Dallas Colleges: Todd Monken
Let's have a closer look:
Schedule: Oklahoma State opens fall camp today after players reported on Thursday. They'll be working toward an afternoon opener on Aug. 31 in Houston at Reliant Stadium against Mississippi State.
Setting the scene: OSU won the Big 12 title back in 2011 and had a top-10 team preparing for a big-time opener back in 2009, but the hype around the Cowboys will be a lot different during this camp. They were an afterthought behind OU and Texas entering 2009 and were picked third in the league behind OU and Texas A&M in 2011. With a solid opponent waiting at the end of camp, the focus and urgency is always there during camp.
All eyes on: The coordinators. Mike Gundy brought in Mike Yurcich from the Division II ranks to run what's essentailly Dana Holgorsen's system. Linebackers coach Glenn Spencer was promoted to defensive coordinator after Gundy let Bill Young go at the end of a disappointing 2012 season defensively. Yurcich says he wants to go even faster than Holgorsen and 2012 coordinator Todd Monken, now the head coach at Southern Miss. Spencer balks at the suggestion that his defense will simply be more aggressive, but it'll be interesting to see what OSU preps in the next month ahead of that game against Mississippi State.
Key battle: Whatever you do, do not underestimate the impact of the guys whose feet touch the ball just a few times a game. Look no further than the 2011 upset loss to Iowa State for evidence of that. Quinn Sharp is gone, and now OSU is left to find a new punter, place kicker and kickoff specialist. Making matters tougher is Sharp was the best in the Big 12 at all three. Kip Smith is trying to win the punting and kicking jobs, but Michael Reichenstein (punter) and Bobby Stonebraker (kicker) will be competing as well. They've been Sharp's backups, and newcomer Ben Grogan joins the team for fall camp, too.
On the mend: Justin Gilbert's psyche. The cornerback looked like a rising star in his first year as a starter in 2011, but took big steps backward last season and got called out for his play by his head coach. He's as physically gifted as any corner in the league, even though his cover skills still leave a bit to be desired. The race for the Big 12's top cornerback by season's end will be interesting, but Gundy has expressed encouragement lately for Gilbert's progress since last year's rough go-around. He's got some good corners around him. Kevin Peterson is likely to win the starting job for the No. 2 corner, but Ashton Lampkin and Kansas transfer Tyler Patmon should provide some quality depth there.
Outlook: Oklahoma State brings back 14 starters from last season and for the first time in school history, has been picked to win the Big 12. "It's a tribute to a lot of players that have come before these guys that have worked hard," Gundy said. Expect OSU to be somewhere around No. 15 in the AP poll to start the season, but beginning the year with a target on their back is a brand new feeling for the Pokes.
Quotable: Gundy, on his approach of meddling "very little" in his coordinators' business. "I have a lot of confidence in the coaches on our staff and the decisions they make, and at the end of the day, they're the ones that have to instill it in the players in meetings and get it across to them on the practice field. They have to get them to perform on Saturday."
J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt were both highly sought recruits, but only one could be the Cowboys' full-time starter. Before both were injured last season, Clint Chelf looked like he was following former Missouri signal-caller Chase Patton on a road sometimes traveled: Talented, in-state kid settles for career backup status.
Chelf was the Pokes' No. 3 this time last year. Now he's a near sure thing as their starter.
A year after Lunt precociously won a starting quarterback job as a true freshman, he pulled another surprise Thursday by announcing he would transfer. He was the only Illinois native on the roster, recruited by fellow Illinoisan Todd Monken, who left his post as Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator to become head coach at Southern Miss. That exit surely influenced Lunt's decision. Coach Mike Gundy's indications that Chelf would retain the job he inherited because of injury last season, and kept with strong play down the stretch, couldn't have helped, either.
Lunt likely feels he can compete elsewhere, but with three seasons of eligibility left and his main recruiter gone, he didn't feel like he had enough to keep him in Stillwater.
