April 15, 2008

Who will back up Zac?

Over most of the past decade, Oklahoma State fans have enjoyed - of loathed - the topic that always springs more debate than a presidential election season.

That topic? The starting quarterback debate. In recent years, it's been a prominent subject.

Tony Lindsay or Aso Pogi?

Aso Pogi or Josh Fields?

Donovan Woods or Bobby Reid?

Bobby Reid or Zac Robinson?

At times, it's been enough to make a fan in Orange Country long for a bottle of ibuprofen from the headaches the debates caused.

Last season saw the debate between Reid and Robinson, which Robinson won in convincing fashion, leading to Reid's transferring to Texas Southern. So, coming into the 2008 season, at least there will be zero debate about who the starting QB will be in Stillwater.

But what about the second guy? Who will be the primary backup for Robinson?

Oh boy. It might be time to pass that ibuprofen bottle around again.

At Saturday's Orange-White Game, Robinson did what Robinson does, as he threw for 142 yards and a touchdown on 12-of-21 passing. But those backups likely battled to a split decision. Brandon Weeden backed up Robinson on the Orange team and went 7-of-13 for 54 yards and no TDs or interceptions, while Alex Cate was the only QB for the White and went 12-of-25 for 82 yards, one score and one INT.

So, the question remains: Who's going to be Robinson's chief backup this fall?

To be determined.

"Cate was ahead of Brandon before this scrimmage - and he may still be," Gundy said. "We'd like to get into fall camp (before making a call). I would think within the first week we'd try to make a decision, because they're not far enough along to split reps anymore. They need work. I would think within the first six or eight practices - basically a week - we'd need to make a decision and let that guy start getting some twos."

"I agree with coach Gundy," said co-offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer. "Both guys have made strides over this period of time. We've seen both positives and negatives. Cate, for the knowledge of the offense because he's been here, has a slight edge in that. Weeden has been able to make some plays because he is very athletic and has a great arm. But it's just a matter of time. We'll have to wait and see until we come out of August camp."

That's it? Everyone has to wait until August to figure out who comes in second? No hints?

"I feel like Cate has a little bit of an edge, just because the knowledge of the offense and probably has more experience in snaps in running what we do," Brewer said. "Weeden is a tremendous talent and has a great arm. His deal is he's been away from the game for a little bit playing pro baseball with the (New York) Yankees. So he's got to get back into the flow of playing football and transition from baseball to football. And things happen a little bit quicker in scrimmages than they do in that meeting room."

Gundy said the performances of both QBs didn't really do a lot for him.

"I thought that they handled the offense OK," he said. "I wasn't real excited about some of the decisions that they made when the ball was in their hands and they were moving. I thought that there were times (Cate) should have run the ball.

"Those are things you have to develop through reps and they're out there on stage for the first time. You want it to happen really fast and at that position, it's pretty rare that a guy picks that up. But those are things that they'll have to do. Obviously they don't run like Zac does, but when you pull the ball down and run for eight or 10 yards instead of forcing the ball into coverage, you need to run for eight or 10 yards. So those are some growing pains that we'll go through with those guys."

As for the No. 1, A-list starter? He's heading into the summer and fall knowing his status - a relief for the junior-to-be from Littleton, Colo.

"That's definitely a lot easier on me,"Robinson said. "I can focus on just improving as a player and accepting a leadership role and just kind of going with it."

But will that make him less competitive?

"It won't change a whole lot," he said. "I've always been pretty motivated with trying to make myself better and all that, but it might even pick up knowing that I've been through a year and I know what it's like to play in this conference, so probably even more so."

And that brings us back to No. 2. Will it be Weeden or Cate? Compared to past years, when the question centered around who would start, this doesn't seem like such a major problem. As long as Robinson is in there, all is right with the world.

But if not? Well, it's a good thing it's only April. Ask the coaches in four months.

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