Exit Spencer Sanders, enter. …
For the first time since 2019, Oklahoma State will have a new starting quarterback for a season opener when the Cowboys host Central Arkansas on Sept. 2. Sanders beat out Dru Brown to replace Taylor Cornelius before the 2019 campaign and held the starting job (other than injuries) until transferring to Ole Miss this offseason.
With Sanders out, Mike Gundy hasn’t named a starter yet, and it looks like the three-player race isn’t close to over yet. Gundy even mentioned a possible multiple-QB situation.
With a quarterback battle brewing in Stillwater, here’s a look at the possible candidates to be leading the Cowboys come September (barring a multiple-QB system) and the pros and cons of them slinging the ball for the Pokes this season.
Alan Bowman, Redshirt Senior
This is the most likely scenario.
Bowman is a transfer from Michigan and also spent time at Texas Tech. He played two seasons at Michigan– seeing time in only three games both years– and also two seasons at Texas Tech, where he was a Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year honorable mention before ultimately losing a QB battle as a sophomore.
OSU is Bowman’s third stop since graduating from Grapevine High School in Texas in 2018.
Bowman, a redshirt fifth-year senior, has more experience than anyone else in the Cowboys’ QB room right now with 16 collegiate starts under his belt already. Seven of those starts came as a freshman in 2018, when he threw for 2,638 yards and 17 touchdowns while completing 69.4 percent of his passes.
Bowman showed flashes of greatness when given the opportunity at Texas Tech against nearly the same competition he’ll face now. He totaled 605 passing yards against Houston, breaking Patrick Mahomes’ Big 12 freshman single-game record. Pretty good company to be in. That performance also makes him the only QB in all of FBS right now who has thrown for at least 600 yards in a game.
There might need to be an asterisk next to Bowman’s experience, considering his last start was in 2020 and he’s appeared in only six games the past two years. Although they’re younger and less experienced, both guys competing against Bowman for the starting job– Garrett Rangel and Gunnar Gundy– have started under center since Bowman last did.
It’s also hard to fault a guy for injuries, but that seems to be what has derailed Bowman’s career the most. His stellar freshman campaign was cut short because of injury. The next year, Bowman had to redshirt the season three games in because of another injury. Bowman has never had a firm grasp on a starting job since.
Bowman has yet to play in a full slate of games because of injury or situation, but a healthy season and a chance could be all he needs.
Gunnar Gundy, Redshirt Sophomore
Gunnar, son of coach Mike Gundy, walked on after a successful career at Stillwater High that led to two state runner-up finishes and a handful of FBS offers.
He redshirted in 2021 before playing in four games, including a start against Iowa State, last season. Gunnar threw for 103 yards and a TD in the win.
There has to be some benefit from living with the winningest football coach in OSU history.
I remember Gundy once talking about spending rare off times on Fall Saturdays on his recliner watching football with a notebook nearby to jot notes down. I imagine Gunnar was sitting close, soaking in some knowledge for many of those instances. Also imagine the football conversations he’s a part of at family gatherings between his dad and his uncle, former OU assistant Cale Gundy. I’ve never talked football with Gunnar, but his football IQ has to be up there.
Gunnar was thrown to the wolves last year with Rangel when Sanders went down. Although he struggled with inexperience at times, that experience is now a pro for Gunnar entering this season. His talent peeked through plenty during that stint, though, especially on an 83-yard TD pass that was thrown beautifully.
Of the three competing for playing time, Gunnar uses his legs the best– an added bonus in OSU’s offense. On top of that, Mike Gundy said Gunnar has gotten up to 207 pounds this offseason. Gunnar was listed at 200 pounds on the past years’ rosters.
The biggest con for both Gunnar and Rangel is a catch-22. Both lack experience, but the only way to really fix that is playing time.
Gunnar has only one start and has appeared in five games, but most of that playing time wasn’t exactly meaningful.
All in all, even though he wasn’t as highly recruited as the rest of the QB room, Gunnar has the tangibles to be a legit D1 starter if he puts it all together at some point and gets an opportunity to work out the kinks in real time.
Garret Rangel, Redshirt Freshman
Rangel was one of the most highly touted recruits OSU had seen in awhile as a four-star prospect in the 2022 class. All major recruiting outlets ranked Rangel as a top-25 QB in the country in his class.
As far as preparing for the future, things worked out almost flawless for Rangel in 2022. He was still able to redshirt last season, but while not even burning a season, Rangel played in four games, including four starts– one of which was in a bowl game. His 711 passing yards in just those four games were the third-most of any freshman in the country. Rangel also threw four TDs, compared to five interceptions.
Talent. That’s the word that sums up Rangel’s pros the best.
The dude can play and there’s a reason he was a four-star recruit who Gundy trusted enough to start in three games as a frosh. I’m not saying his four appearances were astounding, but there were plenty of times Rangel showed what he’s capable of doing and a glimpse of the future. I thought Rangel’s possibility was on full-display in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl when he threw for 229 yards and two TDs against a stout Wisconsin defense.
I also view Rangel’s youth more as a pro. With four years of eligibility left, Rangel could very well be the future face of the Cowboys if he beats out Gunnar Gundy. This upcoming season features a soft schedule. The offense is deep at running back and (if healthy) should have the best o-line we’ve seen in awhile in Stillwater. Those all seem like ingredients to throw a young QB out there, let him take his punches and get ready for the long haul.
Just like Gunnar Gundy, Rangel lacks much experience as a redshirt freshman. But, again, there’s really only one way to solve that.
That inexperience showed at times last season, as Rangel’s interception count surpassed TDs thrown.
Like I mentioned in the last graf of the pros section, throwing Rangel out there to eventually let his experience catch up to his talent may be the best option for the future of OSU’s football program.
Zane Flores, Freshman
Zane Flores would be the biggest underdog to win this starting job.
The headliner of OSU’s incoming 2023 recruiting class, Flores is a former Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year who oozes arm talent and has the potential to develop into a cornerstone for the OSU program. 247Sports rated him as the No. 27 overall QB in the 2023 class and an 89 overall — just outside the four-star index.
Talent for talent, Flores may match up well — or even stand above — anyone else in this QB room. Playing him would have its downsides (we’ll get to that!), but in a season in which OSU is not expected to be a true Big 12 contender anyway, it could provide valuable live game reps for him as a launchpad for 2024 and beyond if he outshines Rangel and Gunnar.
Given the experience in OSU’s QB room, it’s unlikely Mike Gundy would pass by multiple veterans to start a true freshman. Even Mason Rudolph and Spencer Sanders had to ride the pine for stretches of their early career.
Thrusting Flores into the QB1 role would give him reps for the future, but it could also backfire and stunt his growth as a prospect, too. If he plays too early, and doesn’t light the world on fire, he might lose his confidence, or the team might lose its belief in him long-term. It’s a tricky tightrope to walk. Redshirting him this season seems the most likely option.