In some ways, it's a head-scratching decision that has to be rooted in Lunt's desire to move closer to home. Chelf will be a senior next season, and Lunt is clearly a more refined passer than Walsh, who earned a niche in OSU's offense as part of a short-yardage package that often featured Walsh running.
After next season, Lunt would have been a heavy favorite to beat out Walsh for the job. Of the three quarterbacks who each threw for 1,000 yards for the Cowboys last season, Walsh would seem the most likely to be looking for an exit.
Now he looks like Oklahoma State's clear starter for 2014 and 2015, barring injury to Chelf this fall. Oklahoma State had the luxury of three quarterbacks who could still make the Pokes a legitimate Big 12 contender. There was some confusion and controversy about who would get the chance to do it, but it was a problem most Big 12 coaches would love to have.
That issue's gotten simpler for Gundy, but it's still never good to see talent walk out the door, no matter how much is left on the roster.
Division II Shippensburg (PA) offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich is Gundy's man to replace Todd Monken, who kept Oklahoma State's offense in the top five nationally in each of the past two seasons.
From our newser:
Yurcich helped Shippensburg rank first nationally among Division II schools in total offense and second nationally in scoring offense at more than 46 points per game.
It's hardly an exciting hire, but it's also one that might provide some continuity for Oklahoma State's offense in terms of recruitment and direction. Gundy's coaching tree is blossoming, but I'm sure he'd rather not have three offensive coordinators in four years.
Yurcich spent 11 of his 13 years coaching below the FBS level. His only experience was at Indiana as a graduate assistant helping coach receivers.
Despite the lack of initial excitement over a non-name hire, Gundy's home-run hires the first two times around in this drill earn him a pretty long leash when it comes to having faith in his hires. Yurcich inherits a powerful offense that's in position to make a run at a Big 12 title next season and remain near the top of the national rankings in total offense. It stayed in the top five this year despite losing two quarterbacks for about a third of the season with injuries.
I'd also think this hire throws a wild card into Oklahoma State's quarterback derby this spring. I don't think I'd call it a clean slate, but anything really could happen between Clint Chelf, Wes Lunt and J.W. Walsh. We'll see how it plays out. Expect another intriguing spring in Stillwater. Lately, there hasn't been any other kind of spring.
1. Todd Monken, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks, Oklahoma State. Monken was robbed as a nominee for the Broyles Award as college football's top assistant coach. Monken dealt with injuries that no other assistant in the league had to and still kept Oklahoma State producing. The Cowboys had three (!!) 1,000-yard passers and had the nation's No. 5 offense.
2. Art Kaufman, defensive coordinator, Texas Tech. Yes, Tech backslid a bit late in the season, but Tech was one of the nation's worst defenses a year ago and Kaufman moved them into one of the better defenses in the league, including some early-season dominance. Texas Tech was 114th in total defense last season. Kaufman moved the Red Raiders up to 39th.
3. Mike Stoops, defensive coordinator/secondary, Oklahoma. Stoops had tons of talent in his unit, headlined by Tony Jefferson and Aaron Colvin, but he turned one of the Sooners' weaknesses from a year ago into one of its strengths. This was the highest-profile hire of the offseason, and it paid off. Oklahoma gave up 18 touchdown passes a year ago. This season: Just nine.
4. Joe Wickline, offensive line, Oklahoma State. Another year, another fantastic go-around by the big guys up front in Stillwater. Wickline had an experienced unit this year and didn't have to deal with the injuries of 2011, but OSU threw the ball 461 times and only gave up 10 sacks, the fewest in the Big 12. Additionally, the Cowboys boasted the Big 12's No. 1 running back, Joseph Randle, and the league's No. 2 rushing attack.
5. Wally Burnham, defensive coordinator, Iowa State. Burnham had a pair of star linebackers to play with, but helped produce breakout stars in DL Jake McDonough and safety Durrell Givens, too. Iowa State gave up more than 24 points in just four games.
- No changes.
