Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy is staying mum about who will start at quarterback against Kansas on Saturday.
True freshman Wes Lunt won a three-way competition during the spring to become the starter, but went down with a knee injury early in a Sept. 15 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. Redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh came in to finish that game and went the distance in a 41-36 loss to Texas on Sept. 29.
Walsh proved effective in both games, passing for 347 yards and four touchdowns against Louisiana-Lafayette and 301 yards and two touchdowns against Texas. He also rushed for 130 yards in the two wins. Lunt went 11-for-11 passing in the season opener - an 84-0 romp over Savannah State - and passed for 436 yards and four touchdowns in a 59-38 loss at Arizona.
Gundy called Lunt's status "day-to-day" on Monday, saying Lunt has returned to throwing drills during practice but hasn't yet run plays. Lunt has missed just one game so far, as Oklahoma State (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) had bye weeks before and after the game against Texas.
Gundy said he thinks Lunt will mentally be ready to play Saturday afternoon against Kansas (1-4, 0-2), but Lunt's physical status will be evaluated during the rest of the week.
"The fairest way to put it is Wes' reps in practice will increase as his body allows," Gundy said, later adding that "we're not going to put him out there until he's ready."
Lunt won't lose the starting job because of injury, Gundy said, saying it was "the best way and the fairest way" to handle a similar situation at any position. But the coach left himself a bit of wiggle room when discussing the subject Monday.
"Anybody can get beat out at any time," Gundy said. "The quarterback position is more high-profile because everybody sees it. But if they're nonproductive at any position, then we work somebody else in, and then if another guy is producing more and helping our team win, then that guy stays in. But I think the thing to remember here is, is Wes was pretty productive when he was playing and we would expect for him to be that way when he comes back."
If Gundy did make a mid-season change at quarterback, it would be the first time he changed starters at that position for anything other than injury reasons since Zac Robinson replaced Bobby Reid in 2007.
Walsh spoke to reporters Monday and said he didn't know if it would be him or Lunt starting on Saturday.
"I really couldn't tell you when I'll find out," Walsh said. "But we'll both prepare like we're going to be the starter. That way, when we go in we'll all be prepared and be able to do the best that we can."
Walsh believes he's grown as a quarterback the last few weeks because he's worked with the Cowboys' first-team unit in practice and in games.
Gundy didn't disagree with that assessment.
"He's growing and maturing with the position through 150 plays or 200 plays or however many he's been able to get out there on the field," Gundy said. "His learning curve has started. You have to get into it a little bit before you can actually start to learn. He has made mistakes and corrected those mistakes and then had successful plays to follow those mistakes. He's different in that way than he was Sept. 1."
The Cowboys' players feel confident with either quarterback, starting center Evan Epstein said.
"We have the same plays and we go out and block them," Epstein said. "The only difference is there's a different hand pointing to me when I look through my legs and snap him the ball. We trust any one of those guys. I've said it 100 times. Either one of those guys can get the job done."
Long-term, Gundy wouldn't commit to using both quarterbacks, but he did say what Walsh has brought to the Cowboys is intriguing and that they need to take advantage of his talents.
"If he were at another position, offense or defense, he would be in the game somewhere, somehow, whether he'd be a pass rusher, a run stopper, a route runner, coverage guy, support safety," Gundy said. "So just because he plays the quarterback position, we would need to not totally eliminate the thought of maybe using him to our advantage to help us win football games."