Spring Practice: Gundy Says Chelf Is Starter

Clint Chelf

The Oklahoma State Cowboys had their first major scrimmage of the spring on Wednesday in the rain and chilly coniditions as they went for right at 115 plays and covered that number in a quick time with a rapid tempo.

During the media availability session earlier in the day, head coach Mike Gundy was asked about whether he would postpone the scheduled scrimmage a day to get better weather conditions or if he was lamenting that the Sherman Smith Indoor Training Facility wasn't finished yet. Gundy seemed to like the challenge of the conditions for his football team.

"It's cold for the coaches standing out there watching, colder than it is for the players," Gundy answered the weather skeptics. "Today is a good day to practice, and we have to be able to function with our offense in all kinds of conditions and today is a good day to practice that.

"If the rain is coming down then maybe you don't throw the ball down the field as far. You have to be able to manage the game and get the ball in the hands of the guys that can make plays. We would be outside today even if we had the indoor facility ready. It is 42 degrees and raining, and we are going to have to play games in 42 degrees and raining."

Oklahoma State Athletic Media Relations did not report on any of the results or what took place in the scrimmage. But Gundy did comment before the scrimmage and offer some sort of barometer of where the team is now and where it is expected to be heading into the season which starts on Aug. 31 in Houston against SEC member Mississippi State.

"I think the easiest way to sum up where our football team is and where we will be in August is that we are going to be as competitive as anybody in the country," Gundy said with confidence. "Give or take, home or away, I'm not sure there is anybody out there that we could play that if we played well and took care of the ball that we wouldn't think we would beat."

A big part of that is the depth at quarterback, and for the first time Gundy seemed to really provide the current depth chart for the media during his conversation on Wednesday.

He started by commenting on the strength of having three of the top returning quarterbacks in a league where five of the conference's bowl teams ost starting quarterbacks, including Big 12 champion Kansas State.

"It is strange and we've gone over about a three- or four-year stretch in this league where quarterback play has been tremendous," said Gundy. "I don't know how many, four or five guys starting in the NFL that played in this league, and there were some good ones last season (that graduated).

"We feel the three we have are really good college players. I think the one thing that is most impressive to our staff is that we are really lucky that they are good kids. They don't come into my office demanding playing time and this and that. We really don't have those answers right now.

"We had one quarterback that went out and played well statistically and he got hurt and we put another one out there and he played well statistically, Then he went down and we put another one out there and he played well. It is really unusual that you have that many guys that all played well, so much so when they got healthy you couldn't put them back out there because the next guy was playing so well."

While the quarterbacks and other players have reported all three, and even transfer Daxx Garman, are getting reps, Gundy clearly identified the top line on the depth chart for right now.

"Clint Chelf is our starter, he takes all the reps with the ones right now," Gundy said. "The other guys compete out there, but I don't necessarily feel like there's a battle out there to start in the first game. I think with the way that he performed and the way J.W. Walsh performed in certain situations, it's their job to lose with whatever situation it is on the field.

"Wes Lunt continues to get better, and Daxx Garman gets reps for us. We're in an unusual situation and I'm not sure we have all the answers or the right way to handle it but we do get a lot of reps in practice and they're getting quality work."

Chelf told me that he is much more relaxed this spring, and that he doesn't keep score on a daily basis like he did last spring which he said was much more stressful and pressure packed on him than this spring has been.

He likes the addition of new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich and loves that the offense goes at a frenetic pace.

"He's done a great job of keeping it simple for us and that is one of his mottos, keep it simple, so we can play fast," said Chelf of Yurcich. "He came in and that is what he has tried to do."

Walsh agrees that he likes Yurcich and said he is different from former OC and now Southern Miss head coach Todd Monken in several ways.

"Some of his philosophies on reads and play calling are different," Walsh said. "That is always going to be different. His temperment is a lot different and the tempo is a lot faster and he keeps his cool a lot better than Monken did last year."

Lunt said it is good to have a different set of eyes watching, and he has welcomed that Yurcich sees things differently and that can mean being asked to improve in different areas.

"So far, I think I am doing all right and there are always ways to improve and that is what I am trying to do," said the sophomore that earned the starting job during spring practice in 2012. "It is a new philosophy in what he sees and what you can do. It has been good to learn new schemes and such."

The head coach agrees with the quarterbacks that the offense moves fast. Team periods have regularly run short so far in the spring as the plays scripted run out earlier than time allotted because of the tempo.

"Mike Yurcich's philosophy is speed," said Gundy. "When I studied potential coordinator candidates on tape and studied Shippensburg on video, I noticed the majority of the time when they got a first down, the ball was snapped before the chains were set.

"I don't know what type of chain gangs they have in that league, not to knock that league, but they must have been moving pretty fast for that to happen. So, I would say the speed of our offense has increased this spring.

"I looked at several potential candidates and thought they fit what we were looking for, but I didn't think they played fast enough. I'm not sure that's something you can teach, but something you call and feel. We wanted to bring a guy in here that understood our offense," added Gundy.

For the first time Gundy commented on the possibility of Lunt taking a redshirt if he is not the starting quarterback. Lunt has said to several different media members in interviews that if he was asked he would be willing to redshirt if he wasn't playing.

"That question got brought up the other day and I'm not sure I have an answer right now," said Gundy on the subject. "Wes and I haven't sat down and talked about his future and where he's at right now.

"I will say he is in much better physical condition now than where he was last year. He had a really good February and his grasp of the offense has gotten better each day. He's going to be a really good football player. So I'm not really sure we have an answer whether it's in August or a possible redshirt season."

The Cowboys will finish out the week with their ninth practice of the spring on Friday. Two more weeks to go and the spring game is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Saturday, April 20, in Boone Pickens Stadium. It is part of a packed day of activities on Legend's Weekend in Stillwater and at Oklahoma State.

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