- Head coach Art Briles was reportedly contacted by Arkansas and Texas Tech, but signed a new extension with Baylor and hasn't expressed interest in any jobs or admitted to any interviews.
- No changes.
- Head coach Paul Rhoads reportedly drew interest from Wisconsin, but Rhoads went on the record this week to say he has no interest in replacing Bret Bielema in Madison.
- No changes.
- No changes.
- Co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel was a candidate for the Louisiana Tech opening last week, but reportedly turned down the job. The Bulldogs eventually hired Skip Holtz to replace Sonny Dykes.
- Co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell has also reportedly drawn interest from other schools, but it sounds like he's staying at Oklahoma.
- Offensive coordinator Todd Monken left to become the head coach at Southern Miss.
- Head coach Mike Gundy reportedly interviewed with both Tennessee and Arkansas and some local reports even indicated that he had accepted the Arkansas job, but they ultimately proved to be false. Gundy has since gone on record saying there's "no question" he'll be the Cowboys' head coach in 2013.
- Defensive coordinator Bill Young on if he'll return next season or retire: "I don’t know, I don’t know," Young told The Oklahoman. "I’m going to think about it."
- Co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin left to become the head coach at Arkansas State.
- Co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite replaces Harsin as the playcaller and will coach quarterbacks now. Texas plans to replace him as running backs coach after the season ends.
- Receivers coach Darrell Wyatt was promoted to co-offensive coordinator.
- Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz reportedly interviewed with Florida International, but removed himself from consideration and will stay at Texas.
- No changes.
- Head coach Gary Patterson was reportedly a leading candidate to replace John L. Smith at Arkansas, but there were no reports of interviews or significant contact between the two parties.
- Head coach Tommy Tuberville left to become the head coach at Cincinnati.
- Offensive coordinator Neal Brown left to become the offensive coordinator at Kentucky on Mark Stoops' staff.
- Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury accepted an offer to replace Tuberville as Tech's head coach.
- Ex-Red Raiders Kevin Curtis and Eric Morris will join Kingsbury's staff. Curtis told reporters he will likely coach the cornerbacks. Morris' role on the staff is still undetermined. He previously coached inside receivers for Mike Leach at Washington State.
- Dana Holgorsen relieved cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts of his duties and moved co-defensive coordinator Keith Patterson to defensive playcaller, replacing co-defensive coordinator Joe DeForest as playcaller. DeForest is still on staff.
- Graduate assistant Andrew McGee (who led the Big 12 in interceptions at Oklahoma State in 2010, with five) will coach cornerbacks heading into the bowl game, but WVU will find a permanent replacement after the season.
(Two guys you won't see on this list: West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who spent nearly a decade under Mike Leach in Lubbock, and Cal coach Sonny Dykes, the son of legendary Tech coach Spike Dykes, who won more games at Texas Tech than everyone but Leach. Texas Tech sideline reporter Chris Level reported on Sunday that neither would be coming to Lubbock.)
Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt will be conducting the search himself, rather than using a search firm.
Kliff Kingsbury, OC, Texas A&M: Kingsbury is certainly on the top of Texas Tech fans' list, but will he be atop Hocutt's list, too? Kingsbury's biggest plus came this season. He coached Johnny Manziel to a Heisman Trophy and Texas A&M was one of the nation's biggest surprises. He's one of the hottest names in the field, but the 33-year-old has also only been an assistant for five years. Is that enough experience to be handed an entire program?
Chad Morris, OC, Clemson: Michael Brewer is all but locked in as the Red Raiders' starting quarterback for the next three seasons. Morris was Brewer's high school coach at Lake Travis in Austin, Texas. He's helped Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins headline the nation's No. 9 offense and knows the Texas recruiting landscape well. He's only been a college assistant for three seasons, but he's already parlayed it into a seven-figure contract as a coordinator at Clemson, something very few others in college football can boast. He'd almost surely take the job if Tech offered it.
