The Backup Quarterback Battle is Heating Up

The quarterback battle between freshman Shane Illingworth and JUCO transfer Ethan Bullock is heating up for the QB2 spot behind Spencer Sanders
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STILLWATER -- This time last year, we were discussing a quarterback battle between Spencer Sanders and Dru Brown. A year later and we're still talking about a quarterback battle, albeit a backup battle.

Oklahoma State and quarterbacks coach Tim Rattay have a proven starter in Spencer Sanders. Sanders started a majority of the games last year as a redshirt freshman. He matured as the season went along learned from his mistakes.

Now, as he enters his second year at the helm, he’s grown even more.

"I think he's developing into a leader on our football team, because he's a returning starter and he understands our culture, day-to-day operation within our program,” coach Gundy said. “The players respect him because of his competitive nature. He's a little different than he was at this time last year."

Now, our attention shifts to backups Shane Illingworth and Ethan Bullock. Illingworth is a true freshman with a ton a talent and Bullock is a JUCO transfer that brings experience and knowledge to the quarterback room.

"Both guys are doing really well,” said coach Gundy. “We've split reps with them. We're gonna make a decision at this time next week on who that quarterback will be. I've been pleased with really all three quarterbacks in their development under coach (Tim) Rattay."

We’re now three weeks into fall camp and with just a shade under two weeks before the season opener against Tulsa, sources tell Pokes Report Illingworth has a slight lead over Bullock for QB2.

Illingworth is a four-star quarterback out of Norco, CA who checks in at 6-5, 220 pounds. He played nearly his entire senior season with an injury, but that didn’t slow him down. He led Norco to an 8-3 overall record, 4-1 in league play and posted some of the best numbers in the country. He finished with 3,081 passing yards on 150-of-230 passing with 40 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

As for Bullock, he was a surprise commitment in the 2020 class, but brings experience and depth to the room. He checks in at 6-4, 213 pounds and has made a few stops along the way before Stillwater. He originally committed to South Dakota State before transferring to City College of San Francisco where he split the quarterback duties. He posted 1,468 yards and 15 touchdowns on 113-of-192 passing with seven interceptions.

At this point, both Illingworth and Bullock are splitting duties with the second team, but they’re also getting some reps with the first team.

"They get a little work with the [No.] 1s,” said coach Gundy. “We always let those guys get some work, but for the majority of it, it's Spencer [Sanders]."

It is, however, going to be interesting to see how Gundy and Rattay handle the QB2 situation. If we take a look at Spencer Sanders’ freshman season, he had four games he could’ve played in while still redshirting, but the staff decided to hold him out. This year, guys can play in as many games as they want and still retain the year of eligibility due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Will we get the see the talented freshman out of Norco, CA in the first game against Tulsa, or will it be Bullock who gets the nod? It’s going to be fun to watch it all play out.