January 3, 2013

Another offseason of the quarterback in Stillwater is set to begin

The Oklahoma State football season is already over.

I don't even know where to begin when describing it, which is something I'll try to do on a later post, but it seemed like it was all a blur as I look back at it.
As is usually the case with end-of-season posts, I'll be going over every big question in the next couple of weeks that surround the team as they lick their 2012 wounds and hit the weight room to get ready for 2013.

As any of you can probably guess, the first and biggest question is the quarterback race, and it sure was entertaining this season.

The Cowboys played three different guys behind center with four changes in 12 games. Despite the flipping and flopping, each candidate passed for over 1,000 yards and put their team in a position to win every game on the schedule.

But usually that's not a way you're going to win a lot, though it somehow did work this season. Glimpses of the problems that come with that situation were evident (spotty distribution to receivers, play-calling differences, etc.) and Oklahoma State will look to solidify a starter this offseason just as they did last year.

To begin 2012, it was freshman-phenom Wes Lunt, but by the time the season was all said and done, it was Clint Chelf stealing the show.

Let's take a look at the candidates for the job (again) as we head towards another fun offseason of quarterback questions.

Frontrunner: Clint Chelf, Senior

2012 stats: 1,588 yards, 15 TD's, 6 INT's
Wins: West Virginia, Texas Tech, Purdue
Losses: Part of Kansas State, Oklahoma (OT), Baylor

Info: He's got to be the frontrunner after his bowl performance, even if it was against a much (much) weaker Purdue team. Chelf stole the hearts of the fans in 2012 with his surge up the depth chart. He started the year as the third-string quarterback who was getting the scraps of the reps in practice, but because of all of the injuries he found himself facing National Championship contender Kansas State in Manhattan in a two-score game.

Chelf isn't the biggest arm or the fastest feet, but he's a solid game-manager. He'll average about 250 yards and a touchdown or two per game, and will almost always give you a chance to win it no matter who you're playing against. You could see his confidence grow from the Kansas State game to the Oklahoma game before he hiccupped against Baylor, and he seems like a solid pick for the starting job when the Pokes take the field to start the 2013 season.

The really solid backup: J.W. Walsh

2012 stats: 1,564 yards, 13 TD's, 3 INT's
Wins: Louisiana, Kansas, Iowa State
Losses: Texas

Info: Walsh's lone loss came against Texas on what looked to be a Longhorn fumble that was actually ruled a game-winning touchdown. But besides that, Walsh defied the odds in 2012 and surprised everyone with what he did.

He came to Oklahoma State as one of the nation's best dual-threat quarterback prospects, and when the Cowboys switched to the air-raid offense in 2010, many were concerned if Walsh had the arm strength to keep up. When he finally got his shot against Louisiana, it was obvious that the playbook had been reduced a bit because he still lacked the arm strength needed to make every throw, but he thrived in what he was given, and finished the year with a 170.1 passer rating, which is good for fourth-best in the nation. That playbook part is the only concern with Walsh as the starter, and that's enough to keep him in his role as a backup and red-zone quarterback, though that's not a career role for him if he keeps playing like he did this year.

The Unknown: Wes Lunt

2012 stats: 1,108 yards, 6 TD's, 7 INT's
Wins: Savannah State, TCU
Losses: Arizona, Kansas State

Info: I have no idea what to think about Lunt after this season. He came in having won over the coaching staff in spring ball with his electric arm and prototypical air-raid quarterback style. He looked good when he was playing, starting the season with a perfect 11/11 passing performance against Savannah State. He threw it well again against Arizona, though the defense couldn't slow down the Wildcat offense. Then the injury came against Louisiana, and outside of a solid performance against TCU, that's about all we saw of Lunt in 2012.

After his injury, he looked like he still didn't quite have his feet under him. Though it was never really confirmed, rumors said he dislocated his kneecap, among other possible injuries, and it was noticeable that he wasn't shifting his weight from leg to leg when throwing like he had before the injury. I labeled Lunt as the unknown because he has all the talent and raw ability in the world, and it showed early in the season. But is he injury prone? Will he ever get over that knee? Only time will tell, but Oklahoma State would win big if he figures it out.

The Wild Card: Daxx Garman

2012 stats: Missed season due to transfer rules (Transferred from Arizona after freshman year). Has three years of eligibility remaining.

Info: Not much is known about Garman in Stillwater, especially since OSU practices are closed. He played high school ball at Jones before transferring to Texas powerhouse Southlake Carroll for his senior year of high school, and I saw him throw there quite a bit before the season started and he was eventually ruled ineligible by UIL for transferring for sports. He had been a commit to Arizona since his junior year, and was an early-enrollee there. He then went through a spring semester of the weight room, a fall semester in 2011, and transferred to Oklahoma State for spring of 2012.

Garman had an electric arm in high school, and had the confidence to make any throw on the field. His plus side is that he's had two years in a collegiate weight program, which means he's become even stronger since that high school tape we've all probably watched a million times by now. His down side is that he hasn't played since high school, which Gundy even referenced when I asked him about Garman back at the end of October. Rumors came out of spring ball that Garman would've been competing with Lunt for the starting job had he been eligible, though they obviously were never confirmed. Still, if Garman is as good as advertised and he receives a chance, he could possibly contend for the job and shock Cowboy nation. Does it happen? I have no idea, but I don't know if it would surprise me after the season we all just saw.

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