STILLWATER — Mike Gundy did not reveal if Clint Chelf or J.W. Walsh would take the first snap against Mississippi State next Saturday.
But he did, essentially, name two starting quarterbacks.
“I don't feel like either one of them will be a backup in the first game,” Gundy said at his preseason press conference Thursday afternoon.
The fact that both will play against the Bulldogs is no huge surprise. The general belief throughout the offseason was that the most likely quarterback scenario would be one that looked much like the one staged down the stretch of 2012 — with Chelf starting and Walsh periodically entering the game to run a specialty package in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
But Gundy's comments clearly suggested a more platoon approach. In fact, he said he felt “obligated” to play both, even though he has previously expressed his dislike for full-blown two-quarterback systems.
“I don't like two-quarterback systems if we have one that's better than the other or one that's more experienced,” Gundy said. “Each year is different. Now we have two quarterbacks who are right there with the same amount of experience.
“We're obligated to give both of them an opportunity to play in the game. We feel like they can each provide something for the team to give us a chance to be successful this year.”
That “obligation” stems from how both Chelf and Walsh performed last season, often in difficult and unexpected situations during an injury-driven quarterback carousel. Both started at least three games, passed for more than 1,000 yards and won at least one Big 12 contest.
But they're also different styles of players, which can add another dimension to OSU's already powerful offense and give opposing defensive coordinators another element to think about while game-planning.
Chelf has better-than-average mobility but is primarily a thrower. Walsh is sometimes a limited thrower but has displayed excellent athleticism and toughness while running the football.
Though Chelf went out with the first unit during team drills in spring practice, he ultimately got the same amount of reps as Walsh and former Cowboy Wes Lunt, Gundy said. A similar routine has apparently taken place during fall camp, with both Chelf and Walsh each getting even more work with Lunt transferring to Illinois.
How equal will the actual game reps be? And how long will this approach go on? We'll see. Gundy said he would obviously play one quarterback over the other if there was a clear difference in performance on the field.
But for now, the Cowboys don't have one starting quarterback. They have two.
“There's no perfect (answer),” Gundy said. “It's an issue. I think everybody would say you'd rather have an NFL quarterback and play one. That makes it a lot easier for everybody.
“If you don't, if there's two guys that both deserve to play, you gotta play them. That's really the only way to handle it.”