When fall camp kicks off in just a few weeks, Mike Gundy will have five quarterbacks on his roster with a combined zero starts at Oklahoma State. Taylor Cornelius, Keondre Wudtee and John Kolar return with varying degrees of experience (but with experience) in the offense.
Incoming freshman Spencer Sanders carries with him plenty of hype with substance, but he’s a couple months removed from prom. Dru Brown, the graduate transfer from Hawaii — and only one of the group with any starts — won’t move to Stillwater until right before camp starts.
Penciling in the top of his QB depth chart has been the last thing on Mike Gundy’s mind these past three offseasons, but he has an actual decision to make this fall. And for those of you who may have forgotten, it’s one that hasn’t always gone smoothly during his tenure.
There was the infamous Alex Cate over Brandon Weeden decision that was as short-lived as it seems absurd in hindsight. And who can forget the QB carousel that lasted over the 2012 and 2013 seasons? Gundy still found a way to squeeze out 18 wins over that span.
Even further back, there was the Bobby Reid-Zac Robinson transition that resulted in the rant — Mike Gundy’s introduction to the national stage and something he’s still most known for by many.
Gundy deserves his fair share of the blame (and credit) when it comes to picking starters. That’s part of the job. It comes along with the $5 million salary, the wins and losses next to his name and the ESPN spots highlighting his hairdo.
But we can at least admit that selecting a starter at any position, much less at quarterback, is not an exact science. Your entire body of evidence consists of how someone performed on the practice field at Sherman E. Smith, not the Lewis Field in BPS.
During Gundy’s 13 seasons, eight have been without QB controversy with the Week 1 starter keeping the job until year’s end. In 2006 it was Bobby Reid who started all 13 games. His falling out wouldn’t come until a year later when he was usurped by Robinson ahead of Week 3.
Zac walked into the fall camps of 2008 and 2009 with the reins of OSU’s offense in-hand and made every start except for that memorable Colorado game in 2009 — the birth of Weeden’s star.
Weeden officially took over in 2010 and started 26 of 26 games to end his career. Rudolph only missed one start (due to injury) in 42 games after he took over for a concussed Daxx Garman in late 2014.
So that makes just five cycles in which Gundy had a big fat question mark at QB1. Really, it’s just four when you consider that Reid was a returning starter in 2007.
And the last time Gundy had this decision on his plate, the mention of “The Man” sporting a mullet would have drawn strange looks. Who knows, maybe the length of his aftward locks is directly proportionate to depth of his confidence behind center.
What I do know is that currently the arms race in Stillwater is as wide open as it’s been in at least five years. Maybe that changes once fall camp starts. Maybe Spencer Sanders memorizes the playbook in a day and does a back flip over Darrion Daniels in scrimmage No. 1.
Maybe Dru Brown wins Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. Hell, maybe Taylor Cornelius makes us all look foolish and resembles Clint Chelf circa October-November 2013.
But what if it isn’t an obvious decision? How will Mike Gundy handle QB questions during camp? How long will he draw out officially naming a starter? If Dru Brown or the Oil Baron throws two picks in the first half against Boise State, how itchy does his freshman trigger finger get?
And how does the mood change if the offense doesn’t just click. What if OSU rattles off a 3-2 start?
Gundy has missed on some guys, he’s even bobbled the situation both on and off the field. Just ask Wes Lunt if he’s in favor of the NCAA’s recent rule change disallowing coaches to block transfers.
But despite all of those QB “issues” that come to my mind during Gundy’s tenure, the winningest coach in the program’s history has mostly gotten it right when it comes to picking his signal callers. Whether that was because of or in spite of him is a matter of debate but they all fall at his feet. Again, part of the job.
Whatever happens, I’m 100 percent certain that I am at least intrigued, if not downright excited to watch.