STILLWATER — When Clint Chelf finished No. 3 in Oklahoma State's three-man quarterback derby last spring, he informed offensive coordinator Todd Monken that he'd be sticking around.
Monken's response: It won't be pretty.
“Clint wanted to know what his chances were to compete,” Monken said this week. “I didn't blow any smoke up his rear end. I just said, ‘Hey, you're going to be the third guy and you know what that entails.
“ ‘You get third-guy reps. And it's going to be with the third-team players, which means you're not going to look very good, because they're going to make a bunch of mistakes. And for every mistake you make, they'll make three.'”
Hardly a welcome-back speech.
Chelf, however, wouldn't be discouraged. Only more determined.
For that, the Cowboys are fortunate. And thankful. Whether Chelf steps into the starter's role Saturday for the again-injured Wes Lunt or remains waiting in the wings, OSU can claim confidence in its quarterback.
That's the silver lining in last weekend's 44-30 loss at Kansas State, where Lunt was lost to a blow to the head and Chelf came on to throw for 233 yards and a touchdown in less than a half of play.
“I have a lot of respect for him to stick in there and battle through adversity,” said Cowboys guard Lane Taylor. “I'm glad he stuck around. It turned out to be the best decision.”
None of this was foreseeable back in April.
Oh, coaches preach to players all the time about staying prepared in case their number is called. But a third-team quarterback … how often does that happen? Except with the Cowboys, Lunt was injured, then Walsh was lost for the season to a knee injury, and Lunt returned only to get dinged …
Cowboys coaches ranked the three quarterbacks out of the spring — Lunt, Walsh and then Chelf — based on various factors. Lunt surged to the front because of his rapid progress as a true freshman and for his fit in the offense. Chelf slid to the back of the line, partly because he didn't clearly win the job as the veteran, but also amid questions about his quiet demeanor in a leadership role.
Monken talked about Chelf's Facebook profile photo, with him in a court jester hat, and how that didn't seem to send the right message to teammates in terms of wanting to be “the guy.”
Frankly, Monken said, he saw the aftermath of the decision playing out one of two ways: with Chelf transferring, or simply riding out his career on scholarship.
“He was frustrated to be told third team,” Monken said. “Most guys just kind of say, ‘I'm done. I'm the third guy. I'm just going to ride this out and be an Oklahoma State alum, come back to Joe's and hang out, golf with all the old players.'