At Oklahoma, Bob Stoops hasn’t named a starting quarterback.
Same goes for Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State.
So when Gundy and Stoops don’t want to tell everyone what we already know, it’s not a big surprise.
After all, TCU’s Casey Pachall hasn’t been named the starter for the Horned Frogs, but has been named the Big 12’s preseason All-Conference quarterback.
No one wants to admit the obvious. And that’s OK. Every move seems like a state secret because every Saturday is treated like Armageddon.
Blake Bell will be the starter at Oklahoma. Oklahoma State will go with Clint Chelf and one thing Gundy and Stoops would certainly never admit to and certainly never say is how both Bell and Chelf come with significant questions.
But right now they are the best answers.
You could make a case this is the most-significant quarterback move at OU since Josh Heupel arrived in Norman as a junior college transfer before the 1999 season.
For the first time in three seasons, OU has a new starter and for the first time in more than half a decade, the Sooners will be noticeably different offensively. And you could argue, for the first time since Stoops and Heupel came to town, OU really doesn’t have a true identity established on offense. There have been changes at quarterback, sure, but they have been transitions mostly. This is a break from the norm.
No wonder Stoops doesn’t want to name a starter. He does that and the questions come fast and furious. For now, Stoops can buy time not answering inquiries about what Bell can do with his arm. Not a bad move from Stoops.
But what we do know is Bell isn’t Landry Jones and isn’t Sam Bradford – both pure drop-back passers, comfortable to stand still and throw the ball all over. We know Bell will pass more often than he has in the past year in a half, as he’s only really come in on running and short-yardage situations. He has to throw more than that, but Bell isn’t the kind of quarterback the Sooners and their fans have become used to.
And that means he’s the face of a new team in a new situation. That’s a pressure Stoops is trying to avoid all the way up until September when the offense will undoubtedly debut as different, as run-first and a lot more deliberate than anyone has seen recently.
Listen, it’s a tough spot for Stoops. Don’t blame him a bit for keeping things as quiet as possible, because if Bell doesn’t work out. If the offense sputters and the defense is once again as generous as the Salvation Army at Christmas, the questions on why Stoops decided on Bell will escalate and intensify.
The thing is, Bell is the best option for Oklahoma. OU doesn’t have a thrower like Jones on campus anymore. They have a pair of runners in Kendal Thompson and Bell as well as an unproven in Trevor Knight. This is the year change had to come, so have a heart and understand why Stoops isn’t in a rush to embrace it.
Meanwhile, up the road in Stillwater, Gundy has already made his critical decision. It just wasn’t made public until quarterback Wes Lunt decided to leave the Cowboys and transfer to OSU.
Why would Lunt do that when he was successful in his short experience at OSU? Well, Gundy clearly selected Chelf as the starter and Lunt didn’t like the idea of waiting a year to maybe get back into the game with the Cowboys. He bolted and now Gundy is left in a tough spot.
If Chelf works out, well, that’s great. If he doesn’t the questions will come fast and furious. Sure, J.W. Walsh has played in the past, and he’ll play again this season, but likely it will be in running and short-yardage situations. That leaves Chelf as Gundy’s guy, a year after Gundy needed three quarterbacks – due to various injuries – just to get through the season.
Lunt started four games and did well, considering he was just a true freshman, but something happened along the way that encouraged Gundy to say it would be Chelf, not Lunt as the starter for 2013 way back in December before the Cowboys’ bowl game. Now, Gundy did step down from that declaration in the spring, but it seemed like it was just a reactionary move to keep Lunt around.
Oklahoma State is one injury away from being in a bind. Not exactly what you want heading into a season where the Cowboys are good enough to go to a BCS game.
Are Bell and Chelf the best guys for the job? Yes. Sure are, but they also carry a burden that Stoops and Gundy also share.