UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas — Clint Chelf is an educated man. Has a freshly minted business management degree to prove it.
But that sheepskin empowers Chelf in more than just the secular job market. It makes him more marketable as a quarterback. NCAA rules allow graduates with eligibility remaining to transfer without penalty, under certain guidelines.
So the Heart of Dallas Bowl could be the final OSU football game for the Cinderella Kid.
Except for this.
“I don't know why, if I was the starter here, I would leave to go somewhere else,” Chelf said.
Quite an answer, don't you think? For Chelf is indeed the starter against Purdue. And maybe for next season, too.
We've all sort of assumed that Mike Gundy would like to hand the reins back to Wes Lunt in 2013. But maybe not.
Gundy won't tip his hand about the OSU quarterback landscape, other than to admit that he's got an idea of what will happen and might announce a spring starter, just to settle the issue.
“We're much more settled in what our approach is now,” Gundy said. “We've seen the guys. Wide open is exactly the way it was in the spring. But I don't see it that way after this year. We have a good feel for the players and what they can do.”
The OSU coaching staff did not have that feel last spring, when Lunt won a three-man derby. Lunt fit the offense better than did J.W. Walsh, and Chelf was a clear No. 3.
Except no one saw the real Chelf.
“I just never had been on the field at all, so I don't think anybody knew anything I could do,” Chelf said.
Chelf was pressed into action after injuries to Lunt and Walsh. Chelf directed victories of 55-34 over West Virginia and 59-21 over Texas Tech, then took the Cowboys within a whisker of a Bedlam win in Norman, before OSU lost 51-48 in overtime.
“He performed much better than he ever practiced or scrimmaged,” Gundy said.
Gamers, they're called, and Gundy doesn't like the concept, because he wants players to practice well. But Gundy also doesn't deny the truth.
Chelf has been better in games than he ever was with the stands empty. Maybe Chelf's game — part mobility, part offensive knowledge, part cool customer — is better suited to the anarchy of games than the controlled environs of practice.
“It's hard to describe,” Gundy said. “But he's played much better than what he showed in practices.”
Gamers usually are associated with confident, even cocky, personalities. Outgoing. Fiery. An air of superiority.
That doesn't describe Chelf at all. He's more wallflower than firecracker. Which might be another reason he was relegated in the spring.
“We could very well have been wrong in choosing,” Gundy said.
Naming Chelf the 2013 starter would have its political benefits. Starting Lunt had to discourage Walsh, a fellow freshman. But Chelf would be just a one-year commitment, since he'll be a senior in '13. Lunt could redshirt, Walsh could run his short-yardage package and everyone might find some semblance of contentment.
This we absolutely know. Gundy says Chelf is starting against Purdue because he gives OSU the best chance to win.
“That's a great nod to have from the head coach,” Chelf said. “That's the best feeling you can have, especially as a quarterback, knowing the other guys have your back. Knowing you've gained their respect.”
Chelf absolutely has the respect of his teammates and coaches. And culling clues from Gundy makes you think he might stick with Chelf next season.
“We have two freshmen that are still miles away in learning and experience,” Gundy said. “They've only played like three games. Now we've got a veteran guy who's got four games experience or ever how much he has, kind of understands college football, but he didn't have a clue because he'd never been out there. So we're fortunate with the guys we have.”
Gundy admits he's wondered if Chelf might be tempted to transfer and was impressed with Chelf's answer — “Why would I leave?” — to my question.
“I think he understands he's kind of made a name for himself here,” Gundy said. “I think he likes being here. I think that's why he didn't leave in the first place.”
Chelf liked it at OSU when he was Brandon Weeden's backup and when he was third-teamer behind two freshmen. Why would he leave now that he has ascended to the top?
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.