Spring Review: Quarterbacks

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has not been real excited about publicly staging a full-scale quarterback competition. His stance is understandable because the public is often in a hurry to declare a winner and a loser. In many cases, the script calls for the loser to leave town and seek another school where he can be the starter and the affection of a new fan base.

That is the view of a quarterback competition or showdown from a media standpoint.

From a coach's angle the competition simply points you to the guy ready to take snaps today or the next Saturday. In a perfect world the best quarterback on your team, the one that fits your offense and talent the best, stays healthy and answers the bell for every start.

Check Big 12 results from last season, only Baylor's Bryce Petty started every game and handled every significant snap for his team. Every other team started at least two different quarterbacks and some played three a significant number of snaps.

Gundy and his staff, including offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich, have a group of quarterbacks that they like. Before spring practice started Yurcich said he was absolutely excited about the talent and the range of the quarterbacks he has to work with. He admitted that the three walk-on quarterbacks were all talented and could play.

The facts show that J.W. Walsh has played a sizable amount of football. If this were baseball and a quarterback was assigned a record just like a pitcher then Walsh would be a combined 7-1 for the last two seasons with eight starts.

As a redshirt freshman, Walsh came in the Louisiana-Lafayette game early when Wes Lunt was injured and guided the Cowboys to a huge win. The next week he went toe-to-toe with Texas and by all rights should have been the winning quarterback as he accounted for almost 500 yards of total offense.

A sluggish weather-delayed win over Kansas came the next week. Then came a sensational win over Iowa State on Homecoming that Walsh played with a cracked knee in his final start of the season.

As a sophomore last season he came in to quarterback the opening win over Mississippi State in Houston and then started the next five games with wins over UTSA, Lamar and Kansas State. There was the loss on the road at West Virginia and then he did start the TCU game but was replaced in the first half by Clint Chelf, who gets the credit for the win if that were how it were done.

That is a lot of experience. The son of a very successful high school coach in Texas, Walsh knows the thing you do in looking to be the starting quarterback is you improve on your weaknesses and you keep building on your strengths. Walsh has done that. In the spring he was throwing the ball better and making better decisions on where he threw it.

Gundy didn't talk a lot about the quarterbacks but he was fairly free flowing with his comments after the Orange Blitz when the fans all saw the quarterbacks put through their paces in drills like seven-on-seven and in a scrimmage.

"I think we're fine at the quarterback position," Gundy said after the Orange Blitz on April 5. "J.W. [Walsh] is coming along well and we've seen him for a number of years, and Mason [Rudolph] is doing well - he's a high school kid out there running around and playing.

"Daxx [Garman] is doing well and [Jake] Hubenak is doing fine. We're really inexperienced on the offensive line, especially at the twos. We just don't have much depth. We have two starters who aren't out there with us. For that reason, when the twos are out there, it can be tough on a quarterback. Those five guys are giving us everything, but they've never played at this level. It's not easy for those guys to function, but they're coming along well. We're making some strides."

Gundy mentioned the top four as Walsh was the primary quarterback with the first team most of the spring. Garman made major strides this spring in running the team and he has always had a strong arm, which he put on display often this spring.

On the day the media was invited to practice, the team conducted an 85-play scrimmage. They saw Walsh very effectively lead the team. They saw Garman hit on some big plays in the passing game. They saw Rudolph do some of the same but show signs that he was still learning the speed of the game and making the adjustments that naturally come with going from high school to major college football. They also saw walk-on Jake Hubenak throw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Kameron Doolittle.

That was really a good microcosm of the spring. Garman missed the last week of the spring after a knee sprain and that allowed Rudolph to take more snaps and you could see his progression speed up. It also got a few more snaps for Hubenak, who is a talented player. The fifth quarterback Richard Lagow has been holding for placements for the kickers and he may be groomed for that duty in the fall.

While Gundy broke down and discussed quarterbacks once after the Orange Blitz, Yurcich was fairly quiet on the topic other than clearly stating his goal for the quarterbacks throughout the spring.

"Ball security. That's where it starts," Yurcich expressed. "Also, getting us into good plays or out of bad plays, making sure we have the advantage from a numbers standpoint and understanding the situation."

All of that is charted and it appeared to be good for the most part. The interceptions that were visible like the Ashton Lampkin pick in the Blitz that he took into the end zone for a score were tough plays for the defense and in the case of that interception it was tipped by the intended receiver.

Gundy told the media last Friday that he thought there would be a two-deep depth chart released sometime this week. We, unfortunately, beat the release of that so we take a shot. This would be my guess on the depth chart at quarterback.
1. J.W. Walsh
2. Daxx Garman or Mason Rudolph
3. Jake Hubenak

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