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Monday, May 20, 2013
Illinois' chances improve for QB transfer

By Adam Rittenberg

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy's decision to prohibit quarterback Wes Lunt from transferring to the SEC, the Big 12 or Southern Miss is being justifiably panned.

It's petty and hypocritical for coaches, many of whom flirt with other jobs, to restrict players from pursuing their careers at their desired programs. That Tennessee is on Gundy's no-go list -- the same Tennessee that nearly pried Gundy away from his alma mater in December -- underscores the hypocrisy. The Pac-12 and Central Michigan, a future Oklahoma State opponent, also reportedly are off the table for Lunt.

But all of this is good news for Illinois.

Now that potential transfer targets Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Southern Miss are off the table, Lunt likely will decide between Illinois and Louisville. Lunt, a native of Rochester, Ill., wants to play somewhat close to home. Illinois' campus is about 90 minutes from Rochester, while Louisville is approximately a two-and-a-half hour drive.

Lunt started five games for Oklahoma State as a true freshman, passing for 1,108 yards with six touchdowns and seven interceptions. He competed this spring with Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh for the top job but opted to transfer after Chelf emerged as the Cowboys' No. 1 option.

The 6-foot-4, 211-pound Lunt wants to play for a coach he knows, and he has familiarity with Illini head coach Tim Beckman, a former Oklahoma State assistant under Gundy. New Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit also pursued Lunt while Cubit was Western Michigan's head coach. Lunt, who will sit out the 2013 season because of NCAA transfer rules, reportedly visited Illinois on Thursday.

Louisville looks like the more stable option for Lunt as the Cardinals come off of a Sugar Bowl championship and awarded coach Charlie Strong a long-term contract. But Lunt wants to play and could see the field earlier at Illinois, which loses three-year starter Nathan Scheelhaase after the 2013 season. Although Louisville star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater could depart for the NFL after his junior year, the Cardinals have Will Gardner, who picked Louisville over Alabama, ready to step in. Junior Reilly O'Toole and incoming freshman Aaron Bailey are expected to compete for Illinois' starting job in 2014.

Beckman needs some good news before the 2013 campaign. His team undoubtedly will need to show immediate improvement this fall, but adding a piece like Lunt would raise optimism for the future.