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Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Take Two: Biggest preseason surprise?

By Jake Trotter

It's Take Two Tuesday time, when we give diverging opinions on a topic related to the Big 12.

Today's Take Two topic: What has been the biggest surprise so far this preseason?

Take 1: Brandon Chatmon – Sam Richardson

Sam Richardson’s return to the top of the Iowa State Cyclones’ depth chart as QB1 has been a surprise.

Richardson looked the part as a redshirt freshman, when he burst upon the scene with eight touchdowns and just one interceptions in four games played during his debut season in 2012. He looked like the guy who would be the Cyclones’ main man under center for the next three seasons.

Then he took a step backward in 2013.

True enough the injury bug played a role in Richardson’s regression as a sophomore but that didn’t make his performance any less disappointing. His completion percentage decreased from 58.2 percent to 55.3 percent, his sack percentage increased from 3.7 percent to 9.1 percent and interception percentage increased from 1.3 percent to 2.7 percent.

And Grant Rohach’s strong performance to end the 2013 season made it difficult to imagine Richardson returning to the top of the Cyclones’ depth chart to begin 2014. Rohach won two of the four games he started as Richardson’s replacement and appeared to be a solid bet to open 2014 under center for the season opener in Ames, Iowa.

But Mark Mangino’s arrival, a return to good health and his improved performance have helped Richardson regain his starting spot and made him the Big 12’s surprise of the preseason.

Take 1: Jake Trotter – Oklahoma State QBs

This has been one newsy preseason for the Big 12. The arrest of Devonte Fields. The dismissals at Texas. The limbo players at Oklahoma. And, yes, I too was mildly surprised that Richardson ultimately beat out Rohach for the starting job at Iowa State, considering how well Rohach played at the end of last season.

But the biggest surprise at the moment is the news that hasn’t happened. More specifically, that J.W. Walsh hasn’t won the starting job yet at Oklahoma State.

Sure, coach Mike Gundy might be producing a smokescreen for Florida State by holding back on naming a starter. But his comments and other reports out of Stillwater suggest the Cowboys could be serious about playing former walk-on Daxx Garman, and, who knows, possibly even true freshman Mason Rudolph.

Coming into the preseason, Walsh was the overwhelming favorite to win the job. Even Gundy admitted after Oklahoma State’s final spring scrimmage that Walsh was way ahead of the other quarterbacks. Walsh’s teammates talked glowingly of his leadership and the way he commanded the offense behind the scenes. His passing accuracy also seemed to have improved.

But all of that hasn’t quite carried over into August.

Two years ago, Walsh shined in relief as a redshirt freshman. But last year, some of his physical limitations with arm strength caused the Oklahoma State offense to bog down. The Cowboys have recruited to feature a wide-open spread offense full of capable wide receivers and contingent on a quarterback being able to pepper the ball around downfield. That, however, isn’t Walsh’s forte. He’s a dual-threat quarterback who relies on his wheels as much as his arm to make plays. When defenses discovered that Walsh wasn’t going to beat them downfield with the pass, they crept up to the line of scrimmage to take away the run. And as result, the offense sputtered until the Cowboys reinserted Clint Chelf back into the lineup.

Will Oklahoma State also play Garman this year? Will Rudolph get a shot, too? That remains to be seen. But coming out of the spring, it looked like a lock that Walsh would start out as the guy. So far, it doesn’t look like that’s necessarily going to be the case.