but still needs to "fine tune" some elements to his game.

Tuel isn't technically the No. 2 quarterback according to Wulff -- he maintains there isn't a specific depth chart at that position. But Tuel took more snaps in practice than Lopina, who started the first two games of the season.

Wulff said Tuel will play in specific packages with a condensed playbook that will enable him to focus on what makes him comfortable.

WHOMEVER IS LINING up under center will be throwing to a different receiving corps this week.

True freshman Gino Simone (concussion), who started the first two games, is out against SMU. Walk-on sophomore Nick Proen, from Mead High School, will be the fifth receiver. Daniel Blackledge, Jared Karstetter and Jeffrey Solomon are listed as starters.

Johnny Forzani, said Wulff, also is emerging and will see playing time. He saw the junior, who previously practiced with the Canadian Football League's Calgary Stampeders' junior team, still needs to develop, but likes what he brings to the program. Forzani was limited during fall camp because of a foot injury.

"He provides very good speed and quickness," Wulff said. "He's a very explosive player. He gives us a home-run threat moving forward."

Junior Jeshua Anderson, who had four receptions for 66 yards this season, left the program Wednesday to concentrate on track. Anderson is the two-time NCAA defending 400-meter hurdles champion for the Cougars' track program.

Wulff said he was not surprised by the decision and knows Anderson debated whether he should continue to play football for six months. He feels Anderson's father pursued him to continue with football before the season began.

"I totally respect his decision," said Wulff, adding that Anderson's ultimate goal of becoming an Olympian might be complicated by dedicating so much time to football. "In the big picture, I think it's a good decision for him."

WULFF SAID he would like to take a balanced approached against the Mustangs, and that SMU has done a good job stopping offenses in third-and-long situations. But the Mustangs do rank 113th (out of 120) Football Bowl Subdivision teams by allowing 308.5 passing yards per game.

And SMU's run defense also can be exploited if the stats sheet holds true. The Mustangs, who have a 2-0 record, allow 145.5 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 76th nationally.

"They're young -- a lot like us," Wulff said. "I think there's a chance that it's a good match up for us."

Junior running back James Montgomery rushed for 119 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries against the Warriors last week, but senior Dwight Tardy will start again against SMU. Wulff said Montgomery has been limited in practice all week with a knee injury.

  • Senior defensive end Kevin Kooyman still is hampered by a knee injury, which means junior Casey Hamlett will start for a second straight week. Hamlett is a walk-on who transferred to WSU when Western Washington disbanded its football program after last season.

  • Sophomore Alex Hoffman-Ellis is listed as the starter at middle linebacker with Louis Bland behind him on the new depth chart released today. Bland has been continuing to recover from knee surgery. Wulff said senior linebacker Andy Mattingly (leg) had his practice time cut in half this week, but thinks he'll be able to start against SMU. Mattingly suffered a "very deep thigh contusion" on the opening kickoff against Hawaii. Wulff said the injury hurt in more ways than one because the coaching staff designed some blitz packages specifically for Mattingly against UH.

  • Redshirt freshman Daniel Simmons also is expected to make his first career start at cornerback with junior Chima Nwachukwu back at strong safety.

  • Simone and defensive end Travis Long are the only two true freshmen to play this season. Tuel likely will be the third, but Wulff said he doesn't anticipate any more. "They're getting quality time and we feel good about that," Wulff said. "It's not like we're burning redshirts for special teams."

  • Wulff said sophomore Eric Block (concussion) and redshirt freshman Jay Matthews (shoulder) are expected back this week and safety depth was a concern after redshirt freshman LeAndre Daniels suffered a broken leg against Hawaii that potentially could end his season. Wulff said Block finally is able to practice full-time after being limited throughout his WSU career with ulcerative colitis, a large intestine malady and it appears Block has found a medication that helps contain his condition. With Block and Matthews back, Wulff said he's hopeful that Anthony Carpenter and Casey Locker will be able to redshirt.

  • Wulff said Lobbestael and senior linebacker Jason Stripling were selected as captains for the SMU game by the team's unity council, which comprises two to four players from each academic class in the program. Wulff said those players make decisions on captains generally after practice on Wednesday.

  • The Mustangs rank 53rd in total offense among Football Championship Subdivision teams at 396 yards per game. Junior running back Shawnbrey McNeal has 225 yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries this season. But Wulff also is concerned about containing senior wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who has 214 yards and a touchdown on 17 receptions this year. "Emmanuel Sanders is a great player at wide receiver," Wulff said. "He's going to be a challenge. That's going to be someone we have to have a close eye on."

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