Tuel or Lobbastael? That is the ?
In a perfect scenario Jeff Tuel never would’ve been injured, and head coach Paul Wulff wouldn’t be dealing with this issue. As we we know though, in life and especially football, nothing is fair. This game is filled with imperfections, injuries, disappointments, and lost expectations.
Sometimes the ball just doesn’t go your way. Eventually though, things start looking up. The same goes with the Washington State Cougar football program. This season doesn’t have that same feel of the past three seasons. No, there is confidence, a swagger in these players. It’s noticeable in practice, and in the huddle. There are no excuse with this program. They have used them all up.
So even in the wake of a potential season disaster, which it looked like it could’ve been, the Cougars refused to let Jeff Tuel‘s injury to hinder their goal of making a bowl game. Instead, they chose to rally around their redshirt senior QB Marshall Lobbestael. It has payed off .
The Cougars are 3-1 now, and looking like a team that will surprise instead of disappoint.
But with new expectations come unavoidable questions that Coach Wulff will have to be deal with.
How about a hypothetical?
Let’s say Jeff Tuel isn’t 100% ready to play until Washington State plays Oregon State. Then, let’s say that Lobbestael beats UCLA, and then does the unthinkable. Pulls off the upset of #7 Stanford during homecoming weekend. Now all of a sudden, the team is 5-1. If your Paul Wulff, what do you do?
Paul Wulff has two options at his disposal. The hot hand or the better player.
The hot hand:
Marshall Lobbestael has been everything a QB should be under these circumstances. Most coaches would only ask the backup QB to stick within the system, and keep the mistakes to a minimum. Lobbestael has not only has shattered those expectations, but as a QB he is ranked #16 in the nation as a passer, and #3 in the conference behind only Andrew Luck and Keith Price.
His numbers have been there as well, 90-142, 1335 yrds, 13 td’s, 3 int’s, 63.4% com%, and a 9.4 ypa clip. Those numbers have made him better then three quarters of the QB’s in the conference. His passing yards has risen the past three weeks from 361 to 368 to 376. During that span he has thrown 11 td’s to five different receivers.
Those kind of QB attributes are the ones found in some of the better QB’s in the nation, playing at some of the nations better programs.
The better player: Tuel
Jeff Tuel is the best player on the Washington State roster. He does everything you need in QB. Where Marshall Lobbestael is one dimensional, Tuel comes off looking like Jason Gesser. He has the pocket presence needed to step up and deliver a strike under duress.
He has the accuracy and arm strength to make most throws that Lobbestael sometimes has a problem completing. He is mobile. When the pocket collapses he has the uncanny ability to recognize where he is on the field, and where the first down marker is always at.
It is easy to understand why Jeff Tuel is a very gifted QB with a bright future. Simply put, Coach Wulff cannot make the mistake of bringing him back too early. The type of shoulder injury he does have, it would only take one hit or one bad landing to put him out for the rest of the season.
It would be irresponsible for Paul Wullf to neglect the long term health of his best player, but also the long term health of his program.
Either way the fans looking at this situation from the outside, there is going to be some static. If you stick with Lobbestael, fans will complain that Tuel should be in there. If Wulff goes with Tuel, fans will complain the he should’ve stuck with the Lobster. A catch-22 indeed.
Obviously from a gamesmanship standpoint, Coach Wulff isn’t exactly the greatest. I will say though, he has handled this the way you should. No distractions of any kind. Once Tuel was cleared, Wulff quickly defused any speculation and named Lobbestael his starter for UCLA.
Ultimately, Tuel is his guy.
As nice as a story as its been with Marshall Lobbestael, Jeff Tuel will the one to carry WSU as far as they want to go. It is true that football is a QB sport, but you simply cannot win with your backup.
For Paul Wulff and the uncertainty of his coaching future at Washington State, he cannot afford not to play Tuel. Because if AD Bill Moos does fire him at seasons end, at least Wulff can say he went out with his best player instead with his backup.