Oklahoma State's decision to use two quarterbacks in its opener against Mississippi State shouldn’t come as a major surprise. On Thursday, coach Mike Gundy announced Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh both will play in the season opener on Aug. 31 and hinted that the competition will continue into the season.
It’s clear Gundy feels no need to pick between Chelf and Walsh; each has proven he can be a quality starter and win games in the Big 12. Both quarterbacks passed for more than 1,500 yards and at least 13 touchdowns in 2012, and they feature different strengths that could test defenses in different ways.
The bigger question: How will Chelf and Walsh be used? Chelf ended last season as the Cowboys’ starter, going 3-2 in the final five games, but Walsh played in four of those five contests in OSU’s short-yardage packages. While both quarterbacks played in those final four outings, it was far from a true two-quarterback system.
If Gundy does plan to rotate the signal-callers, using them to run the regular offense at different times, it makes sense. While Chelf finished the season with a strong showing and made a solid argument to keep the job, Walsh had better statistics in almost every passing category, despite being considered the run specialist of the two. Walsh finished with a better completion percentage, better yards per attempt average, and better passer efficiency rating, although his toughest test as a starter was against Texas. Chelf started road losses at Oklahoma and Baylor.
Gundy’s comments made it clear that neither quarterback has separated himself during preseason camp. With a critical game against an SEC opponent looming, why not make Mississippi State prepare for two quarterbacks and at the same time give yourself the ability to go to the bullpen if trouble arises? Ultimately, you hope one of the two proven quarterbacks can find his groove and win the job outright.
The Cowboys' head coach is not a big fan of using two quarterbacks, but if there was a scenario where it makes perfect sense, this might be it.