2011 WSU Depth Chart: Jeff Tuel Leads The Quarterbacks

As I'm sure you've seen, figuring out ways to fill the time between the end of basketball season in March and beginning of football season when the baseball team is not generating a lot of interest is a bit of a challenge. Last year, we at least had the Pac-16 stuff to carry us through for a month; although the Pac-12 TV deal was good for a week, we're back to trying to figure out interesting things to talk about.

Klay Thompson and the NBA Draft is one. But I think most of us are ready to shift into football.

So how about some semi-informed depth chart speculation? That's always fun!

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to try to read the tea leaves and take a stab at what each position on the depth chart will look like when the Cougars kick off against Idaho State on Sept. 3. You'll note, at times, that it will look a little different than the post-spring practice depth chart -- I'm going to incorporate incoming freshmen and also try to guess what's going to play out in August during training camp.

First up: Quarterbacks. Why not start easy?

Starter Backup Third String
       Jeff Tuel       
Marshall Lobbestael Connor Halliday

Level of certainty: High. This is about as certain as any position gets on this football team. As the most underrated passer in the Pac-10 last year, Tuel is fully entrenched as the starter; the only way he leaves the field is (god forbid) on a stretcher. The other two spots are pretty well locked in, too -- Lobbestael, as a senior with starting experience, will be the primary backup, and Halliday will play only in case of emergency.

Risk of volatility: Low. It's practically impossible to imagine a scenario where Tuel plays his way out of his starting spot. About the only way this position gets volatile is if Tuel sustains some sort of major injury that puts him on the sidelines for an extended period, Lobbestael comes in and plays terribly while the losses pile up, and the move is made to Halliday in an effort to give him some experience. If that happens ...

Biggest question: If Tuel should sustain some kind of injury, is Lobbestael able to step in and keep the team moving forward? Lobbestael showed some reasonable promise as a freshman, lighting up Portland State and then putting together a decent showing the following week against Oregon. The accuracy was rarely great -- he only completed 51.5 of his 103 passes -- but he occasionally made throws that led you to believe there was potential there.

However, his season ended with a knee injury that required surgery, and although he was able to make it back onto the field as a sophomore, it was clear Lobbestael wasn't at 100 percent -- either because the knee wasn't at full strength, his confidence in the knee wasn't full strength, or both. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes for an abysmal 4.5 yards per attempt.

Now, after a year in which he played only in mop-up duty, it's fair to wonder: What, exactly, do we have in Lobbestael? Could he come in if called upon and be serviceable? Are his accuracy problems a reflection of his ability, or were they more a reflection of the knee injury? We're all hoping we never have to find out, but the reality is that for a lot of teams, the backup quarterback must hold down the fort periodically for a team to have a successful season.

If it comes down to that for WSU? You could do a lot worse than a senior backup. I like our situation better than a lot of other teams in the Pac-12.

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