Clovis News: Sports

Cougars give Clovis West grad Tuel his shot

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Ryan Leaf didn't do it. Neither did Jason Gesser.

Saturday, Jeff Tuel will become the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Washington State since Drew Bledsoe in 1990. It's an effort to improve a rare two-year run of woeful passing.

Tuel, out of Clovis West High, will start for the Cougars (1-3, 0-2 Pac-10) at No. 16 Oregon after playing well last weekend at USC.

The 6-foot-3 207-pounder never even threw a varsity pass until his senior year with the Golden Eagles, but threw for 1,714 yards and 12 touchdowns and had nearly 700 yards rushing in Clovis West's Central Section championship campaign.

It didn't take long for Tuel to impress Cougars coaches in practice, and his first game action offered further proof he is ready.

"He's got a lot to learn," coach Paul Wulff said Tuesday, "but that's where the program is now, bringing in a lot of young kids."

Tuel entered the USC game in the second quarter in relief of Marshall Lobbestael and completed 14 of 22 passes for 130 yards and one interception. He also ran nine times for 34 yards.

Freshman quarterbacks are a trend in the Pac-10. Matt Barkley starts at USC, redshirt freshman Andrew Luck at Stanford and another redshirt freshman, Kevin Prince, was UCLA's starter until he was injured.

Cougars quarterbacks have three touchdowns and six interceptions.

Tuel will not be available to the media before his start, the school said, but he did comment after the USC game.

"It was an amazing experience, and it meant the world to me to have my teammates getting my back like they did," Tuel said. "I'll learn from everything tonight."