BY GINA MIZELL, Staff Writer, email@example.com
STILLWATER — Perhaps the silver lining is that Oklahoma State's offensive players have gotten used to what could otherwise be considered an awkward quarterback situation.
Last year, an injury-driven carousel caused the Cowboys to start three quarterbacks. Through six games of 2013, OSU has already gone through two midgame switches at the position. And Monday, coach Mike Gundy reiterated that he would not publicly name a starter before Saturday's game at Iowa State — and likely wouldn't tell Clint Chelf or J.W. Walsh who will take the first snap against the Cyclones until that day.
No matter, says senior receiver Tracy Moore.
“We practice with both. We're all comfortable with both of them,” Moore said. “Whoever's gonna score us points …”
Gundy insists that the Cowboys' overall scheme is the same with Chelf and Walsh. But because of each quarterback's individual skill set, the signal-caller in the game will impact the rest of OSU's pieces on offense.
With Walsh, the Cowboys' best player, Josh Stewart, is sure to get a multitude of touches. Not just because of the natural chemistry between the two longtime friends, but because Stewart's spot in the slot caters more to Walsh's throwing ability.
In Walsh's three starts in 2012, plus the Louisiana-Lafayette game where he took over for an injured Wes Lunt on the game's first series, Stewart compiled 32 of his 101 catches, 350 of his 1,210 yards and three of his seven touchdowns.
Against TCU, Walsh and Stewart connected seven times for 99 yards. After that? Stewart had three catches for 42 yards, with 27 of those coming on a ball thrown by receiver Charlie Moore on a trick play.
Chelf may not target Stewart as much, but his arm strength could open up more of the vertical game to the outside receivers.
A guy like Tracy Moore, who caught a 46-yard deep ball down the middle from Chelf on Saturday, would seem to benefit from that type attack.
Last season with Walsh, Moore totaled 12 catches for 153 yards and no touchdowns, with the bulk of that production coming in the Texas game where he moved inside. And a sticking image of the season so far comes from the West Virginia game, where Walsh could not get a deep ball to Moore for what would have been a sure touchdown.
More of a downfield attack could also help open a scuffling running game, because defenses won't be able to stack the box as much. After tallying 125 rushing yards against Mississippi State, Walsh struggled to break free in Big 12 play, averaging 3.7 yards per carry.
Chelf, of course, has better-than-average mobility, though he doesn't have the same pure athleticism or scrambling ability as Walsh. And don't underestimate Walsh's intangibles like leadership and toughness, which coaches and teammates still hold in high regard.
So maybe the solution is to play both, like the Cowboys did down the stretch last season when Chelf had taken hold of the starting job but Walsh was inserted for a specialty package for short-yardage and goal-line situations after recovering from a knee injury.
We won't know the plan until it materializes against Iowa State. But the Cowboys are ready to play with whoever is behind center.
“I don't think that it's ever easy,” Gundy said of changing quarterbacks. “I think that the advantage that we have is we have quality people there (at the position), and we have the support of the team that rallies around both of them.”
Added Moore: “We're definitely gonna roll with whatever we got. The offense is kind of set up for them to have success throwing the ball. All we gotta do is catch the ones that come to us.”