October 13, 2012
A few hours ahead of kickoff, the question still remains; who will quarterback the Cowboys when they take on the Kansas Jayhawks?
That has remained a closely-guarded secret. I can't tell you with certainty which OSU freshman QB will be the starter. What I can do is run down the decision-making process.
Wes Lunt has been sidelined since going down very early in the Cowboys game with Louisiana on September 15th. There was an obvious knee injury. Photo and video evidence certainly seemed to show Lunt's left kneecap out of place (grotesquely so). He left the sidelines with the knee wrapped and iced. At the time, the casual observer never would have guessed there was an additional injury. As it turns out, Lunt also injured his ankle on the same leg. That came to light over a week later when Mike Gundy mentioned that a cast had recently been taken off and Lunt would transition to a walking boot. He never specifically said why, but the walking boot device is for foot/ankle injuries.
That - not the knee - has been the issue for Lunt against Texas and Kansas. He didn't dress for the Texas game, and was on the sidelines in the boot. The decision for Gundy and coordinator Todd Monken for the Kansas game would come down to a few things:
A) Medical clearance from doctors and training staff.
B) Even with technical clearance, there are additional factors. Can he perform at the high level expected? Is there any increased risk for re-injury?
A great example was in the 2010 season, when then-QB Brandon Weeden tore a tendon in the thumb on his throwing hand. The only option to fix the problem was surgery. However, if Weeden could throw un-impeded and deal with the pain, there was no increased risk for injury. Obviously, he played the rest of that season.
If Lunt is 90+% of full capacity and has zero extra risk of injury, he could be the guy today. Actually, let's change that "is" to "was," because those things needed to be true by last Wednesday at the latest. That's when Monken wanted to know who his starter would be.
The final factor is the circumstances. OSU is in the rare situation of having an extremely capable backup in J.W. Walsh. He's actually played the majority of three of OSU's four games. And the offense has kept humming right along. So, no reason to rush Lunt back there. Then you have the schedule. It's favorable. Gundy would never say this, but Kansas simply isn't very good. They are the type of team that a good team should beat even with a below-average QB. Walsh is nowhere in the vicinity of below-average. Once Lunt was ruled out for Texas, the schedule became very favorable to allowing him to return to "good as new" status. A bye week followed the loss to UT, ahead of facing the Jayhawks.
If Lunt does not play today, chances are that he was close to 100% but not all the way there and the decision was made to hold him out on hopes that he'll be there for Iowa State next weekend. Here's something to watch for this afternoon - if Walsh is the starter, is Lunt fully dressed for the game? If he is, that says a lot about his recovery status. Then again, if he's not dressed, that does not say that he's not close to 100%...it just means the decision was made that he would not enter the game under any circumstances.
As I said from the outset, I don't know with certainty which guy OSU will go with. Best guess? Walsh.