All three O-State QBs have something to offer
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Monday, April 23, 2012
4/23/12 at 4:46 AM
Related Story: John Klein: Gundy has now grown into his job
STILLWATER - A year ago, Todd Monken inherited something really good - the Oklahoma State offense - and made it even better.
During the process of recording 12 victories and capturing the Big 12 championship, the 2011 Cowboys averaged 48.7 points and 546 yards per game. With Monken as the first-year offensive coordinator, Brandon Weeden as the record-setting quarterback and Justin Blackmon as the two-time unanimous All-American wide receiver, Oklahoma State ascended to unprecedented heights.
Weeden and Blackmon no longer have Stillwater addresses. This week, they become NFL draft picks.
Monken, in spite of having been approached about other jobs, remains at OSU for a second tour of duty. His 2012 challenge is infinitely more difficult than what he faced last year.
A substantial bump in pay took Monken from $400,000 last year to a current level of $600,000. If he can squeeze a nine-win season from an offense directed by a first-year starting quarterback, Monken will have earned every penny of his salary.
But that's the question - who is Oklahoma State's quarterback?
The Cowboys' spring-practice period ended with Saturday's two-hour scrimmage at Boone Pickens Stadium. Each of the three QB candidates - junior Clint Chelf, redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh and first-year freshman Wes Lunt - had comparably impressive passing numbers.
A lot of big plays were made against OSU's second- and third-team defensive personnel. Which quarterback can move the chains and get touchdowns against the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners?
Monken and coach Mike Gundy are scheduled to meet on Wednesday, and Gundy hopes to announce whether Chelf, Walsh or Lunt has been designated the No. 1 quarterback heading into voluntary summer sessions.
"If it was that obvious," Monken said on Saturday, "we would have already made the decision."
By Wednesday, Monken says he will have watched every spring-practice play involving each of the quarterbacks when they were on the field with the first-team offense.
"Those are our best players," Monken said. "That gives you the best assessment of what we'll do against somebody else."
An Enid native, Chelf has the decided experience advantage (10 game appearances) and apparently had the fewest performance fluctuations during the spring.
"I can't remember ups and downs with Clint," Monken said. "He's been pretty steady."
Walsh, of Guyer High School in Denton, Texas, was considered the pre-spring favorite. On Saturday, he was 16-of-27 passing for 310 yards and two touchdowns.
"It was definitely his best performance," Monken said. "I thought J.W. started the spring relatively strong. In the middle of spring, I thought he struggled for whatever reason. Maybe he just put too much pressure on himself.
"And then I thought the last few days he played his best football. What that means, I don't know. You don't want to overreact to the middle, when he wasn't doing as well. And you don't want to overreact at the end, off of one scrimmage."
During the last two weeks, however, the 6-foot-4, 211-pound Lunt - the best pure passer among the three - made a strong case to do what no other Cowboy has done since Tone Jones in 1993: start as a first-year freshman quarterback.
This is what Monken likes about Lunt, who only a few days before enrolling at OSU led Rochester (Ill.) High School to a second consecutive state championship: "Poise and calm demeanor and the way he handles being in meetings. His personality. That was probably the most impressive of anything - me dog-cussing the crap out of him ... and he was able to function without basically just going in the tank and quitting.
"... His body language doesn't change. It's so similar to (Weeden) in that regard. When (Lunt) gets excited, you hardly even know it. That's probably the most impressive thing."
In October, Weeden turns 29 - and Lunt turns 19.
Before the start of spring practice, Monken seemed to consider Lunt a distant third among the three QBs. At what point was Lunt viewed as being immediately viable?
"I think it was after the first five or six practices," Monken explained. "It got to the point where, 'All right, it doesn't always come out exactly the way you like, but he's an accurate son of a gun now. That ball's on the money.'
"By the middle of the spring, there was a possibility that he could be our starter."
Gundy, himself an OSU freshman QB starter in 1986, gets the deciding vote in determining who leads the 2012 Cowboy offense. Monken's job is to take a new quarterback and get positive results.
Monken got a 50 percent raise in salary and a 100 percent increase in pressure.
Original Print Headline: Monken's new duty: win with a rookie QB
Bill Haisten 918-581-8397
Quarterback Wes Lunt passes during OSU's spring scrimmage Saturday in Stillwater. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World