In Stillwater and Moscow, Two Competitions
By Paul Myerberg // Apr 27, 2012
One springtime quarterback battle was decided yesterday, when Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State opted for true freshman Wes Lunt over junior Clint Chelf and redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh. It’s easy to view Oklahoma State’s decision as one made for the future, but in a university statement, Gundy implied that Lunt gives the Cowboys their best chance at maintaining the program’s current standard of success: “We like our system. We like the ability to play fast. We like the ability to throw the ball down the field effectively but also run the football. Wes gives us the best opportunity to stay consistent with our style of play.”
Oklahoma State is lucky: Gundy has a “style of play.” The Cowboys have a system that works; all they need is a quarterback capable of making the throws the system demands. Same with Stanford and Notre Dame: both have systems with a history of proven results — David Shaw just needs a replacement for Andrew Luck, and Brian Kelly just needs his South Bend stand-in for Tony Pike.
Just, as if it’s that easy. But in nearly every fashion possible, you’d rather have Stanford’s situation, or be in Oklahoma State’s shoes, than be like Idaho, which is going through its own quarterback competition. Think what Oklahoma State has, then compare that to what Robb Akey and his staff are working with in Moscow.
Gundy’s decision wasn’t easy. But in Chelf, he had a two-year backup who had played very well in his limited snaps. Over the last two seasons, Chelf had completed 34 of 49 attempts for 530 yards and 5 scores with only a single interception. In addition, Chelf is entering his third season in this Air Raid-style offense.
In Walsh, the Cowboys had a mobile, dual-threat quarterback who as a high school senior was ranked as one of the top 100 recruits in the nation. While still growing as a passer, Walsh could have lent this offense a different look out of the shotgun formation; he still may, though in certain packages, not as the starter.
All you can of Lunt, seeing that he’s only been on campus since January, is that he’s clearly better than both Chelf and Walsh — that speaks volumes, especially since most simply expected O.S.U. to transition from Brandon Weeden to his former backup. The most prolific passer in Illinois high school history, Lunt’s cool demeanor in the pocket belies his lack of experience.
“God gave me an ability to throw the ball and I’m just so blessed to be in the situation that I am,” said Lunt. “I’m just overwhelmed.” Said Gundy: “He’s tall, he’s very mature, he’s got good arm strength… We like his maturity and we like where he’s at in our offense, essentially still being a high school player.”
Now consider what Akey’s dealing with at Idaho. Taylor Davis, last year’s backup, can’t throw the ball with consistency. True freshmen Austin DeCoud and Chad Chalich are nowhere near ready to start on the F.B.S. level — neither is like Lunt, who arrived in Stillwater with enough polish to start for a team with B.C.S. aspirations.
The Vandals’ best option is Dominique Blackman, whose road to Idaho went through Washington, where he originally committed coming out of high school; to Los Angeles Harbor College, a JUCO stop in California; to Old Dominion, where he took a redshirt in 2010; to Idaho, where he sat out last season due to N.C.A.A. transfer rules.
In comparison, Idaho’s working with an empty deck. What Oklahoma State had were three evenly-matched options, even if Gundy and Todd Monken thought Lunt gave the Cowboys the best chance at another double-digit win season. Idaho has nothing of the sort: Blackman may be the best option, but is he a good option?
In a quarterback-driven game, the quarterback competitions at Oklahoma State and Idaho illustrate the distance separating college football’s elite and its also-rans. Any one of the Cowboys’ three options would start for a good percentage of F.B.S., including Idaho. Blackman might start for Idaho, but at how many other F.B.S. stops would he get the nod?
Tags: Brian Kelly, Clint Chelf, David Shaw, Dominique Blackman, Idaho, J.W. Walsh, Mike Gundy, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Robb Akey, Stanford, Taylor Davis, Todd Monken, Wes Lunt
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