Neal Brown, OC, Texas Tech: Brown spent the weekend interviewing for a pair of other gigs, and could be in play for the head coaching jobs at Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech. At times this season, Tech fans weren't his biggest supporters, but Tuberville made him one of the youngest coordinators in the country in 2010, bringing him on board from Troy. The promotion might get Brown to stay, and he has a great shot to be successful, but could Hocutt sell the hire to fans?
Todd Monken, OC, Oklahoma State: Monken stepped in for Holgorsen at Oklahoma State and the Pokes' offense hasn't missed a beat. Monken helped Oklahoma State win a Big 12 title in 2011, and despite losing a pair of first-round picks from last year's team and dealing with injuries to his top two quarterbacks, had OSU at No. 5 nationally in total offense. His college experience is limited, and you'd have to question whether he could run an entire program, but he's been outstanding at his latest stop, and fits the carefree mold Tech fostered under Mike Leach.
Brent Venables, DC, Clemson: Venables' name comes up for jobs a lot, but he's still waiting on his first head coaching gig. He and Hocutt played together at Kansas State and have maintained a relationship. Perhaps nobody knows Big 12 offenses like Venables, though he had a rough time stopping them late in his tenure at Oklahoma. He seems overdue for his first head gig, but does Tech need to have an offensive mind running its program?
Ruffin McNeil, head coach, East Carolina: McNeil was the defensive coordinator under Leach and won the approval of the team through his efforts. He's built ECU since taking over in 2010 and went 8-4 this season, winning a share of the division title in Conference USA. He's carried a spread offense to ECU, but would return to Lubbock after spending a decade as a defensive assistant under Leach.
Art Briles, head coach, Baylor: I don't buy any realistic possibility that Briles would leave Baylor, but there were multiple reports over the weekend that Texas Tech would pursue him. Briles already turned down Texas Tech when it eventually hired Tuberville, and after signing a new contract extension last week and the Bears' breaking ground on a new stadium set to open in 2014, Briles leaving seems like a near impossibility, even though he has a degree from Texas Tech.
Will Texas Tech's new coach be one of these seven candidates? Or will Hocutt go off the grid for an unexpected hire, like Bret Bielema at Arkansas?
|Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy dishes on Saturday's clash with TCU, the success of his former players Dan Bailey, Dez Bryant and Orie Lemon in the NFL and more.
"I’m reading a book about Navy SEALs and what they go through to be a SEAL and how much pain they have to endure to continue to move forward. That’s what it reminded me of," Gundy told reporters this week. "What he was able to do Saturday after he sustained the injury is pretty impressive. That’s a credit to who he is and what he stands for."
Pain tolerance or not, Walsh isn't playing this weekend.
"I already knew he was a pretty savvy guy. I didn't even know he was hurt until yesterday. It shocked me when I found out," offensive lineman Lane Taylor told reporters. "I saw him icing his knee, and I asked him if he was alright, and he was like 'Yeah, I'm good.' I didn't know it was that serious. It shows how tough he is."
Oklahoma State has no choice but to move on without the redshirt freshman. Lunt practiced full-time with the team last week for the first time, and this week he'll split No. 1 reps with junior Clint Chelf and Gundy will decide who starts late in the week.
"Because we do move so fast in practice, it gives us a chance to get guys enough work," Gundy said.
TCU awaits, and brings with it a defense that has 14 interceptions this season, third most nationally. Still, offensive coordinator Todd Monken doesn't sound like he's sweating.
"I said in the spring that we have three guys who are pretty good players. I thought they all played well in the spring. The margin wasn't extreme between them -- there wasn't a cavernous gap," he said. "We just had made decisions on where we thought they were then, and where they could improve. A lot of times you go with the younger guys because they have such a gap where they can improve. I'm confident that we can win with either guy, just like I was confident when it was J.W. Walsh."
Here's what I'm watching in the Big 12 and SEC this week:
1. What baseball-sized bruise? David Ash says he's playing, and he's practiced this week with a wrap on his left, non-throwing wrist. He can take snaps, too. Will we see Case McCoy start or play? And will Ash make it through the game without having to sit?
