Spring Football: Back To The Future For QBs

Let's see, last March the Oklahoma State Cowboys opened spring football practice with Clint Chelf taking the first snap with the first offense on the first play of the first day of the spring. On Monday at around 3:30 p.m., Chelf will do it again. Oh, there are some differences between this March and last March.

A year ago, Chelf had never played in any situation other than mop-up duty behind eventual Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden. Chelf expected competition from then redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh and possibly new incoming freshman Wes Lunt. Walsh was a coach's son and a quarterback "gym rat" and Lunt was a record-setting state champion.

Now a year later all three are veteran quarterbacks that have posted at least one Big 12 and one nonconference victory as starters. All have thrown for more than 1,000 yards, at least 330 yards in a single game, and four touchdowns in a single game.

The biggest difference for Chelf, Walsh and Lunt is that Todd Monken in gone. The maestro that directed the three quarterback orchestra last season is now at Southern Miss trying to turn around a winless program.

Enter the surprise selection that Mike Gundy made to take over the reins of the powerful Cowboys offense. Many of us tried to help Gundy with his research and all of us amateur head hunters didn't look far enough.

Gundy found NCAA Division II offensive dynamo coach Mike Yurcich at Shippensburg State in Pennsylvania. In his seven years as an offensive coordinator, all at the Division II level, Yurcich has led his schools to national rankings in virtually all important offensive categories, has set school records for offense at both Edinboro and Shippensburg, and has coached a quarterback to the Division II equivalent of the Heisman in the Harlon Hill Trophy.

Yurcich spoke with the media for the first time Thursday morning. While he professed to being a diligent student in learning the current offense and watching all the video he could get his hands on, he declared he was not watching the video to keep score on the quarterbacks.

"I'm not going to make any predetermination and that sort of thing," Yurcich said of the quarterback competition for the spring. "We are going to let it all play out and see where we are at that point."

That is exactly what happened last March and April before a big surprise as Gundy told the media he had an idea on his own but wanted to discuss it with Monken and the offensive staff. He did and Lunt was the answer.

As we prepare to go through the exercise again, Gundy has volunteered what the ground rules might be. Could a starter be named before the end of spring? Could there be a draw leaving further competition for the job in August? Or will a starter be named at the end of spring to better polish leadership skills over the summer?

Here's what we know:

Clint Chelf guided the Cowboys to wins over West Virginia, Texas Tech, and the bowl win over Purdue with the close loss to OU (51-48 in overtime) and the loss to Baylor. The Enid, Okla., native completed 119-of-197 passes for 1,588 yards with 15 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He also ran for 154 yards on 20 carries.

J.W. Walsh stepped in on the first series after Lunt was injured against Louisiana. He helped the Cowboys win that game and then played well in the loss to Texas. He struggled some but the team won on the road at Kansas, and then he played really well on a fractured bone against Iowa State. He completed 109-of-163 passing for 1,564 yards with 13 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions. A talented runner, he carried 50 times for 320 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Wes Lunt started the season and after playing just a little more than a quarter in the victory over Savannah State, he threw for a freshman record 436 yards and 4 touchdowns at Arizona. He was hurt against Louisiana early and came back to play well and quarterback a win over TCU before suffering a concussion in the loss at Kansas State. He completed 81-of-131 passing for 1,108 yards with 6 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.

If the selection of the quarterback was based on numbers alone the decision would be between Chelf and Walsh with Lunt third. But despite the numbers Lunt has the strongest arm and is more adept physically for the option passing attack that is a big chunk of the offense.

If a team wants to keep the defense off balance and have the strong run and pass threat at quarterback then Walsh would be the top choice. He offers a combination, a cool demeanor, and the most experience in the heat of battle with Chelf. Chelf has a healthy dose of that "it" factor, but honestly it is something all three possess.

Nothing you read here is going to have any influence on who will win the quarterback position or when or how it will be decided. However, the quarterback position is the most interesting to fans and the most exciting position battle in the spring.

Don't forget that Daxx Garman, another talented quarterback from Jones (Okla.) High School who transferred from Arizona, is coming off his transfer year and is eligible to play. His lack of college experience will be a major obstacle to overcome.

Here is what we see in each quarterback and the major reason why Cowboys fans would want each one to be the "GUY."

Chelf persevered and earned the total respect of his teammates last season. They saw him face the disappointment of not winning the job when he was the favorite in the spring. They saw him put a good face on and help both Lunt and Walsh when they were the starting quarterback.

Then they saw him take over when it was his turn and show confidence, leadership, and ability in winning a huge game against West Virginia. Other than Bedlam, it was the most pressure packed game of the season. Chelf showed he is a winner and a competitor.

Walsh has been a leader since he first arrived. He quickly gained the respect of his teammates with his strong work ethic and enthusiasm. He loves the game and it shows all the time. He is really good at relating to teammates and is good at showing them he is looking to put them in the best possible position for success.

The offensive line is well aware of his ability to elude defenders and loves how he can make them look good and sometimes keep from making them look bad. Like Chelf, he has proven he is winner and competitor.

Lunt has the best arm in the group and that went a long way in him winning the job last spring. He threw the ball well and was amazing in avoiding turnovers, which also won him a lot of points.

Obviously, all three quarterbacks have so much more experience than they did at this time last March. But remember, Lunt was the youngest and he has to have benefitted as much as any of the three with the experience he had last season.

The speed of the game may have been his biggest obstacle last season, as it is for most freshmen and not just quarterbacks. He has that and more down now and he still has that really strong arm. To his credit, Lunt also learned well how to get rid of the football and avoid sacks. His injury against Louisiana may have sped that up.

OSU fans learned one thing last season, that all of them are talented and all of them can win games. Unlike last March there is no doubting these guys as they are all proven.

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