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The Case For and Against Burning Spencer Sanders’ Redshirt

Would OSU be better building towards the future or leaning on No. 14 for the remainder of the season?

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As Oklahoma State searched for answers Saturday night reeling from yet another home loss as a double-digit favorite, everyone seemed to have their own idea on how to quick-fix the issues plaguing the team.

The defense got its door beat down regularly, the offensive line struggled to keep defenders at bay, and lack of discipline/turnovers bedowngraded OSU’s chances at every turn.

So to slap a band-aid on the troubles, would a quarterback change be worth considering? After you lay out the big issues — quarterback play being pretty far down the list — it’s kind of a crazy thought. But dependent upon where you’re coming from, I can see both sides of the argument.

The bottom line is this, no matter where you stand: Cornelius didn’t get a fair shake Saturday after running for his life on nearly every play. Joe Montana would have logged 30,000 steps on his fitbit Saturday trying to complete passes behind the offensive line.

So the better question, rather than why isn’t Spencer Sanders starting? is a more fair one I propose: Could OSU be even a smidge better than it is right now with another QB? Would Spencer Sanders, a Texas All-Star gunslinger with speed to boot, be able to elude the pass-rush and make OSU’s offense more dynamic? And is that upgrade worth it?

After two consecutive home losses — both of which came by the arm (and legs) of other true freshmen in Alan Bowman and Brock Purdy — it’s fair to be curious.

Let’s look at the case for and against burning Sanders’ redshirt.

Case against: Cornelius is built for this offense.

Not only does No. 14 have the size and frame needed to withstand the innumerable blows he’s taken this season, he’s got the book and scheme knowledge down pat. After a half-decade with the program, that knowledge is invaluable. Sanders isn’t 230 or 6-6 — he might get absolutely creamed.

Moreover, I’m told Cornelius is a player favorite in the locker room. Works hard, loves his family, etc. Yanking him because the OL can’t protect or because the defense surrenders an inordinate amount of points may not settle well.

Case for: The most compelling argument why OSU should burn Sanders’ redshirt and play him immediately came from a tweet Bryan Keating sent:

kind of got this two weeks ago, and I definitely get it now. You’re 1-2 in league play, your best player (Justice Hill) is probably going to the NFL, your QB, Taylor Cornelius, is a senior, and your defense is nowhere near Big 12 title caliber. A rebuild typically indicates you’re working towards the future, but the most critical pieces on this team probably won’t be in Stillwater next season.

Case against: Sanders’ redshirt year is nearly preserved.

Under the new NCAA rule, a player who hasn’t burned a redshirt can take a redshirt year and still play in as many as four games. We’re six games into the season with six more games left on the regular season schedule, which means if OSU waits two weeks (or three if they get bowl eligible) it could preserve his eligibility for an extra season.

Case for: Why wait to use Sanders later when he’s available now?

Sanders is a bonafide four-star prospect, and if he’s as good as advertised, will he even be at OSU for four years? Or will be bounce to the NFL after three? There’s some risk, at least, that if you don’t use him, you lose him (early). The answer to this question I believe lies in two factors: Cornelius has actually been pretty solid (good but maybe not elite) and Dru Brown is almost certainly going to be the next man up.

Case against: OSU’s offensive line is … no bueno. Cornelius has been running for his life, and inserting a new QB, even with a more speedy player in Sanders, isn’t likely going to change the situation. Sanders may be running for his life, too, only with a more brisk pace. Will he get injured? If he does, it could hinder your long-game significantly.

Case for: Experience is invaluable. Lord willing, OSU has seven games left on the schedule this season (including a bowl game). That’s seven games Sanders can use, in a low pressure situation (OSU isn’t winning the Big 12), to build out experience as a starter in the league he’s soon going to own.

Case against: Sanders might not be ready right away. He wasn’t an early enrollee, and his frame is a bit more slight than what you’d hope for. He looks like a freshman, more or less, which could be changed with a year and an offseason under the coaching of one Robert Glass.

Case for: Momentum may swing significantly if Sanders is inserted, a la Rudolph 2014. What if he’s an OK practice player but Deshaun Watson-lite on gameday, and is able to mask some of OSU’s deficiencies?

Case against: Cornelius has been very good.

Cornelius is fifth nationally in passing yards per game and 22nd nationally in passing efficiency. He’s been very good, especially under the circumstances. One could argue that, if Tylan catches that pass late against ISU, he’s 5-1 as a starter. The narrative might be totally different around him.