(UPDATE: Here's the unedited version of the story we're filing for tomorrow's paper)
FROM PULLMAN – Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel will no longer seek a fifth year of eligibility from the NCAA and will instead begin working toward an NFL career, Tuel confirmed to the Spokesman-Review.
The Seattle Times was the first to report Tuel’s decision.
Tuel sought the fifth year due to the amount of time he missed during the 2011 season. He broke his collarbone in WSU’s season-opener that year, missed the team’s next four games, then returned and played in one full game before reinjuring the collarbone in the first half of a game against Oregon State.
Tuel missed the rest of that season after being diagnosed with compartment syndrome.
Because that Oregon State game was WSU’s seventh of the season – meaning it came in the second half of the Cougars’ schedule – Tuel’s appeal was widely thought to be a long shot.
“It’s just all a big ‘if,’ and I’m not going to put my future on if,” Tuel said. “So the decision had to be made.”
Tuel said his the appeal appeared to depend upon whether he felt the previous coaching staff mishandled his injury or rushed him back too soon, something he did not believe was true.
“They (the NCAA) came back for a third time and just kept dragging it out,” Tuel said. “Every time, it took a week or two to get an answer. They wanted me to say I was pressured and mistreated by the coaching staff, the previous staff, and that’s something I’m not comfortable doing and I’m not about that.
Now, he will prepare for the NFL draft.
“I’d like to work with somebody and train and get ready for pro day and hopefully get to the combine and hopefully get invited to a Senior Bowl,” Tuel said. “I need to get to as many of those things as possible. I’ve had a few agents contact me and I’m going to meet with them and see what the best route is for me to take.
“I understand I’ve been plagued by injuries and I don’t have the greatest numbers in the world, but that’s not what the NFL is all about. That’s why I need to get in front of NFL coaches and scouts and show my abilities as many times as I can.”
As a fourth-year senior this season, Tuel appeared in 10 games and threw for 2,091 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions.
He and sophomore Connor Halliday each struggled at times, prompting coach Mike Leach to go back and forth between each player as the team's starting quarterback. Tuel won the starting job in the spring, but was forced out of action briefly after suffering a sprained MCL against Eastern Washington in WSU's second game of the season.
Halliday, who will be a junior, will likely be the favorite to start at quarterback for WSU next season. Austin Apodaca, who will be a redshirt freshman, could also compete for the starting job. WSU has also received an oral commitment from high-school senior Tyler Bruggman, a highly-rated quarterback prospect from Phoenix.
“They’ll be great. Another year in the system, that’s the biggest thing in coach Leach’s system is learning what makes it tick and checking things and that’s what I started to get a grasp of there toward the end,” Tuel said. “And Connor will do that. Same with Austin. Hopefully Austin can compete for the job as well and they can push each other. I think they’ll be in a great spot.”