2. You want to be the Lunter, not the Lunted. Wes Lunt has been sidelined for more than a month now, and J.W. Walsh has played pretty well in his absence. Lunt is still "day-to-day" after suffering a knee injury against Louisiana-Lafayette, but is this the week he returns? Offensive coordinator Todd Monken and head coach Mike Gundy seemed to disagree on his availability last week. My guess is Lunt is back.
3. Shuffling the deck. Baylor struggled to run the ball against TCU last week, but now faces the league's worst rushing defense in Texas. Will we see a shuffle in the carry distribution, or will Jarred Salubi hang on to his status as the featured back? Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin will be nipping at his heels, too.
5. Check your pants, sir. Meanwhile, at Kansas, Charlie Weis says he plans to play two quarterbacks against the Sooners. Michael Cummings provided a spark in a near comeback against Oklahoma State last week. Everyone saw it, including Weis. Can he do something similar in Norman, Okla., on Saturday, or was last week an aberration?
6. Running away from trouble. Iowa State's linebacker duo of Jake Knott and A.J. Klein can shut down Oklahoma State's running game, and did so last year. Kansas did the same and OSU couldn't beat the Jayhawks convincingly through the air. Iowa State's secondary is strong, led by Jacques Washington. If ISU shuts down the running game, this could be another upset in the making.
7. Accounts receiving ... losses. Texas Tech has one of the deepest receiving units in the league, but suffered major losses this week. Bradley Marquez and Javon Bell are out for the season and tight end Jace Amaro might not play after injuring his ribs against West Virginia. Can Seth Doege and the passing game still survive those hits and move on with business as usual? They'll get a tough test this week against TCU, which leads the nation with 14 interceptions.
8. Achilles' heel ... or ankle. Last week was pretty ugly for the Mountaineers, but was it just an aberration? I'm betting yes, but they'll have to prove it against a very good, very sound Kansas State defense that was shown a way to slow this offense last week when Texas Tech stuffed WVU. Star receiver Stedman Bailey missed the second half last week with an ankle injury and is "day-to-day" this week. Will he even play? And if he does, will he be healthy? When he was out, Tech was able to shut down Tavon Austin. Can K-State do the same?
9. Make sure you've got your contacts in. Oklahoma suited up for the most meaningful game of its season last week against Texas. On Oct. 27, one of college football's most storied programs comes to Norman, likely without a loss on its record. This week ... it's 1-5 Kansas, which hasn't beaten an FBS team this season. Do the Sooners keep their focus and still look sharp, avoiding a letdown ahead of Notre Dame's visit?
10. Those last plays are important, guys. Geno Smith won't throw picks to anybody these days. WVU's not fumbling all that much, either. You want to stop WVU from scoring? Getting fourth-down stops is one of your best bets. How will K-State do? Dana Holgorsen doesn't trust his kicker and loves to roll the dice on fourth down. That stat may just decide the K-State game. WVU was 5-of-5 against Texas and won. It was 2-of-7 last week against Texas Tech and got blasted by five touchdowns. A fourth-down stop isn't listed as a turnover on the stat sheet, but it's just as good.
11. Manziel's march: If Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel is going to make a serious charge for the Heisman Trophy, here's his shot. An LSU defense comes to town Saturday ranked second nationally in total defense and high on making life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. The Tigers kept South Carolina's Shaw on the run all night last week. Manziel already has put up more than 500 yards in total offense in two games this season and is on pace to break Cam Newton's SEC record for total offense in a season. His numbers are staggering, and his name is starting to float out there in the Heisman Trophy conversation. What he needs now are marquee wins against marquee defenses. Florida shut him down in the second half in the Aggies' opener. We'll find out Saturday how much he's grown from that game. -- Chris Low
The Big 12 will have a few close calls, but its teams won't play down to bad competition. This was an awful week of scheduling across the Big 12, but there were really only two games that made Big 12 teams sweat. Baylor trailed Sam Houston State by 10 at the half and Kansas State led North Texas by just one in the third quarter, but both made late runs to finish well ahead weak opponents. Besides that duo, everybody else took care of business, and the Big 12 finished 7-0 in nonconference play. Kansas State's 14-point win was the closest margin of victory in the Big 12. None of these wins will impress anyone, but cumulatively, they help the league's perception.
