A Look at How First Year QBs Have Fared in the Mike Gundy Era

Written by PFB Staff

Ed. Note: This is a guest post from Jon Jester. If you’re ever interested in guest posting for us, email us at [email protected]

Oklahoma State has been one of the most successful football programs over the last 10 years (as PFB showed us recently). There have been ups and downs but for the most part, OSU has had great, sustained success in college athletics’ most heralded sport.

But the pokes face a dilemma this offseason that they are not used to facing under Gundy’s tenure in Stillwater. There is no set starter at QB1 going into next year.

Oklahoma State has had the luxury of identifying talent at quarterback early and riding that success for long periods of time. Two offseasons knowing Zac Robinson is going to start. Two offseasons knowing Brandon Weeden is going to start. Three offseasons knowing Mason Rudolph is going to start.

This is maybe the most underrated factor to OSU’s success over the past decade. With the exception of the 2012-2013 carousel between Chelf, Walsh and Wes Lunt and the 2014 Daxx Garman experiment, OSU hasn’t had a real question mark at quarterback since Bobby Reid! That’s an uncommon consistency at the most important position on the field.

Think about Texas since Colt McCoy has left. In the last 8 years, they have had 7 different QB1s (Gilbert, Ash, Case McCoy, Swoopes, Heard, Buechele, and Ehlinger) and they’re on their third head coach. Not great, Bevo.

So how does the QB battle stack up this offseason?

Someone could argue that it is already a done deal with Spencer Sanders, the 4-star dual-threat recruit out of Denton Ryan, because of the way Gundy lit up in his signing day presser when talking about him. Gundy talked about Sanders like Carson Cunningham talks about Tyron Beckham-Rice. Gundy likes this kid, and he’s not hiding it.

But as much as Gundy might like Sanders, playing D1 football and especially in a conference like the Big 12 is no easy task. Game experience is as valuable, if not more, than any intangibles that a player might have. This might make Hawaii graduate transfer Dru Brown a viable option for next year, too. He arrives on campus this summer.

But something Sanders and Brown both don’t have is experience with OSU’s system and proven trust in practice, which is something that 5th year senior Taylor “the Oil Baron” Cornelius has that the previous two do not. And we all know how important performing in practice is to Gundy (insert quote on Orie Lemon or Brandon Pettigrew).

So, let’s look at how first year QBs have done in Stillwater since Gundy has become head coach so that we might be able to form a better idea of what to expect from this year’s squad (Also I’ve compiled all of the QB recruit signings under Gundy for our reference).

First Year QB Stats
Year Player Starts Record Comp. Att. Yds TD INT
2017 Wudtee (RS) 0 0-0 1 3 7 0 0
2016 Kolar (RS) 0 0-0 1 2 8 0 0
2015 Cornelius (RS) 0 0-0 2 5 8 0 0
2014 Rudolph 3 2-1 49 86 853 6 4
2014 Garman (JR-TR) 8 4-4 152 277 2041 12 12
2012 Walsh (RS) 3 2-1 109 163 1564 13 3
2012 Lunt 5 3-2 81 131 1108 6 7
2010 Deaton 0 0-0 1 2 6 0 0
2008 Weeden 0 0-0 1 3 8 0 0
2006 Robinson (RS) 0 0-0 25 51 345 3 0
Every first year QB
Year Player 247 Stars Redshirt
2018 Spencer Sanders 4
2017 Jelani Woods 3 Y
2016 Keondre Wudtee 3 Y
2015 John Kolar 4 Y
2014 Mason Rudolph 4 N
2014 Taylor Cornelius Walk-On Y
2012 Wes Lunt 4 N
2011 J.W. Walsh 4 Y
2010 Nathan Sorenson 3 Y
2010 Johnny Deaton 3 N
2009 Clint Chelf 3 Y
2008 Brandon Weeden Walk-On N
2006 Alex Cate 4 Y
2005 Zac Robinson 3 Y


So what can we expect?

History says that these freshman QBs come in and redshirt. But, the last two guys that Gundy brought in and felt like were the best options as true freshman, Rudolph and Lunt, played as true freshman (even if it took 10 games in 2014 for Gundy to get to that point).

I think Dru Brown’s experience is valuable, and from his highlight video it appears that he might have a little Baker in him. But, I think there is probably more Daxx Garman in him than there is Baker.

And as much as I love the Oil Baron, I think Gundy likes the upside of Sanders more than playing it safe for a 7-6 year behind Cornelius.

My prediction: Gundy keeps his cards close to the vest until the first snap on offense against Missouri State where Spencer Sanders trots out onto the field with the first unit.

Other things to note:

• The years of 2012-2014 really do seem to be an anomaly that ended with Rudolph’s redshirt being burned. Everything else above lines up with Gundy’s general stance of playing safer and experienced guys, who might be less talented instead of younger and less experienced guys who might have more upside.

• I was in college when Wes Lunt took the reins as a true freshman, and I remember deeming him, in my own mind, the next as the next multi-Heisman winner to play the game. I’m kind of joking but kind of not. Freezing cold take.

• Johnny Deaton sounds like a guy who only took 3s on his intramural basketball team and yelled out “KEITON PAGE” after every shot he took.

• I know we put a lot of stock into recruiting rankings, and most of the time the rankings give a pretty good guess as to how successful a player will be. But it’s still good to see, for OSU fans especially, that not all 4- and 5-star recruits are superstars and not all 3-star guys are backups. Zac Robinson turned out much better than what was projected and Alex Cate and John Kolar did not and have not had quite the impact that a Rudolph has had.

• And since we are speaking of recruits, it would not make a ton of sense for OSU to go after Grant Gunnell, 2019 4-star QB out of Houston, if Sanders was just going to redshirt this year and battle it out with him.

• JW had a heck of a first year. The guy is just a gamer!

• Rudolph didn’t play as much as Lunt or Walsh as a freshman, but the momentum he brought into 2015 is unmatched by anyone on this list.

• Freshman QBs are 7-4 under Gundy which I feel like is an above average mark.