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Quarterback to Back: Alan Bowman and Will McElvain Represent the New Era of QB Journeymen

It’s the typical QB journey in the age of transfers.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

OSU is playing its first football game in the next day, and we still don’t know for certain which Cowboy will take the first snap. So how could I possibly preview this weekend’s quarterback matchup?

Although we don’t officially have an announcement for who QB1 will be, most assume Alan Bowman, the former Texas Tech standout and Michigan bit player, will get the nod to square up against returning Central Arkansas starter Will McElvain on Saturday night.

Bowman is the most experienced and has shown the most upside during his career. It makes sense, and if you’re an OSU fan, that should be your wish.

Since it’s Week 1, and we can’t differentiate the two by any 2023 stats anyway, let’s take a look at what Bowman and McElvain have in common.

We’re in the new age of college football and both of these guys have taken advantage of the transfer portal — and had the transfer portal take advantage of them.

Bowman was a freshman phenom at Texas Tech who fought through multiple injuries over his first three years to ultimately lose his job to Utah State transfer Henry Columbi. Bowman originally earned his job by spelling injured starter McLane Carter in Week 1 of 2018.

But injuries have always been a part of football.

Will McElvain had a similar start to his college career at the FCS level. After a redshirt in 2018, he set the freshman passing record at the Northern Iowa and was a Freshman All-American. But he did that only after beating out three other QBs as a freshman.

After three years at Tech, Bowman made the move to the University of Michigan only to lose a three-way QB battle to Cade McNamara, who also beat out then five-star frosh J.J. McCarthy. McNamara has since transferred to Iowa after losing the job back to McCarthy last season.

After leading UNI to the FCS Quarterfinals, 2020 didn’t go so smoothly for McElvain. He missed part of the Covid-shortened season due to Covid-related issues and then eventually lost his job a year later to Michigan State transfer Theo Day (strangely, still at UNI). McElvain entered the portal with two years of eligibility.

Bowman brought his talents to Stillwater, where he’s spent the last several months in a battle with incumbents Garret Rangel and Gunnar Gundy. On Saturday evening we’ll find out which of those three came out on top, at least initially.

Mike Gundy, who’s never been a fan of tipping a card he didn’t have to when it comes to quarterback announcements, is playing his hand even closer to the vest now that the transfer portal can take advantage of him.

Short of a senior Mason Rudolph returning, we may not get those types of announcements from Gundy ever again. There’s advantage to upsetting the offseason apple cart by naming your guy in July when you have needed depth in your QB room.

McElvain seems to have found his forever home (whatever that can mean in college sports) after starting all 11 games for the Bears last season and manning the offense coming into Week 1.

The question is whether or not Bowman has done enough to grasp the reins in Stillwater, or if he’ll be able to keep ahold of them. If you’re interested in OSU bouncing back in 2023, you’d better be rooting for a yes to both.

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