STILLWATER, Okla. -- Spent all Wednesday talking to players and coaches around Oklahoma State's program, and came away with plenty of thoughts and several stories you'll see on the blog very soon. First things first, though:
I've officially switched my pick in the Oklahoma State quarterback race. I've tentatively leaned to Clint Chelf since the offseason, but after my visit, I'm going with J.W. Walsh. I'll have a much longer look at the race on the blog soon, but let me briefly explain:
One: This race is really, really close. It probably will be through the spring. Coach Mike Gundy noted after Wednesday's practice that true freshman Wes Lunt was still in the race.
That said, if Chelf, a junior, was going to win this race, he'd have done it, or at least distanced himself to some degree by now. As it stands, all three quarterbacks are still getting equal reps with the first team, but Walsh is sort of in the sweet spot. His major growing pains are over -- his head was spinning when he was in Lunt's shoes last spring -- and he grew up a lot despite getting no reps during the season from August to December. His understanding of the offense is there and expedited by being the son of a coach, with a lot of knowledge in his corner just a phone call away.
Two: At some point, you have to play the "potential" card if you're OSU. Chelf and Walsh are about even right now. I'd put Lunt just behind them, but like Gundy said, still a factor. But the upside? There's Chelf, a moderately rated recruit entering his fourth overall season in the program. Then there's Walsh, the nation's No. 10 recruit in the 2011 class and a guy who's been in the program just over a calendar year. And those two are even? Recruiting rankings aren't everything, but they're certainly something, and Walsh sounds like he's doing everything to make the most of what potential he does have.
So, if Chelf wins this job at the end of spring, could you believe without a doubt that Walsh wouldn't surpass him by the time preseason camp was at its midpoint? The additional first-team reps would help Chelf, but could it not also be argued that Walsh would be helped more by the same reps?
I spent time Wednesday with Gundy and offensive coordinator Todd Monken, and both emphasized the need for a vocal leader that teammates can believe in -- this above all else when I asked.
That's in Walsh's personality, and much less so in Chelf's.
OSU's coaches have a stated goal of naming a starter by the end of spring, but ultimately the players decide this. If Chelf distances himself in the final seven practices of the spring -- it might happen, it might not -- I think OSU's coaches designate him the starter heading into fall.
But if there's no smoke from the chimney and no announcement made? Advantage Walsh, in my opinion. Monken admitted Wednesday that at some point, you can't keep giving three quarterbacks first-team reps, and somebody has to step aside. For now, though, he's not as confident in his second team -- receivers and offensive line, namely -- to get a good feel for what the quarterbacks can do, so his only real assessments come when they're working with ones.
The easy guess is Lunt is fazed out of the race at some point: Monken explicitly said there's no way Chelf could fall any lower than No. 2 on the depth chart.
Bottom line, OSU will have two really good QBs for next fall.
Finally, a note on Walsh: Yes, his mechanics are still a bit rough. The staff still wants to get a feel for exactly what his legs can do in live 11-on-11 action. The mechanics are wonky, which could mean spotty accuracy at times, but he gets the ball where it needs to go.
Before I say this, important note: It was not a direct comparison. Anything but that, in fact. That said, Gundy said Walsh reminded him a little bit of Colt McCoy. The motion wasn't pretty, but it got there, and he's tough with a mean leadership streak.
Walsh's sidearm throwing motion will remind you a lot more of Nebraska's Taylor Martinez, but his accuracy is somewhere in between Martinez and McCoy. A wide variance, no? Well, we haven't seen him play a game yet. Give me a break. Walsh isn't going to complete 70-some percent of his passes like McCoy did, but he's got big potential to make plays with his feet.
It'll be a fascinating next few months in Stillwater for sure. I'm picking Walsh now for the reasons outlined above, but it's still wide open. Chelf could still win it. It's hard for me to see Lunt doing enough and proving himself enough to really win it this soon, but these three are going to be fun to watch for years. They can all three play, and I see a nice future for all of them.