BBD Staff Writer: Joseph Curtis
There is a lot of focus on first-round pick quarterback E.J. Manuel, but there is little talk about Buffalo’s “other” rookie quarterback.
Shortly after the conclusion of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills signed Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel as an undrafted free agent.
When Tuel committed to WSU, Gary Kinne, his head coach at Clovis West High School (Fresno, Calif.), told Cougfan.com Tuel had all the tools to be an NFL quarterback and would have been a four or five-star recruit had he been more than a one-year high school starter. When Tuel became only the second true freshman in school history to start at quarterback — the other being Drew Bledsoe — he showed the skills Kinne talked about. He was raw, but the ability was there.
Tuel’s freshman season ended prematurely after six games due to a dislocated kneecap.
As a sophomore, Tuel started all 12 games and earned all-Pac-10 Conference honorable mention honors after throwing for 2,780 yards and 18 touchdowns with 12 interceptions.
After an encouraging first two seasons, injuries and inconsistency hindered Tuel’s success.
Injuries plagued Tuel’s junior season. He did not start the season opener versus Idaho State due to a stomach virus, then broke his left collarbone later that same game. He returned four games later before re-injuring his collarbone after only two games. He missed the remainder of the season.
Tuel struggled to transition to new coach Mike Leach’s “Air Raid” offense during his senior year. The quarterback position was a revolving door with Tuel and sophomore Connor Halliday were both in and out of the lineup. Tuel played in 10 games with seven starts, completing 63.6 percent of his passes for 2,087 yards while throwing eight touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Still, Tuel ended his career as the most accurate quarterback in WSU history, having completed 61.4 percent of his passes. He threw for 5,932 yards, 33 touchdowns and 25 interceptions in his career.
Despite a shaky end to his college career, Tuel’s skills intrigued the Bills enough to make him a priority signing once he went undrafted.
Tuel’s accuracy is one of the first things that stands out on his tape. He can place the ball right between the numbers of a receiver and displays great touch on deeper passes, leading his receivers for big gains. He also displays good accuracy when chased out of the pocket. He does, however, struggle with ball placement when defenders have tight coverage.
Tuel’s accuracy is surprising considering his only adequate arm strength and velocity.
Tuel possesses the arm strength to move the ball downfield, but the velocity on his throws leaves something to be desired. He too often floats the ball, which gives defenders more time to react, allows tight windows to close and leads to many interceptions.
He doesn’t throw a very pretty ball and it often comes out with a wobble.
His throwing motion is compact with a quick release, but his footwork is horribly inconsistent. His mechanics are all over the place when he scrambles.
He has very good pocket presence and is able to sense pressure from every direction. His quick feet and improvisation skills allowed him to escape rushers and extend plays. He also does a good job of keeping his eyes downfield when plays break down.
His mobility is also intriguing. According to his pro day video below, he ran a 4.58 40-yard dash time.