Oklahoma State will play games with injury information in advance of its Big 12 opener vs. Texas. Just about everybody across the Big 12 wants to know the status and specifics surrounding Wes Lunt's injury. Too bad. Oklahoma State traditionally releases an injury report on the Friday before games, and Mike Gundy said that was the team's plan with the Lunt injury. OSU will be off next week, and offensive coordinator Todd Monken said he expected Lunt to be back in a couple of weeks. Reports surfaced on Saturday that Lunt's injury was not a dislocated kneecap, but don't expect to hear any official word. In the meantime, Texas will have to prepare for both Lunt and J.W. Walsh, who are two very different quarterbacks. That's exactly what Gundy and Monken want. Expect reports of Lunt's status to leak between now and then, but we won't get any official word until Sept. 28. Annoying as it may be from a media perspective, I respect the gamesmanship from Gundy's Pokes.
Kansas can play some defense, and TCU's got work to do. Kansas may be in for another frustrating year, but you can already see the Dave Campo-inspired improvements at KU. The linebackers and secondary know where they need to be, and there are at least defenders in the vicinity of where the ball is headed, which is more than you could say for this team last year. TCU made a lot of mistakes, but the Horned Frogs had to work for most of their offense on Saturday. Last year, Kansas made a serious case as the nation's worst defense. The Jayhawks have already made huge strides defensively, and that'll keep them in games this year.
Geno Smith is the Heisman front-runner. It was going to be difficult for Smith to do enough to surpass USC's Matt Barkley, but the Trojan suffered a shocking loss on the road Saturday night at Stanford, and though his offensive line played poorly, Barkley completed less than half his passes and had two interceptions without a touchdown. Smith? Oh, he's been OK through two games. He's got nine touchdowns and nine incompletions, and WVU has rolled in its first two games. It's a long season, but through three weeks, Smith needs to join Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas as co-front-runners in this still-wide-open race.
He became the school's first quarterback to go without an incompletion in his first start. What's that mean?
Well, not much, says coach Mike Gundy.
He also wasn't in a situation where he played meaningful competition. What he sees in practice is on another level from what he saw Saturday against FCS doormat Savannah State, a team that won one game each of the past two seasons -- against the same team.
This week? It won't be anything like his experience on Saturday night.
"He wasn’t in a tight situation, a third-and-long, fourth-and-short," Gundy said. "I would say he handled it fine, but the challenge will be different."
The Cowboys' opponent, Arizona, is playing its second game under new coach Rich Rodriguez, but will present a whole new level of challenge for the fresh-faced passer.
Additionally, the road atmosphere will make Lunt's first test even more difficult.
"He just needs to run our offense, distribute the ball and get it in the hands of the players that can help us win, but not try to do too much," Gundy said.
He'll have plenty of talent around him, from an experienced offensive line and a promising set of receivers. He'll also have a 1,200-yard rusher in Joseph Randle supporting him, alongside a 600-yard power rusher, Jeremy Smith.
Gundy and his staff have consistently emphasized what Lunt can see in practice every day, even if his game experience is lacking: He's got plenty of help.
"That’s the conversation that (offensive coordinator) Todd Monken had with him, and I’m sure he’s heard me say it to the media for the last six months now," Gundy said. "He just needs to play sound football and doesn’t need to try to do too much."
Wes Lunt will enter fall camp as Oklahoma State's starting quarterback, coach Mike Gundy announced Thursday. The true freshman enrolled early and outgunned redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh and junior Clint Chelf to earn the gig.
