BY SPNW Staff 04:47PM 12/18/2012

WSU’s Tuel skips 5th-year pursuit; aims for draft

Umwilling to wait for a decision from the NCAA, senior quarterback Jeff Tuel decided not to seek a fifth year of eligibility at Washington State and will make himself eligible for the 2013 NFL draft. That leaves the starting job to Connor Halliday, a sophomore with whom Tuel swapped the No. 1 position as new coach Mike Leach in his first year tried to make something out of one of the nation’s  worst offenses.

Tuel played in 10 games this year and threw for 2,091 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions.

“I have had a great four years at Washington State and will always be grateful to the university, my teammates, coaches and especially the fans,” said Tuel in a university statement. “I feel it is time to pursue my life-long dream of playing in the NFL.”

Tuel petitioned the NCAA to receive a fifth year of eligibility after having played in only three games in 2011. In that season’s opener, he suffered a collarbone injury that kept him out of action for the next four weeks. He returned to play the entire game against Stanford Oct. 15, then started the following game against Oregon State. He re-injured the collarbone and was lost for the year.

“The petition process has been going for months and there have been a number of questions over the past few weeks, but no decision,” said Tuel. “Everyone involved has done their best to support me and I truly appreciate their efforts. However, given the uncertainty in the outcome and timing, I feel it is in my best interest to move on in hopes of getting an opportunity to prove my skills at the next level.”

Tuel played in 31 games during his career, 26 as a starter, and completed 531 of 865 passes for 5,936 yards and 33 touchdowns. His completions are fifth-best all-time at WSU while he is sixth in attempts and seventh in yards and touchdowns. Tuel ended his career as the school’s all-time leader in completion percentage (.614).

Tuel won the starting job in the spring, but was forced out briefly after suffering a sprained MCL against Eastern Washington in WSU’s second game of the season.

Halliday will get competition from Austin Apodaca, who will be a redshirt freshman. WSU also received an oral commitment from high-school senior Tyler Bruggman, a highly rated 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. That’s what I started to get a grasp of there toward the end,” Tuel told the Spokesman Review newspaper. “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.”

Said Leach in the school’s statement: “We appreciate Jeff’s contributions to Cougar football and wish him the very best.”