QB decision looms for indecisive Cowboys

April, 26, 2012
4/26/12
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STILLWATER, Okla. -- Wednesday morning, Oklahoma State's coaches met, but at no point during the day did smoke of any color drift from above Boone Pickens Stadium, signifying that the torch had been passed from record-setting quarterback Brandon Weeden to his successor.

Nowhere inside the stadium did Pickens tap a fresh-faced quarterback on each shoulder with his orange scepter, designating him as the face of the program Pickens has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into.

Well, not yet, anyway.

The decision might still come later this week. It might not. Either way, the delay says plenty. The target date of naming a starter by the end of spring has passed. Oklahoma State held its spring game Saturday.

"If we don’t know, then we won’t do it. But if we know, then we’ll certainly do it," coach Mike Gundy told ESPN.com in a recent interview. "That’s as important as anything we'll do in the offseason."

[+] EnlargeJ.W. Walsh
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiRedshirt freshman J.W. Walsh has brought improved mechanics to Oklahoma State's three-way quarterback competition.
Gundy wants his new quarterback to spearhead offseason workouts and entrench himself as the guy his teammates follow. He can place deadlines on the decision all he wants, but ultimately, junior Clint Chelf, redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh and true freshman Wes Lunt will make the decision on the field.

"It’d be nice to have a starter named by the summer, but you’d better be in that position where you know for sure," Cowboys offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. "You wouldn’t want guys to be bummed all summer and not work as hard, and then one week into fall camp be like, did we screw that up?

"You want it to be done if you know, but if you don’t know?"

That's where Oklahoma State finds itself today. Do OSU's coaches know? Lunt, Walsh and Chelf didn't make it easy on them through 15 practices this spring.

Each received an equal share of work with the first team, and Monken says that's all that can truly be evaluated when making the decision. The second-team offense -- namely receivers and offensive line -- aren't good enough yet to provide a reliable measuring stick.

None of the three signal-callers fell behind enough to redistribute reps to the top two and thus allow the coaches a larger sample; giving players too many reps with a lesser supporting cast could be a fatal blow to the trait Monken and Gundy want most: confidence.

"We’ve got to continue to play well around these guys and allow them to function, because none of them right now are capable of carrying us themselves. We don’t have that guy right now. He’s not here right now," Monken said. "Maybe he will be, but right now, he’s not."

Monken's not exactly sweating. He had a guy who could do it last year in Weeden, but looking around college football, he knows few teams have a quarterback who can truly carry a team.

"It didn’t take long when ol’ (Oklahoma receiver Ryan) Broyles went down and (OU) started running the dozer to think, 'Do we have our guy?' That didn’t take long," Monken said. "Landry Jones went from like, 'I’m the man,' to all of a sudden, 'I haven’t thrown a touchdown pass, I'm fumbling it over my head at Oklahoma State. I gotta go back and see my quarterback guru.'"

There's no doubt Oklahoma State's coaches have pored over hours of tape from all three candidates in the past few weeks and months. Still, there's no resolution.

"They’re all doing really good," Monken said. "They wouldn’t say that, as much as I yell at them, but they’ve all done better than I thought they’d do for where they’re at."

Walsh has improved his mechanics. Chelf has proved his status as the group's elder statesman and embraced a role as a leader. Lunt has done his best to figure out what is going on and showcase his status as the quarterback with the most traditional build and arm strength.

Some of what coaches want, though, can't show up on game tape.

"The biggest thing is that the cats around him believe in him," Monken said.

Weeden is gone. Oklahoma State doesn't have a quarterback who exudes greatness. Yet, anyway. It does have three good ones, though, and even with a decision looming, Monken isn't all that nervous.

"You can go from a guy who makes everybody look a lot better to guys we’ve got to help out a little bit. But they’ll be fine. We’ll be fine. Winning and losing this year won’t be a matter of whether we find a quarterback or not," Monken said. "It’ll be, will we stay healthy with the guys we have and the depth that we have. That’ll be the big thing. The guys will play well around whoever we have."

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