Dec. 15, 2013
By Austin Chappell, OSU Media Relations
For some athletes, it only takes one significant change to transform into something special.
It can be a change within the team's coaching staff, a move to a team in a more suitable situation or a switch in a player's practice routine.
For Oklahoma State's Clint Chelf, that change came with simply finding something that most thought he'd lost.
"I was always running the ball in high school because I liked to have the ball in my hands," Chelf said. "Now that I know the team needs me to run, I'm trying to handle that role in the best way I can."
Chelf, a senior from Enid, Okla., has OSU on the heels of earning its second trip to a BCS bowl game in the past three years, primarily due to a role-reversal in the quarterback's game.
Formerly known as the "passer" of Oklahoma State's quarterback corps, Chelf's legs have cranked out 363 yards on only 48 carries this year, good for more than six yards per attempt and the third-highest mark on the team.
Why his speed is so underestimated, though, is unbeknownst to the Cowboy signal-caller and could serve as a primary factor behind the recent explosion in his rushing numbers.
"If people say that I'm deceptive, that means they're underestimating me," Chelf said. "That can definitely be a good thing. I just try and go out and run."
As a high school junior at Enid High School, Chelf ran for more than 700 yards. The year before, he compiled 695 yards on the ground. He was recruited as a dual-threat quarterback, and several D1 football programs marveled at the thought of what they could achieve with Chelf's ability to run the ball.
However, as Chelf started earning a reputation at OSU, many labeled him as a "pocket-passer," and opposing teams didn't consider including his speed in their defensive game plans.
Nobody considered Chelf's running ability as a vital part of his game, not even OSU's Mike Gundy, Chelf's head coach over the last four years.
"He's been more effective running the football than what I think we all thought," Gundy said. "I think he surprised us with his ability to open up with speed when he gets out into space."
Chelf's return to his dual-threat abilities was something that occurred over time, but the veil guarding Chelf's running attack was visibly removed during the third quarter of Oklahoma State's 52-34 victory over Texas Tech in Lubbock.
After the usual shotgun snap, Chelf planted his feet, took off through the middle of a plowed-open line and scampered an untouched 67 yards into the end zone, ending the threat of a Texas Tech comeback and reinvigorating the quarterback's concealed running ability.
OSU offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said the play was well drawn-up but wouldn't have been successful without perfect execution.
"Clint did a real nice job of hitting the inside and making sure they couldn't fit their gaps correctly, and he got the score," Yurcich said. "It was great execution on our part."
On a run that television announcer Gus Johnson described as, "getting away from the cops speed," Chelf's running game and OSU's season were brought back to life. The Cowboys have since pushed their winning streak to seven games leading up to today's Bedlam matchup, a streak that includes a dominating win over third-ranked Baylor.
The revival of Chelf's running game and overall makeover in his playing style also led to a change in leadership for the senior, who now holds the reigns as one of the longest-tenured players on the team.
"The one thing that I've really done differently in practice this year is keeping the energy up with all the guys on the team," Chelf said. "Practice this late in the season can kind of become the same thing over and over again so I'm just trying to be a leader."
Part of being a leader also has to do with giving credit where it is due, a test Chelf passes with flying colors. Despite stepping into an offense ranked among the best in the country on one of the hottest teams in college football, he has continued to stay humble throughout the team's recent success.
"As a quarterback, it's kind of cliché, but the credit really goes to everybody on the offense, especially with the offensive line," Chelf said. "If they don't do their job, I get hit and a lot of bad things can happen. Receivers, running backs, offensive line, really everybody on offense contributes to this team."
As many current OSU fans remember, Chelf rose from the ranks of third-stringer to starter during the team's injury-riddled 2012 season and eventually led the Cowboys to a bowl victory and future promise.
But despite the quarterback's success last year, Chelf's role-reversal in 2013 has put Cowboy football back in position to equal its greatest finish in school history.
"It's really cool to be a part of a great team, and we were really good a few years ago with Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and those guys," Chelf said. "But whenever you're actually playing and you're the one out there helping the team, it's so much better."