STILLWATER — Surveying the schedule back before the season began, Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken envisioned two early off weeks as an opportunity to polish freshman quarterback Wes Lunt.
The theory still holds, only for a different freshman quarterback: J.W. Walsh.
Under normal circumstances, two non-playing Saturdays within a three-week window is far from ideal. But this is no ordinary situation, with Lunt's knee injury forcing Oklahoma State to accelerate Walsh's comfort in the offense.
And the time off is a major benefit for Walsh.
“Oh yeah,” Monken said. “He'll have had four weeks of practice and really only played one game.”
Potentially four weeks of practices as the starter, resulting in a heavy share of the reps, which he never enjoyed at OSU until Lunt went out.
Lunt's return to football activities appear to be getting closer by the day.
“We got Wes out here now in pads and he threw some today,” Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said Tuesday. “I would expect him to be in drills tomorrow. I thought (our medical personnel) were going to put him in drills today and they just decided to let him throw.
“We'll just let him play and see how he recovers. But I think he's doing very well.”
Still, being ready for drills in a controlled environment and being ready to roll away from blitzing linebackers isn't the same. And with a short practice week that carries only through Thursday — before players are released for the weekend — and the struggling Kansas Jayhawks up next, there's an obvious question of whether the Cowboys even need Lunt to press to get back.
Walsh, after all, has played well in relief.
In the equivalent of about 2½ games, Walsh has completed 52 of 78 passes (67 percent) for 797 yards and eight touchdowns, with two interceptions.
His passing efficiency rating of 181.22 ranks No. 4 in the country, behind West Virginia's Geno Smith, Texas' David Ash and Georgia's Aaron Murray.
Not bad for a backup who hadn't yet instilled great confidence in the coaching staff.
“I certainly feel better about J.W. now than I did a month ago,” Gundy said.
It's a different offense with Walsh running things, yet so far, it's continued to be a productive offense.
“With a guy like J-dub,” Monken said, “it's how much can you stay in the game and move the chains and stay ahead of it. We're run/play-action, until he keeps developing as a thrower.
“But I think he's going to continue to get better. And I think we'll be able to expand the drop-back game as we go.”
That means this week and probably next.
“Now's that time,” Monken said. “We're doing what we do. And as we get closer to game day, we pluck things away and say, ‘You don't really need that, do you?'
“J-Dub is used to being coached hard and he expects to have success. There's a lot to that. There's a lot to him learning it and working at it and not cowering to it and not frowning when you yell at him.
“He battles. He's going to battle and the guys are going to follow him. That's half the battle, that they're convinced, and no matter what the situation we can win with him.”