OSU football: Why Spencer Sanders winning QB battle would be best for Cowboys
ARLINGTON, Texas — Mike Gundy made no surprise proclamations about his starting quarterback Monday.
A year after casually dropping the Taylor-Cornelius-is-our-guy news during Big 12 football media days, the Oklahoma State coach was noncommittal this time around. Will it be Spencer Sanders? Will it be Dru Brown?
Will we ever know?
"Whenever we're ready to name a starter based on him earning the job," Gundy said as he sat on a giant stage midfield at Jerry World, "we'll do that."
On the day the league's coaches and players answered thousands of questions, the biggest one for the Cowboys remained unanswered. Even though it sounds like OSU has good multiple-choice answers — Gundy even floated Sanders and Brown sharing time at quarterback — one conclusion is clearly best for the Cowboys.
Sanders needs to win the job.
If the redshirt freshman would make himself the obvious choice, the benefits would be huge for OSU. And I'm not talking about his skill set. By all accounts, Sanders and Brown are similar players. They have strong and accurate arms. They have good and elusive speed.
"If you closed your eyes ... you really couldn't tell" who was at quarterback, Cowboy receiver Tylan Wallace said. "They both have very similar playing styles. It's really just very little things that tell them apart.
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This isn't a case of Mason Rudolph and J.W. Walsh both playing quarterback, Rudolph being the down-field passer and Walsh being the short-yardage runner.
No, Sanders taking control of this quarterback competition isn't so much about what's best for the offense in the here and now. It's about future benefits.
For starters, it could be a boost in recruiting. Sanders was a four-star recruit out of Denton Ryan High in Dallas-Fort Worth. Gatorade Player of the Year in Texas. Mr. Texas Football by Dave Campbell's Texas Football. He was a big deal in a place where high school football is a big deal.
Sanders starting as a true freshman for the Cowboys might not have been expected, but not starting after a year in Stillwater?
That might raise a few eyebrows in the Lone Star State.
Sanders winning the starting spot could also stabilize the quarterback position. If Brown is the guy, it would mean a minimum of three consecutive seasons with a rookie starter. Cornelius in 2018. Brown in 2019. Sanders (or whomever) in 2020. That much turnover is tough.
Gundy regularly references how a quarterback reaches a different level of understanding and comfort once he plays in 15 games. Think about the impact next season and beyond if Sanders has that kind of experience.
"People say if all things are equal, you just play the young guy," Gundy said. "I don't think we'll do that. If all things are equal, we'll play both guys. Dru came all the way across the country to be a part of our organization, so we owe him the opportunity."
For the record, I'm not advocating for anyone to pick Sanders if Brown, the grad transfer from Hawaii, is better. Not going with the better player can divide a locker room and split a squad and lead to all sorts of bad consequences.
That's why OSU needs Sanders to win the job. Leave no doubt. Be the clear choice.
Truth is, Sanders might've already done it. Because the Cowboys' depth is so thin behind Sanders and Brown, OSU needs both quarterbacks to stick around. Name a starter now, and the odd man out might well transfer.
But if the decision has been made and the starter has been decided, Gundy did a heck of a job selling snake oil on Monday.
"If neither one of them gives us any indication that they've taken the job prior to the first game, we'll play both guys," Gundy said. "I think that's fair."
That would absolutely be fair, but if Sanders would prove he is the clear and obvious choice for the Cowboys, that would be best.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.