STILLWATER – The day Oklahoma State opened spring football practice, March 10, many of the Cowboys assembled in the Sherman Smith Training Center for some extra work.
Just before moving outside for the official practice and the launch of spring, the Cowboys assembled, each on one knee, to hear some motivational talk. To hear from J.W. Walsh.
It’s not clear who will quarterback the Cowboys in 2014. But it’s clear who is the OSU team leader. Walsh.
“J.W. always has had great leadership,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said.
Walsh has made eight starts in his OSU career, three in 2012 and five in 2013. Now Walsh is in a quarterback derby with freshman Mason Rudolph and Daxx Garman, who has spent the last two years far down the depth chart after transferring from Arizona.
“J.W. brings experience to the table,” Gundy said. “J.W. will be the guy that goes out there first (this spring) because he has the most experience, but those other quarterbacks will get a chance. They have to bring leadership and toughness, and we want the other players to rally around them.”
That could happen with Rudolph or Garman. But it already has happened with Walsh.
Walsh is not the prototype for this OSU offense. His arm strength is not quite up the standards of the Air Raid offense, though his mobility certainly adds an extra dimension.
Walsh’s numbers were better in 2012 than in 2013. His completion percentage went down from .669 to .595, his touchdown passes fell from 13 to nine and his interceptions went up from three to five. If Walsh wins the job for 2014, he’ll have to play better to keep it. His intangibles – commitment, leadership, personality – clearly are his best attributes.
Since Brandon Weeden’s final game, the Fiesta Bowl win over Stanford, OSU has used a Weeden type in Wes Lunt, a Weeden opposite in Walsh and a hybrid in Clint Chelf. Forget for a moment who will quarterback the Cowboys. What kind of quarterback does Gundy prefer?
“All of us would want to have a guy that could move and throw,” Gundy said. “That’s what we look for. If that’s not the case, who can orchestrate the game and who can be a leader? If we had our druthers, we would say, here’s a guy that can throw it, but he’s also capable of moving around.”
Gundy gave a quick guess on the mobility of his quarterbacks, though he was quick to point out that “some guys can move well in practice but they don’t move well in games.”
Gundy estimated that Weeden’s mobility was a two on a 1-to-10 scale. He guesses that Rudolph and Garman are about a five. Walsh, of course, is much higher.
“We’ll have the same plays we’ve always had,” Gundy said. “If the other guys not good at ‘em, you don’t call ‘em.”
Gundy said the coaches want Walsh to “have a great feel for what we want to accomplish on offense from a read standpoint, footwork fundamentals, things that he can control. That's with all of our quarterbacks.”