By JEFF LATZKE
STILLWATER — It's become a weekly ritual for Mike Gundy to step to a podium in the Boone Pickens Stadium press box and praise the play of his quarterback. All that changes is the name of the person who's taking the snaps at the time.
Injuries have turned the position into a revolving door for the Cowboys (5-3, 3-2 Big 12), and that won't change leading up to Saturday's game against West Virginia (5-3, 2-3).
Gundy said Monday that he expects starting quarterback Wes Lunt to split practice time with backup Clint Chelf this week before the team determines who will play. Lunt had to come out of the Cowboys' loss to Kansas State over the weekend after getting hurt.
"I don't think we know who our starter will be," Gundy said at his weekly news conference. "I'm fairly confident that we'll have Wes and Clint out there practicing and be in a situation that whoever we think gives us the best chance to be successful we'll have in the game."
Lunt began the year as the starter, then injured his knee and was replaced by J.W. Walsh in the third game. The two flip-flopped again after Walsh's season was ended by injury. That meant third-stringer Chelf had to come in after Lunt was hurt against K-State.
Gundy does not comment on his players' injuries, but team doctors appeared to be checking Lunt for concussion symptoms on the sideline.
All three quarterbacks have kept Oklahoma State's offense clicking. Together, they've made the Cowboys the nation's No. 2 team in total offense, third in passing and eighth in scoring.
"I think it's a credit to those guys," offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. "I think those guys study the game. I think all of them are pretty squared away off the field. All of them really enjoy being over there helping decide what we're going to call during the week."
Chelf, a senior, had been first-round NFL draft pick Brandon Weeden's backup the past two seasons and only got to play in mop-up time previously. He was beaten out by Lunt, a true freshman, and Walsh, a redshirt freshman, during a three-way competition in the spring.
He threw for 233 yards and a touchdown after replacing Lunt about 5 minutes into the third quarter.
"He's been a big part of what we do, even though it hasn't really maybe been on the field. He's just been waiting for his opportunity, and I'm sure it's been frustrating for him and I'm sure he's looked at me like, 'See, I told you I was the guy,'" Monken said.
"And that's what he should do. Guys that get an opportunity and play well should feel that way. You want your guys to feel that way. Now, just go out and play that way."
If nothing else, this season has proven that it really was a close competition for the starter's job before Lunt won it.
"I've never doubted that Clint had the ability to play at this level. We just made the decision, based on a small sample size, of who we were going to go with moving forward," Monken said. "That doesn't mean you're always right.
"Clint has an opportunity potentially — we're hoping and counting on Wes being back on Tuesday — but moving forward, if he gets that opportunity, he has a chance to prove us wrong."
Running back Joseph Randle took it a step farther, pointing out that even Weeden was a third-stringer at one point — behind backup Alex Cate until Cate struggled in his first chance to replace injured starter Zac Robinson in 2009.
"So, maybe this is the start of something new. You never know," Randle said. "I always knew he could play football and I always thought he could be a good quarterback for us."
Randle said Chelf took over "like a leader, like a veteran. He came in and knew exactly what to do."
"All these guys, they all have their strengths and Clint's is that he's a very smart kid and he just knows the offense so well," receiver Charlie Moore said.
"Once he went in there, you could just see the swagger about him right when he went in — the cut it loose swagger."
Considering how this season has gone, though, the Cowboys are preparing for Lunt or Chelf to perform well and the worst-case scenario: if Lunt can't play and Chelf gets sidelined. That would put walk-on Jase Chilcoat in the unbelievable scenario of being off the team at the start of the season and the top quarterback in November.
"It's great that we were able to get Jase back here. He has a familiarity somewhat with our offense," Monken said.
"He was dominating the intramural league, so we thought that was good enough for us."