At any level in any sport, no one really wants to share playing time.
In 2015, Mason Rudolph and J.W. Walsh really didn’t want to share Oklahoma State’s quarterback job.
They did, though, and the results were a shocking 10-0 start and a No. 4 national ranking for the Cowboys.
Today, even if Spencer Sanders makes a dazzling move before the Aug. 30 opener at Oregon State, it feels like Mike Gundy again is ready to play two QBs — and maybe for the entirety of the 2019 season.
It was interesting to watch a recent OSU-produced video starring Dru Brown and Sanders, and to hear each quarterback say that he’s cool with the ongoing competition process and supportive of the other guy.
From Sanders, a redshirt freshman: “I believe that we’re both great quarterbacks. No matter who goes out there ... we’re not going to look at each other differently. We’ve built a bond together. We don’t hate each other.”
From Brown, a fifth-year senior and a second-year Cowboy who last year made a grad-transfer move to Oklahoma State: “There’s this big misconception that we’re against each other. ... At the end of the day, this is making both of us better.”
During last week’s OSU media day, this was among the first questions pitched to Gundy: “At what point in preseason camp will you consider it absolutely necessary to identify a starter?”
“We might not,” Gundy replied. “We might play two. If you were at practice today, you’d say, ‘Play two.’ They were both pretty good.
“I know people say that if you can’t name one, you don’t have any. I don’t see that.”
Brown and Sanders are politically correct with what they say about their duel for the starting job, and program insiders indicate that the quarterbacks do seem to like each other, but athletes at this level have an ego.
Every quarterback on the planet wants to take every meaningful snap.
As a sophomore in 2015, and after having been heroic late in the 2014 season, Rudolph was the starter who grudgingly accepted his time-share role. Walsh also wanted to start as a fifth-year senior, of course, but he was tremendous in his part-time assignment.
Publicly, Rudolph and Walsh said the right things.
“At first, Mason didn’t want to come off the field,” Gundy recalled this week. “But he understood, based on the strengths that J.W. provided for us, that we were a better football team (when both QBs played).
“J.W. deserved to play. He was better at certain things than Mason. Both of them were mature enough and smart enough to handle it.”
Against Texas Tech, as OSU rallied from three 17-point deficits, Walsh was more than a reliever. He was the closer. As the Cowboys prevailed 70-53 in a crazy game at Lubbock, Walsh took every fourth-quarter snap. He connected with James Washington on 73- and 75-yard touchdown plays.
The skill sets and athletic wherewithal of Rudolph and Walsh were decidedly different, so their abilities were complementary. With Brown and Sanders today, there isn’t that great a difference stylistically.
Brown is more experienced. Sanders has more pure arm talent and speed, but the belief now is that when Brown is on the field with the first-team offense, everything clicks at a slightly better level and there might be a lower risk of turnovers.
Before he injured his foot in the 2015 Baylor game, Rudolph averaged 299 passing yards and was incredibly efficient on third-and-long throws. Like, historically great on third-and-long.
As the special-occasion quarterback, Walsh had regular-season totals 13 passing TDs and 11 rushing TDs. He completed 68% of his passes. On only 138 snaps, he was responsible for 144 points. His points-per-play average was by far the best in college football.
For a “Night With OSU” event Monday in Oklahoma City, about 300 people massed at a downtown venue. You could overhear quarterback-related talk all over the room.
Gov. Kevin Stitt was there for a few minutes. During a backstage talk with Gundy, Stitt asked about the Brown-Sanders storyline.
Never before has Gundy been dealt a QB situation quite like this. Or is it a dilemma? If neither QB can execute and win, then it’s a massive dilemma.
If OSU has a losing season or again barely qualifies for a bowl, no one is going to be happy with that. The standard now is 10 wins, and it shouldn’t be adjusted because of a change at the quarterback position.
Since the spring, the Brown-or-Sanders question has been the No. 1 conversation topic among OSU people.
They probably should begin to wrap their minds around a Brown-and-Sanders dynamic.