Oklahoma State hasn't had a quarterback start the entire season since Brandon Weeden's senior year in 2011. Last season's starting quarterback, sophomore Mason Rudolph, took most of the snaps, but senior J.W. Walsh was the red zone quarterback for the Cowboys. This recent trend would seem troublesome to most teams, but the Cowboys are 35-17 during that span, including two January bowl appearances.
Head coach Mike Gundy has taken some heat for treating the quarterback position with such a cavalier attitude, but its produced decent results. However, it hasn't returned the Cowboys to their golden years in 2010 and 2011. Rudolph will be trying to return OSU to that stage in 2016. But just for the fun of it lets recap the last four seasons of the "Cowboy Quarterback Carousel".
2012. Three isn't a magic number
After a 12-1 season in 2011, 2012 proved to be the most interesting of quarterback battles maybe in OSU history. Returning backup junior Clint Chelf looked to be the most experienced, while redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt looked to be the future. Despite that assumption, the true freshman Lunt earned the job. He would carry it for a few weeks, but a knee injury against Louisiana-Lafayette cost him the rest of the season.
Enter Walsh and he would make the most of his chance earning Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year honors. He would start the next three games before an injury caused him to lose the job. Finally, the veteran Chelf would take over for the remainder of the season and proved to be the most complete quarterback amongst the trio. He would go 3-3 the rest of the way, including a dominating bowl game performance against Purdue. The teams stats were impressive, but the record was just an average 8-5.
2012 Quarterback Stats (Courtesy of College Football Reference):
(Junior) Clint Chelf: Passing: 1,588 yards, 60.4 completion percentage, 15 touchdowns, six interceptions / Rushing: 31 carries 162 yards
(RS Freshman) J.W. Walsh: Passing: 1,564 yards, 66.9 completion percentage, 13 touchdowns, three interceptions / Rushing: 50 carries 290 yards, seven touchdowns
(True Freshman) Wes Lunt: Passing: 1,108 yards, 61.8 completion percentage, six touchdowns, seven interceptions
(Wes Lunt's start against Savannah State in 2012 / Video Courtesy of Oklahoma State Athletics)
2013. Top Chelf
In 2013, the Cowboys were down to just two quarterbacks after Lunt decided to transfer to Illinois. Chelf earned the starting job in the offseason, but controversially lost the job just a couple series into the season opener against Mississippi State. Walsh would take over and lead the Cowboys to a 3-0 start before a string of inconsistent performances cost him his job by the sixth game of the season.
Chelf once again took over and never looked back leading the Cowboys back into the national spotlight. He would finish the regular season 5-1 and earn OSU a Cotton Bowl bid. Chelf's numbers were impressive for a part-time starter. He threw for 2,169 yards, 17 touchdowns and just eight interceptions and ran for 369 yards and seven touchdowns. But, the Cowboys were unable to finish off the season with a win dropping the bowl game to Missouri 41-31.
Overall, Chelf did help the Cowboys to a respectable 10-3 season, the third 10-plus win season under Gundy.
2013 Quarterback Stats
(Senior) Clint Chelf: Passing: 2,169 yards, 56.4 completion percentage, 17 touchdowns, eight interceptions / Rushing: 63 carries, 369 yards, seven touchdowns
(Sophomore) J.W. Walsh: Passing: 1,335 yards, 59.5 completion percentage, nine touchdowns, five interceptions / Rushing: 58 carries, 294 yards, three touchdowns
2014. The Lost Year
With two quarterbacks gone, J.W. Walsh seemed poised to finally take the throne as OSU's starting quarterback. His gift for earning the job, playing reigning national champion Florida State in the season opener.
Walsh came out of the gate unfazed putting up 254 total yards of offense and three total touchdowns. It wasn't enough though as the Cowboys would lose. It would be the only uncontested start of Walsh's career. The following week against Missouri State Walsh would suffer a season ending foot injury. Gundy would hand the keys to his high-powered offense to junior transfer quarterback Daxx Garman. Garman is largely considered Gundy's worst or second worst quarterback during his tenure.
He started off well winning his first five games, but all five schools were winnable. He beat Missouri State, UTSA, Texas Tech, Iowa State and Kansas while putting up respectable numbers. Then he ran into the gauntlet of Big 12 squads. Garman put up miserable numbers throwing for 680 yards, two touchdowns, seven interceptions and completing just 52 percent of his passes over the the next four starts. He would lose all four of those starts costing him the starting job.
Freshman Mason Rudolph was given the starting nod during the worst part of the Cowboys' schedule. Rudolph won two out of his final three starts including a win over rival Oklahoma and a bowl win over Washington. His three starts were against successful big-time programs and he played above expectation. Rudolph looked to be the the quarterback of the Cowboys' future after a solid three-game stretch.
2014 Quarterback Stats
(Junior) J.W. Walsh: Passing: 223 yards, 55 completion percentage, one touchdown, one interception / Rushing: 15 carries, 93 yards, two touchdowns
(Junior) Daxx Garman: Passing: 2,041 yards, 55 completion percentage, 12 touchdowns, 12 interceptions
(Freshman) Mason Rudolph: Passing: 853 yards, six touchdowns, four interceptions
2015. Rudolph, Walsh split job successfully
The best season since the Weeden years included one starter, but not all snaps were given to incumbent Mason Rudolph. The sophomore quarterback was the starter, but Walsh became Gundy's newest wrinkle in his wild offense. He decided to use his dual-threat senior as the red zone QB. The offense didn't miss a beat winning their first 10-starts of the 2015 season.
However, the team couldn't hold up against the recent Big 12 thoroughbreds losing to Baylor and Oklahoma. The team earned a bid to the Sugar Bowl to play Ole Miss. The Cowboys would get thrashed 48-20, but the year was well above expectations as they finished at 10-3. Rudolph showed he could be a full season starter despite having a previous starter behind him the whole season. Gundy's red zone quarterback worked and Rudolph earned much needed experience for the next two seasons.
2015 Quarterback Stats
(Sophomore) Mason Rudolph: Passing: 3,770 yards, 62 completion percentage, 21 touchdowns, nine interceptions
(Senior) J.W. Walsh: Passing: 787 yards, 67 completion percentage, 13 touchdowns, one interception Rushing: 77 carries, 359 yards, 13 touchdowns