Fans waited patiently in padded-metal chairs for him to arrive on stage. With the season opener less than a month away, a few hundred shifted excitedly to talk Oklahoma State football with coach Mike Gundy.
With microphone in hand, Gundy spent nearly 15 minutes of his spotlight at the 2014 Cowboys Caravan inside the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Tuesday night breaking down different position groups. Then, he said this:
“We have a heck of a quarterback battle going.”
That was a hot topic Tuesday in Stillwater.
The Cowboy quarterback depth chart didn’t change, as the starter for the Florida State opener in Arlington has yet to be announced. But the conversation shifted from “if JW Walsh will start,” to “how much time will Daxx Garman really play?”
Gundy told reporters after a morning practice that Garman — a 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior — is preparing as if he will take “10-to-12 snaps” when OSU faces the Seminoles on national TV Aug. 30.
Gundy, assistant coaches and teammates have raved about Garman’s arm strength. Even Brandon Weeden. The former OSU quarterback told The Oklahoman in March that Garman impressed when he visited spring camp.
But while there’s much to like about Garman, who transferred to OSU from Arizona in 2012, much is unknown about his skill set.
Because Garman hasn’t started a fall football game with any real meaning since the 2009 season.
That’s the year he was a junior quarterback at Jones High School, northeast of Oklahoma City, and finished the season with 2,500 yards passing and 26 touchdowns while completing 69 percent of his throws.
Garman transferred to Southlake Carroll High School, a powerhouse in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, for his senior season but didn’t play because of transfer eligibility issues.
Other than spring showcases, Garman hasn’t appeared in a college football game since. He was redshirted at Arizona and has been deep on the OSU depth chart the past two seasons. Now, he might be asked to play against the returning national champions in his first collegiate matchup.
If what Gundy suggests takes place in the opener, it’s hard to believe Garman would be the starter. The Cowboys averaged about 75 offensive plays per game last season, so 10-to-12 snaps would take less than 20 percent of the entire game plan.
Or, considering the challenge Florida State presents, Gundy’s assessment of Garman’s use in the opener might lean toward the side of gamesmanship, rather than fact.
Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich wouldn’t go into detail as to who had the most repetitions at practice Tuesday. He instead praised all three of his quarterbacks for their work this fall.
“All three are looking good,” Yurcich said. “Daxx is doing a great job with the reps that he’s getting, JW is getting better every day it seems. The young rookie, Rudolph, is really doing good as well. So all three have their strong points and it’s fun to go and coach them every day.”
Gundy said his ideal depth chart resembles the 2011 OSU roster, when Weeden was the unquestioned leader and backup Clint Chelf had proven in late blowout victories that he could be plugged into the offense and be productive.
Based on Gundy’s potential strategy to use multiple quarterbacks this season, it’s clear he doesn’t have the luxury of that scenario in 2014.
“I would always prefer to say, ‘OK, here’s our guy.’ And then (the backup) is prepared to play, but the other guy is clearly more mature and better at this point,” Gundy said. “But if something happened, (the backup) could make a play. I think that’s my best-case scenario … If you have guys that can bring something different to the table — that’s what we have right now — then I’m a little reluctant to just disregard that (multiple look) aspect of it.”