Spring battle spotlight: Oklahoma State QB

For the third straight year, Oklahoma State will go into spring practice with the same giant question: Who will be the quarterback?

Departed: Clint Chelf became just the second quarterback in Oklahoma State history to earn first- or second-team all-conference honors. Chelf threw for 2,169 yards and 17 touchdowns after taking over for J.W. Walsh in late October. Before losing the job, Walsh was completing just 59 percent of his passes, and had thrown nine touchdowns and five interceptions.

Spring contenders: Walsh, true freshman Mason Rudolph, walk-on junior Daxx Garman.

Summer contenders: None.

The skinny: Coach Mike Gundy included Garman when discussing the competition in his signing day press conference, but this ultimately will come down to Walsh and Rudolph. After a banner redshirt freshman season, Walsh took a step back in 2013. He completed 67 percent of his passes in 2012, but only 60 percent in 2013. Walsh’s struggles with accuracy and his inability to heave the ball downfield due to limited arm strength caused the offense to bog down.

If Walsh can reclaim his 2012 form when he overcame his arm strength constraints by completing intermediate passes while also making plays with his wheels, then he can regain a stranglehold on the position. Remember, Walsh led the Big 12 in the Adjusted QBR metric in 2012 and is capable of moving the chains at a high clip. But if the same 2013 issues persist, that could open the door for Rudolph.

Gundy has precedent for starting a true freshman quarterback (Wes Lunt in 2012) in an opener, and in Rudolph, Gundy has arguably the most highly-touted quarterback the school has ever signed. Rudolph had a phenomenal senior season of high school in Rock Hill, S.C. He threw 64 touchdowns and completed 72 percent of his passes, while leading his team to a state title. At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Rudolph has prototypical size for the type of offense Oklahoma State ran under Brandon Weeden, and he has the skill set to spread the ball around to the Cowboys’ impressive and deep array of receivers, which is when the offense is at its best.

Prediction: Considering the Cowboys open with defending national champion Florida State in Arlington, Texas, Gundy is unlikely to place a true freshman into that kind of situation. So Walsh will get the first crack. But if the offense bogs down again, Gundy will have no choice but to give the talented true freshman a shot later on in the season.