PULLMAN – Call him Coach Tuel.
That’s not to say that Washington State’s quarterback thinks he’s ready to take over the reins from Mike Leach. But with the 15th and final practice of the spring in the books as of about 6 p.m. Tuesday, the onus is now on Jeff Tuel to make sure the Cougars’ summer workouts go off without a hitch.
Or with a hitch, plenty of verticals, a few corner routes and some crossing patterns.
“I need to hold guys accountable,” Tuel said after WSU’s spring-ending workout Tuesday. “I need to get the guys out here when we throw and kind of run my own practice, per se, out here – especially (get) the offensive guys caught up and up to par.”
Leach said players will participate in a “voluntary” throwing program during the summer, in addition to their conditioning sessions with strength coach Jason Loscalzo.
And by voluntary, Leach means …
“Anyone who wants to develop their skills and get any good will be out there,” he said. “The right type of player will be out there throwing all the time.”
Some players, like Tuel and receiver Bobby Ratliff, will return to their respective hometowns after school ends early next month. Others, such as defensive end/linebacker Travis Long, will remain in Pullman. But everyone will be back about mid-May when the Cougars’ summer conditioning program begins.
They’ll run and lift in the mornings, Tuel said, then head out to the practice field to run routes and throw passes during the afternoon.
Tuel said their on-field regimen during the summer will be “almost (the) same exact setup” the team uses during regular practices.
“I think you can really kind of clean up the edges a little bit and crisp it up,” Tuel said. “Just really make it so you know it like the back of your hand.”
That’s something coaches expect from every player on both offense and defense. But there might be more room for the offense to grow, considering how heavily Leach relies on the passing game, and how easily that can be practiced during the summer.
“The one thing you see with basketball players is as soon as the season’s over, they’re all out there playing pickup basketball,” Leach said. “So throwing and catching kind of lends itself to that a little bit.
“You want them to do as much as they’ll do. No matter who you are or how good you are, you want to be as good as you can and that process never really ends. It’s kind of like Jerry Rice, the day after the Super Bowl he’s running the hill and doing his sprints and catches and everything else. If it’s good enough for Jerry Rice, it ought to be good enough for them.”
Players had mixed emotions about spring ending. There is an inherent tedium that accompanies practices in any sport, no matter how much excitement might surround the first few. But the Cougars also know there’s still plenty of work to do before their Sept. 1 opener at Brigham Young.
“Everyone’s a little relieved,” Ratliff said. “But I’m sure all of us still want to get better and keep improving on our craft.”
“I kind of don’t want it to be over,” Tuel said. “(I) want to come out here and keep throwing some balls. Physically, for a lot of these guys, I know we need some rest, especially for the receivers and their legs.”
That thought is well illustrated with a glance at the sideline. Several key contributors remain limited by injury, including receiver Kristoff Williams, linebackers Chester Su’a and Darryl Monroe, offensive linemen Matt Goetz and Wade Jacobson, defensive backs Tyree Toomer and Nolan Washington and defensive end Lenard Williams, among others.