STILLWATER — Oklahoma State needed three starting quarterbacks during a bizarre injury-driven carousel at the position in 2012.
Then the entire trio — Clint Chelf, Wes Lunt and J.W. Walsh — battled for that spot during spring football, with Cowboy coach Mike Gundy announcing at the conclusion that the competition would continue into the fall and that he would not publicly name a starter or allow quarterbacks to speak to the media before OSU's season opener against Mississippi State.
But that three-man race is now suddenly down to two, as OSU announced Thursday evening that Lunt, who won the starting job as a true freshman last spring, will transfer.
“This was not a decision I took lightly, but it is a decision that I felt was right for me,” Lunt said in a release. “I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to the entire Oklahoma State University community. Specifically, I would like to thank the coaches, players, and the whole OSU football family. I wish the Cowboys the best of luck in the future.”
Lunt, who possesses a strong, accurate arm ideal for OSU’s Air Raid spread system, became the Cowboys’ first true freshman to start a season opener since at least 1950 but then had a rookie campaign marred by injuries.
On the Cowboys’ first drive against Louisiana-Lafayette in mid-September, he sustained a dislocated kneecap and a sprained ankle on the same play. Then in early November, a concussion knocked him out of the Kansas State game in the second half. He didn’t play again until late in the fourth quarter of the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Lunt finished the season with 1,180 passing yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions in five starts. He also set a Big 12 single-game freshman record with 436 passing yards against Arizona.
“We appreciate Wes and we thank him for everything he has done,” Gundy said in a release. “He’s leaving on good terms and is making this decision based on what he thinks is best for his future.”
Derek Leonard, Lunt’s coach at Rochester (Ill.) High School, said he had not heard Lunt was thinking about transferring until the quarterback returned home following the spring semester. Leonard said he talked to Lunt about three or four days ago, when Lunt notified him he was going to call Gundy to discuss his future.
“I didn’t talk to him about how that conversation went,” Leonard said. “Other than that, that’s all I knew. He just told me he was going to call Coach and talk to him. I don’t know if he was 100 percent sure (he was going to transfer). But I know at that time, he thought that was coming, that it would be best for him.
“But he was going to talk to Coach Gundy and see what he had to say. After that, obviously what’s happened has happened now.”
Leonard said he couldn’t pinpoint any specific reasons — such as the quarterback derby or a desire to play for a school closer to home — for Lunt’s transfer. But he did admit that former offensive coordinator Todd Monken, Lunt’s primary recruiter, leaving OSU to become the head coach at Southern Miss “didn’t help.”
“I know he really enjoyed it (at OSU),” Leonard said. “He had friends. He really did like it. I don’t think anybody did anything wrong. I just think, for his future, he thought this was the best thing for him going forward.”
Lunt seemed upbeat about his up-and-down first season while speaking publicly to the media for the first time during the spring, calling it all a roller coaster but a valuable learning experience. He also said then he would be willing to redshirt if he did not win the starting job for 2013.
“It was a lot, but it was a great learning tool for my future,” Lunt said then. “ … You just learn a lot about yourself and how you handle adversity, physical and emotional. And you learn the coaches are here to help, and so are the players. It's a family.”
So now Chelf and Walsh will compete for OSU's starting job in fall camp, with Daxx Garman, who transferred from Arizona last spring, entering the fold as the likely candidate to take the No. 3 job.
Meanwhile, Lunt will sit out and redshirt 2013 at the school that becomes his transfer destination.