OSU football: Five things to know about Cowboy QB Dru Brown
STILLWATER — No one knew it at the time, but the Dru Brown era at Oklahoma State began last Saturday afternoon in the third quarter of a blowout win over Kansas.
With news emerging Thursday that redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders is out for the season after having thumb surgery on this throwing hand, Brown is likely make his first start as a Cowboy at 11 a.m. Saturday at West Virginia.
Though rumors have floated around that Brown is also injured, no concrete reports have surfaced saying he won’t start Saturday.
With that, here are five things to know about Brown:
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1. This is the opportunity he sought when he came to OSU
Brown transferred from Hawaii, making the announcement in February of 2018 and arriving at the start of preseason camp later that year.
He walked away from a starting job where he had completed 463 of 747 pass attempts (62.0 percent) for 5,273 yards and 37 touchdowns with 15 interceptions, starting 22 of the 25 games he played.
He wanted to prove himself on a bigger stage at a Power 5 school, and he wanted to play in a potent offense.
Last year, Taylor Cornelius had a stranglehold on the starting job before Brown ever arrived on campus. Brown accepted his role as an emergency backup, while also redshirting.
His emergency role only came for one play in the Liberty Bowl, when Cornelius lost his helmet and had to come out for one snap. Brown entered the game, handed the ball off, then returned to the sideline.
A native of San Mateo, California, he was unrecruited out of high school and spent his first year at the College of San Mateo before getting an offer at Hawaii.
2. The preseason QB competition was for real
Once everyone saw what Spencer Sanders did in his first start at Oregon State, it became assumed that OSU coach Mike Gundy had simply drawn out the quarterback battle to keep Brown on campus as insurance for a Sanders injury.
Well, that last part is proving its value now. But Gundy and offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson gave Brown every shot to win the job, and he legitimately kept himself in the race.
If Sanders’ debut had gone differently, we might’ve seen Brown in the opener. Instead, Sanders took the job and ran with it.
3. His downfield throws are sharp
Whether you’re looking at his highlight tape from Hawaii, or what little video there is of him at OSU, you’ll see a strong arm and good accuracy throwing down the field.
Two of his three touchdown passes this season have been on throws over 30 yards that were perfectly placed — a 69-yarder to Braydon Johnson against McNeese State, and the 43-yarder to Dillon Stoner against Kansas.
This might be his most valuable weapon on Saturday, because West Virginia is going to want to crowd the box and slow Chuba Hubbard. If Brown hits a couple of big throws, it might help loosen things up in the run game.
4. He’s mobile
OK, not Spencer Sanders-mobile, but Brown is no statue in the pocket. But he’s mobile enough that Gleeson doesn’t have to yank all the QB run plays and zone-reads out of the playbook.
He rushed for a little over 300 yards in his two seasons at Hawaii, playing behind a flimsy offensive line that let him get sacked more than groceries.
He avoided a fair share of sacks, too, with his awareness in the pocket and good enough feet to keep plays alive, whether to run or find an open receiver.
5. His teammates love him
While you don’t get points on the scoreboard for how your teammates feel about you, it’s an important factor for a team that has been dealt injuries to two of its top offensive playmakers in the last month.
Even more important is the reason Brown’s teammates love him so much. He’s a grinder and a football junkie.
He didn’t let the fact that he was the No. 2 quarterback give him reason to slack off. He has worked hard since the day he arrived, and continues to do so.
Above all, he’ll be ready when the ball is snapped to him Saturday.