We're not going to plug our ears while acting like the spring quarterback competition doesn't exist, so it would probably be a good idea to address it head-on. Yes, there will be an ongoing competition for the starting quarterback job. Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday will split snaps down the middle, Mike Leach said, as he evaluates them. It's not a surprise, but there are a few things to keep in mind going forward.
Let's do this FAQ style.
Why is this competition happening?
The easy, and widespread answer, is because Jeff Tuel was hurt all last season and Connor Halliday lit it up when given the opportunity. If this was your line of thinking, you're half right. Both are talented and both could be capable starters in Leach's offense.
But the other half of the answer has to do with Leach himself. It should be clear by now that he values the quarterback position over all others, which is true of most coaches and offensive coordinators. But in order for the Air Raid to succeed, the quarterback has to be an extension of Leach, mentally, in addition to being accurate with throws, commanding in the huddle and quick with decisions.
So it makes sense that Leach is giving everyone, especially the quarterbacks, a clean slate. Tuel and Halliday (and the rest) will be given ample opportunities to learn the offense, rep it, and show their abilities. Besides, competition is a good thing.
Jeff Tuel had a bad day! Is he going to be a backup?
Connor Halliday had a great day! Is he going to be the starter?
Who's leading this competition?
Reference this later, throughout the spring practice period: Nobody. Halliday and Tuel will have good days and bad days. Tuel barely played last year and has to shake the rust. Halliday is coming off a significant injury and has to do the same. Both will go through the growing pains associated with learning the new system.
But they'll both get reps and work through the kinks. This is normal with a new system and nobody is going to be perfect every single day. A good day follows a bad one and vice-versa. Don't get caught up in digesting every bit of information. Look at the big picture.
What is the big picture?
If this is truly an open competition than things are subject to change every day. These competitions typically carry over into fall camp, or at least into the summer program. Spring is a time to get to know one another while laying the groundwork for next season. With a new coaching staff, this means a good chunk of time devoted to simply learning the system and drilling it home.
A lot can be accomplished in 15 practices -- especially the way Leach runs his -- but the months that follow are just as important. Halliday, Tuel and the rest of the quarterbacks will retreat to their corners, and all will throw skelly as much as possible during the rest of the offseason to work out the timing with the wide receivers.
Between now and the end of fall camp, everything is subject to change -- positions, the depth chart ... everything. If Halliday and Tuel are truly as good as we think they are and the competition is as wide-open as we've been led to believe, it will carry over in some way.*
So settle in. In a grade school classroom, we're in the awkward icebreaker stage (Jolly Jeff and Cheery Connor, if you were wondering). The long division will come later.
*This is also subject to change and the competition could be over next week. Who knows!
Doesn't Leach need a starter so they can get valuable reps?
Nope! The beauty of Leach's practices is everyone gets to throw. A lot. Outside of scrimmage times and team drills, the order of the depth chart won't matter a ton. Every quarterback will receive plenty of reps -- especially during the spring, when Leach runs two skeletons at once -- and they'll all be drilling things the same way.
Be more worried about the quarterbacks' arms falling off than them not getting enough reps.
But is there some kind of leaderboard? Will Leach be giving daily updates?
He won't talk about injuries, whether a blown ACL or a hangnail. He's not going to be giving a blow-by-blow of the quarterback competition, as far as I know.
Can we pick teams and argue to the death for our candidate? #TeamSwogger
Please don't. Let's not do this again. No matter who wins the job, WSU is in good hands. Between Leach's system, which is a proven commodity, and the talent Halliday and Tuel posses, there's not a whole lot to wring hands over. Having one quality quarterback is nice. Having two is pants-off-worthy.
Who will be the starter next season?
I don't know. Mike Leach doesn't know. Nobody knows! And that's okay. Accept it and enjoy the friendly competition.
I'll be at most of the practices and will pass along what I can. But if you plan to put every piece of information from these 15 practices, over about five weeks, under the microscope, realize it's an effort in futility.
And remember, the overarching goal of the spring practice period is simple: survive. If the team makes it through 15 practices without any significant injuries, the spring will be a success.