From our news story:
Illinois native Lunt, a 6-foot-4, 211-pound traditional passer, enrolled early this spring and outdueled his more experienced competition to win the job, coach Mike Gundy announced Thursday.
Lunt will be the first true freshman starter for Oklahoma State since Tone Jones in 1993, and no true freshman has ever started a season opener.
"We had to make a decision based on what we thought was best for our offense to score points and then give us the best chance to win football games," Gundy said in a statement. "All three players had good springs, but at some point the decision is made on the field. There's always a comment about who coaches are going to name as the starter at any position, but the coaches usually don't make that decision -- the decision is made by the players. Wes performed better than the other two quarterbacks in the spring."
Said Lunt: "I'm overwhelmed. It's such a humbling experience. Coming in early, I knew I had a chance to compete for the job, and to get it is just overwhelming. I know that we're still going to compete through summer and two-a-days, so it's not over."
It's not a huge surprise. This thing was close. Worth noting: Walsh was recruited by former offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, and Chelf was a hometown kid.
Lunt, though? He's the only Illinois player on Oklahoma State's roster, and second-year coordinator Todd Monken went out and got his man. Once his man got on campus, Lunt delivered. Now, he's being rewarded, and it's time to develop him.
Oklahoma State won't be perfect next season, but oh my, will the Cowboys be fun to watch.
Additionally, the Pokes go from a 28-year-old starter who graduated high school in 2002, to an 18-year-old starter who technically hasn't walked at his own high school graduation yet. That's quite a jump, but Lunt's even temper was similar to Brandon Weeden's, and was a trait that no doubt aided him in winning the job.
This race isn't completely over yet, but Lunt can change that quick by validating his status as a leader over the summer and showing up and practicing strong come fall camp.
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."
"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."
In 2011, he finally scaled the mountain and provided an outright conference title, the school's first and only since the birth of the Big 8 in 1958.
Gundy is preparing for his eighth season at Oklahoma State, but still holds the rare distinction of improving or equalling his record in every season in Stillwater.
This year's team doesn't have a player on the roster who has been on a team that won fewer than nine games, Gundy notes.
The task ahead of Oklahoma State now is clear: The Cowboys proved they could do a great Texas or Oklahoma impression for one year, winning a Big 12 title.
The Cowboys are further along the road to becoming a national power than any other Big 12 team, but now must prove their worth in the most difficult of proving grounds: the "rebuilding" year.
Winning, or even being a factor in the Big 12 title race, in a season like this would be no greater proof that Oklahoma State has arrived.
This is not the purest of rebuilding years for Oklahoma State. Sixteen starters return from last year's team, 29th-most in college football. However, the loss of near-Heisman winner Brandon Weeden and two-time Biletnikoff Award winner Justin Blackmon is enough to demote the Cowboys from postseason top three to preseason top 20.
Gundy knows what has to happen if OSU's going to fight its way back to the top of the Big 12 in a season when few outside of Stillwater see it as a possibility.
"There are a small percentage of teams that can have good and/or great success with just a guy at quarterback. But there’s a large percentage of them that have good or great teams with good quarterbacks," Gundy said. "So, I think developing a quarterback is key as anything to continued success."
Anyone who watches the Big 12 knows that. Dominant defenses in the SEC make it easier to replace quarterbacks. In the Big 12, though, it's score or lose. Most places are like that.
Freshmen J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt are competing with junior Clint Chelf to win the honor of replacing Weeden in the fall.
There have been plenty of conversations in the coaches' offices this spring about the quarterback race, and offensive coordinator Todd Monken told Gundy about celebrations in the NFL when teams see drafted quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning start to see success blossom in their first minicamp or fall camp.
"Everybody celebrates, because you know you’re good for eight or 10 years. Well, in college, you don’t have that luck. It takes them a year to get ready, and you only have three years out of them and then they’re out of here," Gundy said. "In the NFL , you hang onto those guys for so long, because you know you’re in good shape for a number of years. So, I think establishing a quarterback for us, and probably just about anybody other than your teams that dominate on defense."
