What's that? It's June already?
Okay, okay. I know. I've been slacking on Coug of the Year. I'm going to have to ramp things up a bit to make sure we get this incredibly important championship squared away before football season starts in earnest. [Full bracket here!] Buying my Oregon State tickets today was just another reminder of just how close we are (yet so far away) from another fall's worth of pigskin.
So - let's carry on, with the third match in the Weaver regional. It's Jeff v. Jeff as one of our favorites takes on a potential sleeper in the bracket.
(4) Jeff Tuel
Always a bright spot amidst the misfortunes of Cougar football, it was a breakout season for young sophomore quarterback
Matt Saracen Jeff Tuel.
It is really remarkable to see the progression Tuel has made, from bright-eyed prospect into full-fledged Pac-12 Starter To Be Reckoned With. Last year he completed close to 60% of his passes, netted 7.6 yards per pass attempt (8.7 on the road!), threw 18 touchdowns, and notched a 133.3 quarterback rating. All of those are improvements from his freshman season; a year where we all would have forgiven him for looking overwhelmed, yet he still had a positive TD to INT ratio and threw a school-record 99-yard touchdown pass.
Tuel was third in the Pac-10 last year in yards per attempt. The only people ahead of him were some guy named Andrew Luck and the quarterback of one of the most ridiculous offenses in college football history (Darren Thomas). He was fifth in touchdown passes despite playing with one of the league's most inept offenses. I was shocked to see he threw 12 interceptions, simply because I just don't remember him throwing that many. Of course, it would be hard to fault him even if all of his stats were bad... the Cougars gave up a league-worst 51 sacks. That's 16 more than the next worse team in the conference (Oregon State). Tuel had little protection, little time, and still put up a nicer statsheet than a man who would become the eighth overall pick in the NFL Draft.
We as a culture love our quarterbacks, and even more so at WSU. We're one of a handful of schools claiming to be Quarterback U, and why not, given our heritage? Tuel could be next in line, and it would be an absolute joy seeing him in a Bowl game sometime in the next two years (side note: I can't believe he's a junior already).
(13) (Jedi Master) Jeff Hironaka
Jeff Hironaka makes the COTY ballot for being one of the masterminds behind WSU's vastly improved defense this season. Not to mention an architect behind the Cougars' two wins over the Washington Huskies this season.
Sure, Ken Bone gets the ultimate credit for the W-L column, but that's because being a college head coach is all about taking on an overwhelming amount of responsibility these days. That's why delegating certain tasks to the assistants isn't just a good idea - it's a requirement. Hironaka's nomination comes largely as a result of this piece from Spokesman beat writer extraordinaire Vince Grippi. Here's a sample:
"The difference between a Hiro scout," says junior guard Marcus Capers, "and the other coaches, they let us know 10 or 15 of their sets. Hiro lets us know every set that they run. Every play that the team has, Hiro knows it.
"He watches 20, 25 hours of film on each team. It’s not this year. He might go back a few years. If the coach was at another school, he’ll probably watch them, too."