STILLWATER, Okla. -- Last season Oklahoma State became the first FBS team since 1996 to have three 1,000-yard passers.
Two of those passers -- Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh -- are back. But their teammates don’t seem to care which wins the starting quarterback job. They say they can put up the points with either. Or, perhaps, even both.
“Doesn’t matter to me at all,” said Josh Stewart, who led Oklahoma State in receiving last year. “They both put up big numbers without even playing the whole season.
“We’re very confident in both of them.”
The Cowboys have reason to be.
After Brandon Weeden set school records during Oklahoma State’s Fiesta Bowl run in 2011, the Cowboys were left without a clear succession plan at quarterback going into 2012. Chelf and Walsh battled incoming freshman Wes Lunt for the job during spring. Then days after spring ball, coach Mike Gundy stunned everyone, even his own players, by naming Lunt the starter.
“We really had no clue what our season would look like because we didn’t have a quarterback until summertime,” Stewart said. “And it was Wes, which was a shocker to everybody because it was a freshman coming in. We had Clint, who was a veteran and J-Dub, who performed really well in the spring game. Wes was the last person we were thinking.
“It was a shocker.”
Lunt showed why Gundy picked him to start by throwing for 436 yards and four touchdowns in a shootout loss to Arizona the second game of the season. But a week later, Lunt was out of the lineup with a knee injury, and Walsh was in. And the offense kept on humming, as the Cowboys racked up 576 yards against Texas, then 625 against Iowa State.
After Walsh suffered his own knee injury -- and Lunt got knocked out again with a concussion -- Chelf was in. And the offense kept on humming. With Chelf at the helm, the Cowboys scored 55 points against West Virginia, 59 against Texas Tech and 48 at Oklahoma in a heartbreaking, overtime loss in which the Cowboys led virtually the entire game.
All told, despite shuffling through three inexperienced quarterbacks, Oklahoma State finished third in the nation in scoring, averaging almost 46 points a game.
“We were very fortunate they didn’t have any experience and still played pretty well,” Gundy said. “You feel a little better this year because they’ve been out there, they’ve played on the road, they’ve been in tough environments, they’ve executed and they certainly know the offense better than they did a year ago.”
Gundy hasn’t made either quarterback available to the media this preseason. He hasn’t indicated when he’ll name a starter, either – although he did say he would have done so already if the Cowboys weren’t facing an SEC opponent in the opener.
Because he ended last season as the starter, Chelf is the favorite to get the nod over Walsh against Mississippi State in Houston. But their teammates hinted a two-quarterback attack isn’t off the table, either.
“I’d be looking out for both of them,” said running back Jeremy Smith. “I think it’s going to be a one-two punch with those guys.”
Walsh is the better runner, and operated Oklahoma State’s goal line package late last season when he returned from injury. Chelf, meanwhile, is more comfortable throwing downfield out of the pocket.
“I think that’s got to be the scariest thing for rest of the Big 12, if we put both those guys back there at different times,” said receiver Blake Jackson. “That’s really dangerous.”
Whether they play Chelf, play Walsh or play both, the Cowboys ought to be dangerous on offense once again. Due in large part to their two quarterbacks.
“This year, we know what we have,” Stewart said. “We know what our quarterbacks can do.
“And we’re very confident, because both are great.”