OSU got its first taste of big-time success in 2011, capping the Big 12 title by beating likely No. 1 pick Andrew Luck and Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl, the program's first trip to the BCS.
Weeden, a former walk-on, and Blackmon, a moderate receiving recruit, emerged in the last rebuilding year. Oklahoma State was picked to finish fifth in something called the Big 12 South. It earned a share of the Big 12 South and won 10 games.
Oklahoma State will likely be near the middle of the pack in the Big 12 preseason poll this year. Gundy's already got his Big 12 title ring, but getting the Cowboys to finish at or near the top might be even more impressive.
Not many coaches can boast a bona fide Heisman contender -- Landry Jones -- with 37 career starts to his name entering the 2012 season. Stoops can.
But looking at both of the Sooners' rivals, it's a different picture.
Texas is engrossed in a two-man derby between David Ash and Case McCoy. North of the Sooners, Oklahoma State is playing host to a battle between junior Clint Chelf and a pair of freshmen, J.W. Walsh (redshirt) and Wes Lunt (early enrollee).
Meanwhile, Oklahoma State is still splitting first-team reps evenly and doesn't have much separation between the three. Neither Texas or Oklahoma State has named a starter.
Stoops will have to replace Jones next season, but if he were in Mike Gundy or Mack Brown's shoes, he wouldn't hurry to name a quarterback.
"There's so much that can happen from the end of spring," Stoops told ESPN in Norman this week. "Just think about the amount of time before you take a snap in a game. So, I always felt having our guys continue to remain very competitive was the best thing."
Brown didn't name Garrett Gilbert his starter until the week before the Longhorns' opener against Rice last season. Texas' spring ended with Sunday's spring game and once again, Brown didn't name a starter.
Gundy, meanwhile, has seven practices remaining in the spring and wants separation. What about the notion that a team needs a commanding presence during the summer, when coaches can't oversee player workouts and it's up to a team leader to organize?
"I think that's overrated," Stoops said. "What, Ryan Broyles can't do that? A big-time receiver can't orchestrate it? Or the two (quarterbacks) can't say, 'Hey, we're meeting at this time.'?
“Or your team pride. What, I need the quarterback to tell me I need to come in here and work hard? You've got 100 guys on a team … they oughtta all be pushing each other to get in here and work. Heck, (former OU tight end) Jermaine Gresham could have grabbed everybody by the throat and made sure they were here."
Gundy and offensive coordinator Todd Monken see it quite differently.
"I don’t think it’s overrated," Gundy told ESPN in Stillwater this week. "I think it needs to be there. Can you have a lineman do it? Yeah. It’s not the same. This’ll be a big summer for us, because whoever we feel like is going to be our quarterback, he has to develop some leadership and I feel like that’s all part of it."
Said Monken: "You’re staring at two guys who played quarterback, Mike and I. So from our end of it, that’s how we’re going to see it. Stoops, he played DB, so he doesn’t care. He sees it a different way, and he’s right, anybody can organize it, but that’s not usually the case."
Monken's biggest reason? Quarterbacks need it more than anyone else. OSU receiver Justin Blackmon lived with a walk-on quarterback during his career, and anytime he wanted to get some work, he had an arm who could throw him balls at full speed.
Quarterbacks, though? Work is work, but throwing to walk-ons or friends isn't the same as throwing to targets with sub-4.5 speed like they will in live games.
"Quarterbacks need those guys to function," Monken said. "I don’t blame anybody for their opinion. That’s their opinion, but the reality is that the guys that are usually in charge of the summer workouts are the QBs because it affects them the most."
He added: "There’s something to be said for the guy that leads your team being the organizer. It doesn’t have to be, but it certainly helps."
Oklahoma State doesn't know who its quarterback will be. It would love to name him by spring. But even with the stakes high during the summer, they have no plans to force a decision.
"If we don’t know, then we won’t do it, but if we do, then we’ll do it," Gundy said. "That’s as important as anything we do in the offseason."
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