This past Wednesday, just before Oklahoma State went through a 115-play scrimmage, Cowboys head football coach Mike Gundy decided to put speculation and uncertainty to rest regarding OSU’s starting quarterback. And it landed Enid’s Clint Chelf not only the starting spot, but also in the proverbial crosshairs.
“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.”
But, then, just to hedge his bets, Gundy added, “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.”
So, yeah, Chelf’s the starter but Walsh is going to be getting plenty of time as well and then for added intrigue Gundy threw in the names of transfer Daxx Garman who is eligible after sitting out a year, and Wes Lunt. However, many are speculating Lunt may redshirt as he continues to recover from injury.
With more than four months to go before OSU’s season-opening game Aug. 31 against Mississippi State in Houston, much still can happen between now and then. What is certain, however, is the pressure will be squarely on Chelf.
Last year Chelf was deservedly recognized for hanging in there when both Lunt and Walsh were listed ahead of him on the depth chart and he was relegated to third string. It was a tough pill to swallow for the then-junior, but he hung in there with the program and when the freshman phenoms went down with injury, Chelf stepped in and performed admirably, if not spectacularly. He wrapped up his junior campaign by being named MVP in Oklahoma State’s 58-14 dismantling of Purdue in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
While the naming of Chelf as OSU’s starter led to plenty of smiles and good feelings here in Enid, where he lit up opposing high school defenses not too long ago, it was met with a fair amount of derision on some of the OSU fan boards. And the harsh comments show Chelf will not be extended a honeymoon period with some fans already writing off the season.
Granted, you have to take most of the comments on Internet message boards with the tiniest grain of salt, but it does give an indication of what some of the most hard core (and some insanely rabid) fans are saying. And it’s not overwhelmingly positive with several fans bemoaning the choice and already conceding the Big 12 crown, which is pure nonsense.
A cold look at last year’s numbers compares favorably for Chelf, who topped OSU’s quarterbacks with 15 touchdowns, a team-high average of 198.5 yards passing per game and a team-best 1,588 yards. Chelf started five games, as did Lunt who tossed only six touchdowns and had seven picks, compared to six picks for Chelf. Walsh’s numbers rival Chelf’s with 13 touchdowns and only three picks to go along with 1,564 yards passing.
If last season was a test of Chelf’s commitment, this season will be a test of his resolve as being a starter at a big-time college football program brings significant responsibility and burdens. Every move will be over-analyzed and each interception or failed scoring drive will subject him to critical questioning from media and fans. And we all know the most popular person on any football team is usually the backup quarterback, who is seen as the answer the moment the starter falters.
Chelf has shown he has the constitution to be a starter both physically and emotionally and there is no reason to think he cannot hold up to bear under scrutiny and succeed. He’s a proven winner.
While no one can foretell what lies ahead, it is certain Chelf will need to maintain that level of confidence as he will now find himself a marked man not just by opposing defenses, but also from friendly fire when things go awry. Welcome to the starting role, Clint.
Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org