Quarterback Wes Lunt will transfer to Illinois

Quarterback Wes Lunt will transfer to Illinois

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]f anybody in the Big Ten could use some good news, it’s Illinois coach Tim Beckman.

luntThe embattled second-year coach got some on Monday when transfer quarterback Wes Lunt chose the Illini over Louisville.

Lunt, who announced his decision to leave Oklahoma State on just over a month ago, was also reportedly interested in Southern Miss, Vanderbilt and Tennessee, but Cowboys coach Mike Gundy would grant Lunt a release to any of those schools.

A Rochester, Ill. native, Lunt grew up just ninety miles from Champaign and pulled for the Illni as a kid. A 4-star recruit out of high school, he was recruited to OSU by then-Cowboys offensive coordinator Todd Monken.

Lunt became the first true freshman to start a season opener since at least 1950, but his rookie campaign was marred by injuries. On the Cowboys’ first drive against Louisiana-Lafayette in mid-September, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Lunt dislocated his kneecap and a sprained his ankle on the same play.

Then in early November, Lunt was knocked out of the Kansas State game with a concussion. He didn’t play again until late in the fourth quarter of the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Lunt finished the season with 1,180 passing yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions in five starts. He set a Big 12 single-game freshman record with 436 passing yards against Arizona.

This spring, Lunt battled Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh for the starting job, three of whom won games as a starter in 2012. Lunt told reporters that he was willing to redshirt in 2013 if Chelf, a senior who took over after he went down against Kansas State, won the job.

Gundy decided not to name a starter, and has said he may not even do so before the season opener against Mississippi State.

Lunt reportedly grew frustrated by what he felt was a lack of communication from the coaching staff. Lunt told Derek Leonard, his high school coach, that none of the quarterbacks knew where they stood with the coaches, and even after speaking to them about the possibility of redshirting, the staff didn’t communicate to him which direction they wanted go.

When Lunt announced his intention to transfer on May 9, many speculated that he would join Monken, now head coach at Southern Miss, but Gundy blocked him from moving to any school in the Big 12, SEC and Pac-12 as well as Southern Miss and Central Michigan.

The SEC and Pac-12 schools could be Cowboys opponents in future bowls, Gundy’s reasoning held, while Central Michigan is on Oklahoma State’s 2015 schedule.

As it relates to Southern Miss, Gundy said that Lunt’s original decision to transfer was that he wanted to get closer to home and, additionally, that he didn’t want to release Lunt a former OSU assistant. Directly or indirectly, that move would ultimately wind up up helping Beckman, who served as Gundy’s defensive coordinator Oklahoma State from 2007-08.

Regardless of how he wound up there, Lunt is walking into what appears to be a good situation at Illinois. Nathan Scheelhaase, the Illini’s three-year starting quarterback, will play his final year of eligibility as Lunt sits out due of NCAA transfer rules.

With a strong, accurate arm, Lunt has the tools to be very successful in new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit’s spread offense, and Cubit is very familiar with him, having offered Lunt a scholarship out of high school when he was Western Michigan’s head coach. Lunt will be a sophomore with three years to play three in 2014, and barring injury, should certainly have the inside track on the starting job.

His decision could be just the shot in the arm Beckman and his staff needed to begin righting the ship at Illinois.

Photo: Brody Schmidt / AP

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