Running backs, Cowboy Backs look to aid quarterbacks in passing game

PHOTOS BY Jason Elmquist/Stillwater News Press Oklahoma State redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Sanders throws a pass during a 7-on-7 drill in Saturday’s open practice at Boone Pickens Stadium.

Mike Gundy is playing a dangerous game with his quarterback situation.

This offseason, he has refused to name a starter for the Oklahoma State football team, and he has even hinted at a possible two-quarterback system. 

The Cowboys’ problem at the quarterback position is an interesting one. Dru Brown is the more experienced option, for he started 25 games at Hawaii and threw for 37 touchdowns and a little more than 5,000 yards. Spencer Sanders is the young player with high expectations, after coming in last season as a four-star recruit. Between the two, only Brown took a snap under center last year, and all he did was turn around and hand it off. 

Both quarterbacks are talented, but to suggest splitting time between the two could be a mess. 

The argument for a two-quarterback system does exist. Some say that it has worked for national champion teams before, such as the 2006 Florida Gators with Chris Leak and Tim Tebow. For a more pertinent example, OSU’s 2015 Sugar Bowl team saw a timeshare between Mason Rudolph and J.W. Walsh. 

There is a glaring difference among those examples and the current situation in Stillwater, though. 

Leak and Tebow had different styles. Rudolph and Walsh did, as well. One was the pure passer, and the other was the short-yardage, special package grinder. Brown and Sanders aren’t that much different in their styles, so a dynamic like that wouldn’t work.

Some people will say a two-quarterback has worked with quarterbacks of similar styles. Trevor Lawrence and Kelly Bryant did so in 2018, at least in the early part of the season. 

The setup in Clemson was also different from what Sanders and Brown are facing. Bryant was the incumbent quarterback for the Tigers, and Lawrence basically took the job from him. Bryant had an aspect of previous experience leading the team, which is something neither Brown or Sanders have. 

Two-quarterback systems have a history of working, but they have to have perfect conditions. As it seems with OSU’s crew heading into the season, it might hurt more than it will help. 

Getting a look at both quarterbacks in live reps sounds great on paper, but that is what practice is for. In fact, Gundy had all of 2018 to figure out his quarterback of the future, but he refused to give Sanders or Brown a shot even in the late moments of blowouts. 

It seems his strategy might be to figure it out in the season, but that leads to all kinds of problems. Trying to work out a depth chart in games stunts any momentum the offense might have with one of the players, not to mention the player’s momentum. 

OSU’s first game of the 2019 season against Oregon State is in a little more than a month. The person under center for the first Cowboy offensive snap of the game is up in the air right now and might be unknown when the team runs out of the tunnel for the game. 

A two-quarterback system isn’t the answer, but OSU might have to learn that the hard way.  

Sam Henderson is a contributor for the Stillwater News Press who is going into his junior year at Oklahoma State University.

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