2012 Spring Preview: Quarterback

With a long history of stellar college Quarterbacks, at one point in time, we were referred to as Quarterback U. Those days have fallen by the way side since the graduation of Mr Husky Killer, Alex Brink. Hell, I got depressed when I did a Google search for “WSU Quarterback.”

Some of the auto-generated searches that returned:

WSU Quarterback injury

WSU Quarterback liver

WSU Quarterback in hospital

WSU Quarterback in ICU

WSU Quarterback injured

How flipping depressing is that? Wow, it burns my retinas just looking at that. Now with all that being said, with Coach Leach’s vaunted Air Raid Offense being employed this Spring, one thing is for certain. It won’t be long before we’re referred to as Quarterback U again.

This morning I am going to take a look at our QB sitch heading into Spring Ball, and sometime in the near future, I will be back with a preview of our Running Backs. Click the jump for more.

Yesterday Longball gave you his thoughts on Leach’s Zero Tolerance Policy. If you missed out, quite the discussion came about, thanks for all your comments. There is nothing we love more than to hear what our reader’s think. Our good friend Victory Bell also shared their thoughts on the situation over he weekend.

With that out of the way, what do you think about the QB sitch on the Palouse? Last year Jeff Tuel goes down amid controversy in the first quarter of the first game, and eventually returns to supplant Marshall Lobbestael by mid-October. Only THEN to go down with a new injury his first game back against Oregon State!  Enter RS Fr Connor Halliday, who takes the reins from The Lobster in the first quarter against ASU and throws up one of the gaudiest stat lines in the history of our program (494 yards and 4 TD’s)! Then, getting the start against Utah the following week, Halliday struggles early, rallies the team to within inches of the victory, all while playing with a lacerated liver!?!

If this isn’t the most intriguing position battle this spring, than I don’t know position battles.

Known Commodities:

Jeff Tuel, Senior, 6’3″, 220 lbs

Tuel and the coaching staff are currently petitioning the NCAA for an additional year of eligibility, but until we hear otherwise, let’s just assume he’s a Senior.  Tuel hopes to return to form in his final season, after a disappointing 2011 campaign in which his name was uttered in the same sentence as Foles and Barkley heading into 2011.  Tuel has shown the moxie, leadership and grit you want in a quarterback, but it’s sad to think he only has two wins in his career(!).  I guess that’s what you get when the program goes 7-30 and yields 100+ sacks since you started playing.  I am a firm believer that Tuel has the arm and accuracy to succeed in Leach’s system, but then again, looking at Leach’s ten years in Lubbock, which starting QB didn’t succeed under the air raid system? The questions here are how is he doing healthwise and how does he handle the competition from Halliday?

Connor Halliday, RS Sophomore, 6’4″, 185 lbs

Other than mop up duty against Idaho State and UNLV, Halliday saw his career thrust into the spotlight when he came off the bench to supplant a cold Marshall Lobbestael vs. ASU.  How did he respond? With a night for the ages, throwing for 494 yards and four touchdowns in the Cougars’ 37-27 win over Arizona State!  Wulff gave Halliday the starting nod the following week, on Senior Night no less.  With bowl eligibility on the line, he was shaky at first throwing three picks in the first half against a tough Utah defense.  But just when it looked hopeless, Halliday rallied the Cougs in the final minutes.  In a downright blizzard, he came just inches shy of pulling off the second upset in as many weeks!  And by inches, yes, it was inches…..

After the game, it was revealed that his liver was lacerated (insert “only at WSU!” joke here) after taking a nasty hit from a Utah defender in the first quarter.  Not a whole lot of light has been shed on the health of Halliday since the season ended, other than he is recovering nicely from the injury.  Like Tuel, it appears Halliday has all the tools to become a star under Leach.  But maybe the big question here is will his time be in 2012, or will we it be starting in ’13?

The Unknowns:

Cody Clements, RS Fr, 6’2″, 205 lbs

Cody enrolled at Wazzu last summer after a storied senior season at La Habra HS in the Los Angeles area. In Clements’ final two seasons in high school, he threw for more than 4,100 yards and a whopping 61 touchdowns against only six interceptions!  Prior to his senior campaign, he was rated the rated the No. 1 QB in all of Orange County by the Orange County Register.  And some services actually had Clements rated ahead of five star prospect and current USC QB, Max Wittek. While it would take a miracle as epic as the Cougs sweeping the Pac 12 tourney this week to see Clements jump in front of Tuel and Halliday in 2012, it looks as though we the makings of a solid third string QB with upside.  I would even say that we should look for Clements to possibly get his first taste of playing time in week two or week three this season when we face Eastern Washington and UNLV.  Hopefully he takes to the film room this spring and summer and gets some valuable reps throughout the offseason.

David Gilbertson, RS Junior, 6’1″, 200 lbs

Gilby, the son of longtime UW assistant and HC Keith Gilbertson, enters his fourth year in the program and is the definition of an unknown for Coug faithful. According to his bio at WSU Athletics, he was a senior at Redmond HS.  But did you know that while playing at Redmond his senior year, Gilbertson was second-team All-KingCo, while throwing for 1,977 yards and 13 touchdowns and four rushing touchdowns??  From the above picture my buddy Grimmace snapped at the OSU game last year, it appears he’s really good at relaying plays to the QB.  Other than that, speculating on his ability at the Pac 12 level seems a bit, I don’t know, how about premature?  One would imagine he is the fourth string QB come September, behind Tuel, Halliday and Cody Clements.

In Conclusion:

I would say our 1-2 Punch of Tuel and Halliday, however it winds up, is as formidable as any in the conference. Since Leach is not only the head coach, O-coordinator and QB coach, there is no doubt that who ever emerges as our starter will have definitely earned the job.  It will be interesting to see if Leach names his guy by the end of spring or if he waits right up until the middle to end of fall camp to do so. Call me crazy, I know ya’ll did last week, but my money is on Tuel being named starter by April 13th. But there is some good-looking depth here at QB, and that’s a good thing.  

That’s all for this morning.  Don’t forget to check back soon for my look at Running Backs.  GO COUGS!