PHOENIX — While taking in Oklahoma State's dramatic Fiesta Bowl victory at University of Phoenix Stadium, a frequent thought popped into Wes Lunt's mind again.
He imagined himself on that field. Directing the Cowboy offense. Slinging the ball around to returning receivers like Michael Harrison, Josh Stewart and Isaiah Anderson.
“We all (think about that),” Lunt said. “Laying down before bed, just thinking about the future.”
Lots of Cowboy fans have drawn up that same scenario. The Brandon Weeden era is over at OSU after two historic seasons, a Big 12 championship and BCS bowl win. And though Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh return at quarterback, the overwhelming belief — both inside and outside the program — is that Lunt, the true-freshman-to-be, is the Cowboys' future at the position.
“I'm going to work hard and all the other quarterbacks are going to work hard,” Lunt said. “And whoever wins (the starting job for 2012), wins it. I'm just going to work my tail off and just try to compete.”
Lunt arrives in Stillwater on Sunday to begin that journey. He graduated from Rochester (Ill.) High School early, allowing him to start classes at OSU this week and participate in spring practice.
Weeden left OSU as the 28-year-old veteran who became the program's greatest quarterback.
Meet Lunt, the teenager hoping to follow him.
Andy Lunt describes his son as respectful and a bit of a homebody. Wes' high school coach, Derek Leonard, calls him a quiet leader and the typical small-town guy. Wes claims to have a dry sense of humor. “Awesome” is one of his favorite adjectives, especially when describing his experiences during the past year or so.
As a kid, though, Wes didn't like football all that much. After trying the sport in elementary school, he gravitated more toward basketball and baseball.
But when big brother Wil became Leonard's first quarterback at Rochester High eight years ago, Wes' interest in the sport was renewed. He would tag along when Dad dropped Wil off at the school's gym to throw with Leonard.
Wes was a natural.
“It was God-given,” Leonard said. “...He started growing and it just kind of took off from there. He's got a natural throwing motion like I've never seen. It's so easy. It's so effortless.”
What came next was a standout career for Lunt. Back-to-back Class 4A state titles. More than 3,600 passing yards and 30 touchdowns this past season, despite missing four games with a broken foot. A state-record 590 passing yards in one game in 2011.
“There are times you're in awe,” said Leonard, who coached Purdue quarterback Sean Robinson at Rochester and has seen plenty of elite signal-callers as the son of legendary Illinois high school coach Ken Leonard. “Sometimes, I just became a fan and watched. You let him go, and you just end up catching yourself watching instead of coaching.”
Wes Lunt will compete for the Cowboys' starting quarterback job as a true freshman, but here's a look at the other quarterbacks hoping to replace Brandon Weeden in 2012.
Clint Chelf, junior
Chelf has the most experience, completing 20 of his 30 passes for 307 yards and three touchdowns as Weeden's backup in 2011.
J.W. Walsh, redshirt freshman
Walsh, who did not play in 2011, compares more to Zac Robinson than Weeden. That means OSU would have to tweak its offense to cater to Walsh's strengths.