It has been said that if a team has two quarterbacks, it has none. Luckily for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, they had three quarterbacks during the 2012 season.
The Cowboys’ three different starters each won at least two games at different points during the season. While that depth benefited the Cowboys in light of their injuries this season, it makes for a perplexing offseason for fans, coaches and players alike.
Breaking down and ranking the three quarterbacks is also taxing, as each is a very different player with a dissimilar playing style. All three had success this season, but each had it in very different ways.
Coming into the spring in 2012, few expected that true freshman Wes Lunt would win the job after graduating high school and coming to Oklahoma State early in January. That is just what he did though, beating out a redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh and junior Clint Chelf.
Walsh had redshirted a year after being a highly recruited dual-threat out of Denton Guyer, learning from Chelf and Brandon Weeden during the Cowboys’ Big 12 title-winning season.
Chelf was a local player whose brother played at receiver for the Cowboys and who had proven himself to be a capable backup behind Weeden for two years.
Now, heading into 2013, the quarterback situation for the Cowboys is surprisingly even more complex. Each player has proven that he can win as a starter for a Division I team in one of the best football conferences in the nation.
No matter what Mike Gundy and his coaching staff decide, there will be someone left out of this equation. They have used multiple quarterback sets this season regularly and will likely continue, but at least one guy will not see any playing time.
The vast differences in their playing styles, combined with their differing strengths and weaknesses makes power ranking the quarterbacks tough as well.
1. Wes Lunt
A very strong case can be made that Wes Lunt was the least impressive of the three quarterbacks this season. The true freshman threw more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (six), and he seemed to struggle with the spotlight at times.
However, just about all of those struggles can be explained by his status as a true freshman and all of the injuries he sustained this season.
After looking very impressive in his first two games against Savannah State and Arizona, Lunt went down very early against Louisiana-Lafayette and played just one more full game for the rest of the season.
It is clear that, although he might have been ready skill-wise, Lunt’s body was not ready for the physical beating he would take as a quarterback in the Big 12.
He did show us why the Cowboys wanted him in the first place though. Lunt proved himself to have a big, accurate arm. He also showed fearlessness in the pocket by standing down blitzes and taking big hits.
Lunt is where Gundy and his staff want to go with their future. The Cowboys’ heavy-passing system needs an accurate arm and benefits from a big quarterback with good vision.
At 6’4” and with his arm, Lunt is clearly that guy.
2. J.W. Walsh
When Lunt did go out in that game against Louisiana-Lafayette, Cowboy fans had no idea what they would get from J.W. Walsh. Needless to say, they were impressed.
Of all three of these Cowboy quarterbacks, Walsh is actually the one that you can most safely bet will see playing time next season because of the QB-run package Oklahoma State has installed for him. Even if Walsh is not named the starter, he will still play an important role in the offense.
Although he lacks Lunt’s passing abilities, Walsh can definitely run Oklahoma State’s offense at a high level.
After coming in for the injured Wes Lunt, Walsh threw for 347 yards, ran for 73 yards and accounted for five touchdowns against ULL. He started the next three games and threw for 1,478 yards, ran for 277 yards and had 18 total touchdowns for the season.
His ability to move the ball with his legs adds a very interesting dimension to the Cowboys’ up-tempo offense, and Gundy has had success with a running quarterback in the past (Zac Robinson).
When it comes to passing, Walsh falls behind Lunt. That is the primary reason he is No. 2. However, he has still earned playing time regardless of where he falls in the quarterback competition next spring.
3. Clint Chelf
After Walsh was hurt against Iowa State, Cowboy fans wondered if Clint Chelf, the most experienced Cowboy quarterback, would finally see some playing time.
Wes Lunt came back for a game, but he was injured yet again against Kansas State on the road.
The player who has come to be known as “Choo-Choo-Chelf” saw the first significant playing time of his career in that game against a Top Five team. He did not disappoint.
Chelf helped the Cowboys keep fighting, and even though the game resulted in a loss, the junior had earned the chance to start against West Virginia the next week.
He ended up starting the last four games of the season and finished the season with 1,391 passing yards and 12 touchdowns. Chelf will likely start again in the bowl game against Purdue.
Although Chelf is No. 3 on this list because he is probably the least-talented of the group, there is one area in which he has a major advantage. It was clear that Chelf was the calmest under pressure, playing well on the road against teams like Kansas State and Oklahoma.
That was due to his experience in the offense and program, and that will have to be what he uses to win the starting job if he is destined to have it in 2013.
Ultimately, though, it almost does not matter who Gundy and the Cowboys choose to lead them at quarterback next year.
All three of these players have proven themselves worthy, and even though it may be a hard decision, the success of each of them has made it an easy one as well. No matter who Gundy chooses, the odds are with him that his choice will play well.
Even if the player he chooses does not, no one will be able to blame Gundy because all of the evidence points to them all being good players.
The 2013 version of the Oklahoma State Cowboys is looking like it will be a talented one. Especially at quarterback.
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