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OSU football: Why Mike Gundy doesn't want to play two quarterbacks and why he might have to

Oklahoma State's Spencer Sanders, left, and Dru Brown laugh while posing for a photo during OSU's media day Saturday. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma State's Spencer Sanders, left, and Dru Brown laugh while posing for a photo during OSU's media day Saturday. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

STILLWATER — Mike Gundy wants to name a quarterback.

He would love to proclaim Spencer Sanders or Dru Brown as the starter. It would simplify life. Reps in practice would be set. Uncertainty in the locker room would be calmed. Questions from outsiders would be silenced.

The Oklahoma State coach would jump at the chance to have peace in the valley.

“I don’t wait any longer than I have to,” he said, “because I don’t want to mess with it.”

But …

“If you were at practice today,” he said Saturday after the Cowboys’ third fall practice and the first in pads, “you’d say play two.”

What began a few weeks ago at Big 12 football media days as an off-hand musing has become a full-blown possibility. OSU may well go to Oregon State for the season opener with co-starters at quarterback. While clarity could come in the nearly four weeks of practice before that game, it sounds more and more like neither Sanders nor Brown is able to separate from the other.

Gundy is aware of the adage about teams that play two quarterbacks.

“I know sometimes people say if you can’t name one,” he said, “you don’t have any.”

Not any good ones anyway.

“I don’t see that situation here,” he said. “They’re both pretty good.”

I’m guessing the Cowboys would be successful regardless of who starts at quarterback. Brown could win games. So could Sanders. Both have resumes that suggest success, Brown having started for two years at Hawaii, Sanders having become a five-star recruit from Denton Ryan High in Texas.

But who gives OSU the best chance to win games?

Ah, there’s the rub. That could be a more difficult question to answer if Brown and Sanders are as comparable as coaches and players have said.

The truth is, the answer might not be obvious until the Cowboys play in a real, live game. It might take getting on the field in Corvallis and going against the Beavers before Gundy and Co. can figure out who gives them the best shot to have the most success this season. Before they can decide that, the coaches might need to see Sanders and Brown in those situations.

The rest of the team might need to see that, too.

Who starts at quarterback, after all, resonates to every corner of the locker room.

“You have issues overall with that with the team when you’re dealing with the quarterback,” Gundy said. “Running backs, wideouts, O-line, D-line, linebackers — people just don’t pay as much attention. But when you talk about quarterbacks, you’re essentially affecting everybody on the team.”

There is likely a faction of guys in the OSU locker room pulling for Sanders. Same for there being a faction pulling for Brown. If the quarterbacks are as comparable as we’re being told, the divide is probably right about 50-50.

But even the fans of one quarterback will understand if the other gets the job because he clearly gives the team a better chance of winning.

If that clarity is obvious in practice, great.

If not, seeing it in a game is the next best option.

Again, no one in orange and black seems all that fired up about not having a starter named by the opener. For their part, the two guys in the running for the gig voiced support for a two-quarterback system. In their first media interviews since arriving in Stillwater last year, both said they trusted the decision makers.

Sanders: “If the coaches feel like that’s the best choice to go with, then we’re gonna go with whatever it is.”

Brown: “You do what’s asked of you. At the end of the day, we’re both here to win. Whatever it takes, that’s what we’ll do.”

I’m not sure what else they could say about this situation. Put truth serum in those guys, and they’d probably let us know how much they hate the idea. How they plan to show themselves as the obvious choice. How they intend to end this quarterback derby well before the opener.

But until one of them actually goes out and does so, playing two quarterbacks isn’t just a possibility.

It’s the plan.

“I’m not saying we’re going to play two,” said Gundy, who referenced having a system for how the Cowboys would use two quarterbacks but refused to go into detail just yet. “All I’m saying as of today, that’s what would happen. We have how many ever days until we play, so it could change.”

He hopes it does, but he’s prepared if it doesn’t.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or jcarlson@oklahoman.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.

Related Photos
<strong>Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy gestures as he speaks during media day Saturday inside Gallagher-Iba Arena. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy gestures as he speaks during media day Saturday inside Gallagher-Iba Arena. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-617eb111dc06fbf91d547707ad2c6623.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy gestures as he speaks during media day Saturday inside Gallagher-Iba Arena. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy gestures as he speaks during media day Saturday inside Gallagher-Iba Arena. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy gestures as he speaks during media day Saturday inside Gallagher-Iba Arena. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-82f64b1a4c2b2c9dd891bdeb364b1e24.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma State's Spencer Sanders, left, and Dru Brown laugh while posing for a photo during OSU's media day Saturday. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma State's Spencer Sanders, left, and Dru Brown laugh while posing for a photo during OSU's media day Saturday. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma State's Spencer Sanders, left, and Dru Brown laugh while posing for a photo during OSU's media day Saturday. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›

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