STILLWATER — Didn't Oklahoma State just do this?
Yes, but for different reasons.
The Cowboys will soon stage a quarterback derby for the second consecutive spring. In 2012, the competition was because Brandon Weeden had moved on to the NFL. This year, it's because injuries caused a revolving door at the position this past season, leading to Wes Lunt, J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf all starting at least three games, all throwing for more than 1,000 yards and all picking up at least one Big 12 victory.
OSU coach Mike Gundy said following the Heart of Dallas Bowl that Chelf, who started the Cowboys' final five contests, had earned the right to top the depth chart to begin the spring. But Walsh, Lunt and even transfer Daxx Garman will be gunning for that spot.
And don't forget, a fresh set of eyeballs from new offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich will be judging this battle.
Here's a breakdown of what promises to be another intriguing spring quarterback battle:
* 2012 stats: 60.4 completion percentage, 1,588 passing yards, 15 touchdowns, 6 interceptions
* 2012 summary: Chelf became a bit of a cult hero — complete with a “choo choo!” rallying cry — after his unpredictable rise from third string to starter following injuries to Walsh and Lunt. OSU went 3-2 in Chelf's starts, including a blowout of Purdue in the bowl game.
* Strengths: As a redshirt senior, Chelf has been in this system since Dana Holgorsen first installed it in 2010. He does not have elite arm strength or athleticism, but his skill set blends an ability to throw and run, particularly on quarterback draws. Chelf's laid-back personality was once viewed as something that could hinder his leadership capabilities, but he clearly earned the respect of his teammates and coaches as the starter.
* Spring goal: It sounds simple, but practice better. Gundy noted before the bowl that Chelf is a player that performs much better in games than in practice. That, of course, factored into Chelf getting passed over by Lunt last spring. Specifically, Chelf's accuracy can improve.
* Why he'll win the starting job: Chelf won Gundy over by the end of the season, causing the coach to publicly announce he would be the No. 1 quarterback to start the spring. And now, coaches can evaluate his abilities based on meaningful game time, rather than just practice performance.
* Why he won't: A healthy Lunt straight-up beat out Chelf last year. Could it happen again?
* 2012 stats: 66.9 completion percentage, 1,564 passing yards, 13 passing touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 290 rushing yards, 7 rushing touchdowns
* 2012 summary: What a ride for Walsh. He was first thrust into emergency duty and became the starter when Lunt went down with his knee/ankle injury in September. Then, he played virtually the entire Iowa State game on a fractured kneecap, an injury that was originally believed to be season-ending. But he returned in mid-November and thrived as the change-up, run-throw threat in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
* Strengths: Walsh is a dynamic athlete, possessing a combination of toughness and speed that makes him a dangerous running threat. He's also known as one of the team's best natural leaders and is the definition of a “gamer.”
* Spring goal: Walsh needs to show improved arm strength, especially in this system. Even during his largely successful stint as the starter, it was easy to pick up on his inability to make the necessary throws to the outside receivers.
* Why he'll win the starting job: Walsh has an “it” factor and savvy playmaking ability that can't be taught, and is especially valuable at the quarterback position.
* Why he won't: His arm deficiencies are ultimately too much to overcome. And his change-of-pace running ability was a key part of the Cowboys' offense by season's end.
* 2012 stats: 61.8 completion percentage, 1,108 passing yards, 6 passing touchdowns, 7 interceptions
* 2012 summary: After winning the starting job out of spring as a true freshman, multiple injuries derailed Lunt's rookie campaign. He started five games, including a victory over TCU in late October, and passed for an OSU freshman record 436 yards in a loss at Arizona. Following a concussion that knocked him out of the Kansas State contest on Nov. 3, Lunt's only other game action came late in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
* Strengths: Lunt's big arm, accuracy and size still make him the most natural fit on the roster to run the Cowboys' system. Coaches and teammates were also impressed with Lunt's ability to quickly pick up the offense, as well as his calm and composed demeanor.
* Spring goal: First, stay healthy. Lunt has sustained three fairly significant injuries dating back to his senior year of high school. Beyond that, Lunt needs to continue to develop, particularly in his decision-making, and remind coaches and teammates why he won the job last spring. He's now gone through the complete football year, so there shouldn't be any surprises.
* Why he'll win the starting job: He had all the tools to run this offense as a true freshman, and he should only continue to improve in his second spring. A healthy Lunt is still likely the ultimate answer at the position, and the future could still be now.
* Why he won't: With Chelf taking control of the starting job down the stretch in 2012, could Lunt be a candidate to redshirt while Chelf finishes his career?
* 2012 stats: None
* 2012 summary: Garman ran the scout team offense while redshirting after transferring from Arizona.
* Strengths: Gundy has openly complimented Garman's arm strength.
* Spring goal: As the scout team quarterback, Garman never got the chance to prove he could run the Cowboys' system. He'll need to take advantage of any reps he gets during the spring.
* Why he'll win the starting job: Garman is clearly the dark horse and long shot in this race. But last season's quarterback carousel showed strange things can happen.
* Why he won't: The other three quarterbacks have way too much experience for Garman to legitimately establish himself as a contender in this competition.