STILLWATER – Wes Lunt holds the fortune of OSU football 2012 in his awfully-talented hands and his 18-year-old brain.
Normally, that's enough information to know how a team would fare. Not very well. You don't get far in college football depending on a quarterback three months past his senior prom.
College football will take notice if Lunt is a phenom and the Cowboys continue their high-riding ways (23 wins the last two seasons). But college football should be even more intrigued if Lunt goes splat.
For this reason: No quarterback ever has failed in his first season of running the Air Raid offense.
The offense that Hal Mumme installed at Kentucky and Mike Leach took to OU and Texas Tech, then Sonny Dykes exported to Arizona and Dana Holgorsen to Houston, OSU and West Virginia, is easy on quarterbacks.
From Tim Couch at Kentucky to Josh Heupel at OU to all those Tech reloaders to Case Keenum at Houston to Brandon Weeden at OSU to Geno Smith at West Virginia, quarterbacks excel at their first crack with the Air Raid.
Admittedly, Mumme nor his disciples ever handed the keys to a true freshman. So that will keep Mike Gundy awake at night. But the truth is, this offense, which flings the ball around 50, 60, sometimes 70 times a game, is easy on quarterbacks.
We don't know what Lunt says about the offense, since his speaking privileges don't start until next January. But one of Lunt's backups, Clint Chelf, says the Air Raid indeed is one of the easier systems to use.
“There's not a whole lot of verbiage, words,” Chelf said. “Some of the things are pretty simple in that aspect. My true freshman year, when Coach Gundy was still calling plays in that (Zac Robinson) offense, I was in way over my head. Compared to that offense, this offense is extremely easy. The playbook is not even close to being as thick as it was. The quarterbacks, hardest part of it, is having the freedom to make all those decisions at the line.”
That's where Lunt's learning curve comes in. The formations, the routes, that stuff's easy in the Air Raid. The hard part is knowing where to throw the ball. And the hard part seems to come easy quickly for novices.
The thin playbook and the constant repetition of routes by receivers, make for a simple offense that is hard to guard.
“It is easy,” said OSU offensive coordinator Todd Monken. “It is something our guys should be able to handle. That was something I was always impressed with. Whether it was Mike or Dana or Sonny (Dykes), they seem to do it better than the teams defended it.
“Their receivers adjusted to different coverages and made the quarterback right more often than not, because they just did it so often. They just repeated what they did and guys got used to doing it. You don't have to have a lot of plays, because your guys really understand where to be and where to create space.”
Couch was the youngest quarterback to take over an Air Raid. He was a sophomore in 1997, when Kentucky's offense took the nation by storm. The Wildcats went just 5-6 but scored 27 on Mississippi State, 28 on Florida, 40 on Alabama, 28 on LSU and 31 on Tennessee. The next year, Kentucky scored 35 on Florida, and Gator defensive coordinator Bob Stoops vowed to implement the offense if he ever had his own program. Which he did the next year with Leach.
Couch became the No. 1 pick of the 1999 NFL Draft. He eventually went 22-37 as the Browns' starting quarterback and is considered a pro bust. But Couch remains the only Air Raid quarterback to quarterback an NFL win.
That's a later assignment for Lunt. He's not being asked to win games for the Dallas Cowboys. He's been asked to win games for the OSU Cowboys.
“He's doing fine,” Monken said. “He's doing really good. He gets it. Does he get everything we're doing? No. Half the stuff, he doesn't answer the question right in the meeting, he's still trying to figure it out, what I want to hear, what he thinks is right, whatever. Eventually it's all going to come together. Hopefully that'll be by Sept. 1.
“But the things he does, he's smart, he's accurate. He's got a good idea of what teams are trying to do (defensively). What are we doing? Where do I go with it? He's done great. He'll be fine.”
Air Raid rookies always are.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.