DALLAS — Lane Taylor chuckled when he was asked how many times Wes Lunt had become a topic of conversation during Big 12 Media Days.
“Six million times,” the Oklahoma State offensive lineman said.
A large exaggeration, of course. It's not a stretch, however, to say that Lunt was arguably the most talked-about quarterback not in Dallas at the unofficial kickoff of the Big 12 season.
It's been nearly three months since the true freshman signal-caller was named the Cowboys' new starter. But Tuesday's interview sessions marked the first time OSU coach Mike Gundy and some of his players talked publicly about the successor to record-breaking Cowboy quarterback Brandon Weeden.
“We didn't want to have a quarterback race or a controversy going throughout the summer, and so we've accomplished that,” Gundy said. “Now we need to get him to play well and follow up on it.”
First came the late April decision to crown Lunt the OSU quarterback for the present and future. Gundy admitted toward the end of spring football that he knew who he felt should be the Cowboys' starter. Yet he kept those thoughts private so he would not influence the other offensive coaches.
“(Lunt) would make plays in our two-minute drills and in certain situations that made me think, ‘Yeah, maybe this guy can do it, we'll see,' ” Gundy said. “And then the next practice, he'd make a play or two. And then he'd make another couple plays.
“I thought, ‘If he continues to do this, (he can be the starter),' and he did. He maintained pretty good up until the end.”
The week after OSU's spring finale, Gundy met with offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who had reached the same conclusion. The decision to name Lunt the starter, which became official after Monken met with each quarterback, spread so quickly through social media and among the players that Gundy did not even need to call a team meeting to make the announcement.
Running back Joseph Randle was in the locker room with several teammates when he got the news.
“I knew who had a great spring, but we didn't know if they was bold enough to really do it,” Randle said. “He did have a worthy camp. He showed that he could get the ball down the field similar to what we've had in the past, and he's similar to Weeden.
“We had a lot of success with Weeden last year, so we're just going to try to keep going with that.”
Gundy shared Tuesday that Lunt has beefed up to 220 pounds during the Cowboys' offseason program and is better conditioned than when he arrived in January. Beyond that, however, Gundy couldn't reveal much about his quarterback, because coaches are not allowed to be involved with summer workouts.
“I haven't seen him in six weeks, eight weeks,” Gundy said. “I'm in and out of the office, and those guys are down in the bottom level training and throwing and going through strength and conditioning.
“I know he's been in the room studying tape, but I haven't really spent a lot of time around him. We're not allowed to. So I'm looking forward to getting somewhat reacquainted with him the first weeks in August.”
It's the players who have seen plenty of Lunt — and the reviews are largely positive.
Taylor called Lunt a quiet guy, but one who leads by example, rarely makes a mistake and is clearly getting more comfortable in the Cowboys' offensive system.
Randle went even further in describing how Lunt has performed during 7-on-7 play.
“I'm not trying to say nothing, but it looks very similar to how it looked last year (with Weeden),” Randle said. “That's what I'm trying to tell you. I'm not trying to boost him up or nothing, but it looks really similar to how it looked last year.
“He's been able to run the offense, get the plays in, all the different things that you wouldn't think a guy of his age could do. That's why the coaches were comfortable enough with him to put him in there.”
Gundy expects Lunt to dramatically improve when he gets 75 percent of the reps during fall camp. And the coach also has not completely shut out J.W. Walsh, reiterating that building a package for the dual-threat redshirt freshman or getting him involved in the offense in some way is likely in the plans.
Fall camp — and probably a good portion of the 2012 season — will largely be about the transition from a legendary Cowboy quarterback to an 18-year-old newbie. But Lunt already has the support of his teammates.
“He knows that he's got older guys here who have faith in him,” defensive end Cooper Bassett said. “If he does his job, we all have his back. He doesn't have to be a big ‘rah rah' guy. He doesn't have to get us all fired up.
“All he has to do is get in there and do what we need him to do — make plays and lead the offense by example.”