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Three Questions for Oklahoma State’s Quarterback Room Entering the 2024 Season

On Bowman, his backup and the future of the position at OSU.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

June is drawing near, then will come July and Big 12 Media Days before fall camps start in August. Soon, football will be back.

Kyle Cox did a great job on our spring position previews over the past few months, and I wanted to compliment those with some questions I have for each position group entering the 2024 season. We’ll start with the most heralded position in all of American sports: quarterback. Then we’ll work our way around from there. Some questions will be about the here and now, some will be about the looming future of the group.

Let’s get started.

1. How Much Better Will Alan Bowman Be?

Year 1 of Alan Bowman leading the Cowboys was filled with a lot of ups but a few downs.

At the end of the day, the number that matters most is wins, and Bowman headed a team that finished with 10 in 2024, and he finished third in the Big 12 in passing yards with 3,460, a number he met despite sharing reps with two other guys at the start of the year. The downs from Bowman’s first campaign with the Cowboys mostly had to do with interceptions, as he tossed a Big 12-high 14.

But the context of Bowman’s first year in Stillwater also matters. Yes, he had about as much college experience as possible, but he was entering a new system. And while entering that new system, he was sharing reps and didn’t get the reins fully handed to him until conference play. Add onto that, he played next to the best running back in college football last season, so he wasn’t asked to be Mason Rudolph. He just needed to find a way to finish with more points than the other team.

The phrase “system quarterback” brings a slightly negative connotation, but it shouldn’t. If a guy can facilitate winning, that’s the most important thing. With that said, however, a full year in Stillwater and a full offseason as the starter could do wonders for Bowman entering 2024. He could go from a system guy to a driving force like some of his earlier years at Texas Tech.

2. Who Is QB2?

Oklahoma State hasn’t had one quarterback start every game since the 2018 season (shoutout Taylor Cornelius).

With that being said, last season’s QB switches were by choice instead of an injury-caused necessity, but at the same time, Bowman is not immune from a freak injury. He broke a collarbone and collapsed a lung while at Texas Tech.

I’d expect Garret Rangel and Zane Flores to have an “or” between them on the first depth chart OSU releases, but say Bowman’s helmet comes off in Provo on Oct. 18, who comes in?

Flores certainly brings a lot of hype around him. It’s a traditional sort of highly touted prospect hype that is only further boosted by the allure of what could be. I’m on the Zane train. He’s listed at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, tying true freshman Maealiuaki Smith as the tallest QBs on the roster. And Flores looks every bit of 6-4, too. Seeing his headshot, it’s easy to get caught up in the Trevor Lawrence-esque flow, but seeming him in spring ball, he has a physical presence to him.

The issue is, Flores hasn’t played a college game. We can all think he is going to be the next big thing, but we won’t really know until we see it with our own eyes.

Rangel does have that experience. Some probably jumped off the Rangel bandwagon after his freshman season (2022) when he completed 51% of his passes and had five interceptions to four passing touchdowns, but I think that’s unfair. He got thrown to the wolves that season when Spencer Sanders went down with injury and was asked to do a near-impossible task.

As a kid straight out of high school, Rangel had to pick up an offense in the middle of the season that had previously been captained by a true dual-threat QB. And he didn’t have much of a runway either. He played in the Arkansas-Pine Bluff game that season but threw only two passes. Then he got dropped into his first start in November in Lawrence against a Kansas crowd that was a win away from making a bowl game for the first time since 2008. Then he played against West Virginia in a monsoon. Then he played in a bowl game where no one in the (baseball) stadium could sustain solid footing for more than a few cuts.

My take on Rangel’s freshman season was it was good for experience, but you could probably throw out most of what actually happened given the circumstances.

Then I thought Rangel was hurt the most by the three-quarterback rotation in 2023, as he had the fewest pass attempts of the three — likely because he missed a day of practice heading into the infamous South Alabama. That was the nonconference game the Pokes played the poorest in, and Rangel threw just five passes. Even with that, Rangel was the only of the three QBs to throw multiple touchdown passes in the nonconference while completing 59% of his passes.

All that is to say, I think OSU has two solid options to be QB2 in 2024.

3. How Long Can This QB Depth Last?

The level of depth OSU has at the quarterback position seems like a luxury in the transfer portal-era of college athletics.

Not including 2025 commit Adam Schobel, here are the past 10 classes of quarterbacks OSU has brought in from the high school ranks:

2024 — Maealiuaki Smith, entering freshman season at OSU
2023 — Zane Flores, entering redshirt freshman season at OSU
2022 — Garret Rangel, entering redshirt sophomore season at OSU
2021 — Gunnar Gundy, left the team this past offseason
2020 — Shane Illingworth, transferred to Nevada in 2022
2019 — Brendan Costello, entered the portal in 2020
2018 — Spencer Sanders, spent five seasons in Stillwater before transferring in 2023
2017 — Jelani Woods/Tracin Wallace, both switch positions at OSU
2016 — Keondre Wudtee, transferred to Northern Arizona in 2019
2015 — John Kolar, transferred to Iowa State in 2019

Only one quarterback can play at a time (unless at OSU in early 2023), so the transfer movement makes sense, especially given the climate. But that makes it all the more impressive that OSU has guys from three straight classes on campus right now. How long can it last?

Bowman will finally exhaust his eligibility at the end of this season, meaning OSU will have a new quarterback in 2025. Is that when this dam breaks, when OSU has to name its next heir? Or could the unthinkable happen and OSU go into 2025 with four quarterbacks from four different recruiting classes?

I guess this question has little to do with the 2024 season, but it feels like the prologue for the next era of OSU football.

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