STILLWATER — Mike Gundy essentially squashed all Oklahoma State quarterback derby talk again last week, reiterating to reporters that Clint Chelf has been taking reps with the first team and saying he didn't “necessarily feel like there's a battle out there to start in the first game.”
Which means J.W. Walsh or Wes Lunt, who both threw for more than 1,000 yards and won a Big 12 game as the starter during OSU's 2012 quarterback carousel, will inevitably transfer this summer because of the logjam at the position.
The more and more Walsh and Lunt speak publicly, the more it looks like all three quarterbacks could still be on the roster come fall.
“All three of us kind of have the same thinking — we all love it here,” Walsh said. “All of us want to be the quarterback, but it's a situation where we don't want to leave. We all believe we can be the guy. Obviously, all three of us were successful.
“I think it's a unique situation with three quarterbacks who can be (the starter). We're just treating it like last spring. It's a competition, but (we're) making sure the offense and the team is first and helping each other out as best we can, just in case something crazy happens again.”
It would be a pretty remarkable feat for OSU to keep all three quarterbacks, considering some programs — Iowa State last season, for example — have had trouble finding one capable signal-caller.
But because of how last season ended, with Chelf's fairy tale ascension from third stringer to successful starter, a short- and long-term plan has naturally unfolded that certainly sets up nicely for him and Lunt.
Chelf, who has graduated and could theoretically transfer and play immediately, has no reason to leave Stillwater now after being anointed the starter for his final season.
Lunt has been asked this spring about redshirting and immediately said he would be willing to do that. Gundy said he and Lunt have not discussed that specific option, but Lunt has clearly thought about it and accepted that possibility.
"Another year to grow and learn the offense and get accustomed to college football can't hurt," Lunt said
If Lunt transferred, he'd have to sit out and redshirt the 2013 season, anyway. And with new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich stressing that he does not plan to tweak much of OSU's Air Raid spread attack, Lunt still looks like the Cowboys' quarterback of the future.
So that leaves Walsh, who from the outside looks like the odd quarterback out, except for the special run-throw package in short-yardage and goal-line situations he directed with highly successful results down the stretch last season.
Yet Walsh's best friend, Josh Stewart, is in Stillwater. And the quarterback said last season taught him how unpredictable a 13-game schedule can be.
“Looking back now, the way it all unfolded, you never know what's going to happen,” Walsh said. “You can't ever let anything get your head down, because you're always one play away.”
It's kind of refreshing in this right-now sports culture — especially at quarterback, where only one guy can start — that both Walsh and Lunt will likely opt to stay at OSU, despite already proving they can win in the Big 12.
But the three quarterbacks all talk about being genuine friends. And Gundy describes them as “good kids” who understand the quarterback surplus has put everybody in an odd situation. One Gundy admits he doesn't entirely know how to handle.
“They don't come in and sit in my office and demand playing time and this and that,” Gundy said, “because we really don't have those answers right now.”
Of course, things could change after spring practice ends. These are college kids, after all. Emotions can be fickle. Competitiveness and a desire for more guaranteed snaps could take over. They could just be saying all the right things this spring.
But Lunt and Walsh have known Chelf was the QB1. Neither left before spring ball began.
Which makes it more likely the same three quarterbacks the Cowboys started in 2012 will be around again this September. Just in case.
“We want (the team) to be successful so bad,” Walsh said. “If it's not us, we're going to do whatever we can off the field, on the sideline, in the film room with the starter to help out.”