The Oklahoma State Cowboys entered their spring practice with major question marks across the roster because of the vast number of starters and key role players graduating after the 2013 season.
However, no position battle is more important than the one taking place at the quarterback position.
Oklahoma State has entered into the last few springs with a major battle taking place amongst the team's signal-callers, and this year is no different.
Obviously, J.W. Walsh is the favorite given his starting experience over the last two seasons. That said, Mason Rudolph is a blue chip prospect with a cannon for an arm and experience in the Air Raid system from high school. And the story doesn't end there, as Daxx Garman has emerged as a surprising contender with a head-turning spring performance.
Where does the position battle stand after last weekend's Orange Blitz event? Read on to find out.
J.W. Walsh, the Incumbent
If you're looking for the definition of even stock, Walsh is your guy.
Lost in the hype generated by Rudolph's arrival and Garman's progression is what Walsh has been doing on the practice field. He has stayed steady and remained a game-changing presence with his ability to run and pass.
If the real games started today, Walsh would probably be the starter. He's a proven commodity the coaches know can run the offense and make plays.
However, the same knocks on his game are still there, though they've certainly lessened this spring. His arm is probably average at best and he still seems inconsistent with his accuracy.
If Walsh's arm strength isn't as improved as it looked at the Orange Blitz, it might be enough to open the door for Rudolph or Garman. The Pokes have a plethora of receivers (namely Jhajuan Seales and Blake Webb) who can get open deep and Walsh has shown in the past that he can't always take advantage of that.
If Rudolph or Garman can prove they have the subtleties of the offense down, they could make a convincing case for being the Day 1 starter.
Mason Rudolph, the Star Freshman
Mason Rudolph came into Stillwater with the kind of hype that met Wes Lunt a few years ago. Both looked like the prototype you would build for the Air Raid offense and both had a chance to start as true freshmen.
That said, every time Mike Gundy has been asked about Rudolph this spring, he's talked about how young Rudolph is. Often referring to him as a high school kid (Rudolph was an early enrollee this spring).
That might not be the glowing praise fans might've expected given Rudolph's hype; however, it's a smart tactic from Gundy.
It's likely that Oklahoma State's head coach simply doesn't want anything to get to his young quarterback's head and is being very metered in his praise. He can't go touting Rudolph as the best thing since sliced bread from Day 1 and expect him to keep working hard.
Regardless of how well Rudolph is actually playing, these are the kind of comments you should expect from Gundy during this entire process.
Additionally, Rudolph's mostly playing behind a makeshift offensive line this spring, making it even harder to gauge his performance during his first action as a Cowboy.
However, I still think Rudolph is below Walsh (and maybe Garman) on the totem pole right now. Gundy doesn't want another Wes Lunt on his hands and will likely let Rudolph sit and learn for a season before handing him the reins in 2015.
Daxx Garman, the Big Surprise
Of all the news coming out of Oklahoma State's spring practice, the progression of Garman has to be the most surprising.
Garman spent his spring being praised by the coaching staff and former players alike. When former Cowboy great Brandon Weeden stopped by, he said that Garman could "flat-out spin it" and talked about how good the young man looked in the pocket.
Even though Garman hasn't played organized football in a few years, you wouldn't know it from watching him throw darts all over the field.
Unfortunately, in the practice before the Orange Blitz, Garman hurt his knee on a non-contact play and had to be carted off the field. It's a very unfortunate setback for a guy who was playing so well prior to that practice.
However, we still have five months until the season starts, meaning Garman could come back and make a play for the starting spot.
At the end of the day, Walsh is still the likely starter, but don't be surprised if Garman or Rudolph makes a big push and uses their superior arm to take over.
Let's just hope we don't get a repeat of 2013 and see Walsh struggle early before getting replaced by a better arm. This is a decision Gundy has to get right from Day 1 if the Pokes want to compete in 2014.