A year ago, buzz swirled throughout August that J.W. Walsh was making a move to seize the starting quarterback job from Clint Chelf.
And he did.
For a while.
Now it’s Walsh’s job, with Daxx Garman and Mason Rudolph in pursuit.
So, is this year more or less stable?
“I think it’s very similar,” said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy. “J.W.’s obviously worked more with the first group. Last year it was a little bit more even from a reps standpoint.
“The difference this year is they bring something different to the table. Clint and J.W. were very similar in their abilities.”
Walsh has started eight games as a Cowboy, going 6-2 in those games. He’s also directed two more wins in long relief.
He’s the anticipated starter for next week’s opener against Florida State, although that was not confirmed and no depth chart was released when Gundy and players talked to reporters in the official pregame press conference on Thursday.
Gundy does allow that Walsh has improved from a year ago.
“I think he’s played eight or nine games in his career, so he hasn’t even played one season,” Gundy said. “But he’s better now through all the reps he’s had in practice.”
Asked if owning the job — without looking over his shoulder — might benefit the starter, Gundy said, “I think it depends on the player. Some athletes worry about (the backup), some of them thrive on the competition.”
FSU STRATEGY: FAST START? YEAH, OK
ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit posed one vital factor for the Cowboys against top-ranked Florida State.
A fast start.
Cowboys defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer is more interested in maintaining strong play throughout the game.
“It's important,” Spencer said of starting strong. “It's a ballgame, though, so nobody here knows what’s going to happen. Nobody can even think about what’s going to happen, so we’ll deal with that moment when it comes.
“We can come out and play great at first, but there will still be a lot of ballgame left. If they come out and bust a couple of big plays on us, will we shell up for the rest of the game? No.
“That 60th play and that 70th play have got to be played just like the first and the second.”
MUCH RESPECT FOR THE SEMINOLES
Florida State is clearly a major obstacle for the Cowboys.
For any team.
So, just how good are the Seminoles?
“They’re as good a team that we’ve ever played, in my opinion,” Gundy said. “I’m not trying to build them up as something they’re not. But they’re pretty good.”
FSU played but one close game a year ago, and that came in the BCS Championship, which it won over Auburn. The Seminoles return 15 starters, led by Heisman Trophy quarterback Jameis Winston.
“I think that this team as a whole will probably be one of the better teams we will ever face,” said Cowboys defensive tackle James Castleman. “I also think this team offensively, their O-line and receiver corps, will be probably the best we will face.
“This offensive line is probably the biggest all around. They average around 310 pounds, so that’s the biggest I’ve ever seen since I’ve been here.”
It’s a challenge.
And a challenge Castleman welcomes.
“I’m excited to play against them,” he said. “I’m excited to play against the Heisman winner. I’m excited about all of it.”
Cowboys fullback Teddy Johnson on playing Florida State: “We like this chance we have. We want to show the country that what we’re able to do, so we’re really excited to play Florida State on opening night.”
READY OR NOT, YOUTH WILL BE SERVED
Gundy suggested that by midseason, eight true freshmen will have played.
And played significant roles.
That’s where the Cowboys are, with a roster that is dominated by freshmen and sophomores.
So, will they be ready?
Gundy is optimistic, although that wasn’t necessarily the case when he was inserted as a freshman quarterback for OSU back in 1986.
“That was my first play ever in college … I wasn’t ready to play,” he said. “It all moved really fast for me and I got lucky that I was surrounded by good players. Guys that we could hand the ball and toss the ball to.
“If I wasn’t surrounded by good players, I may not have made it. If they would have put it on me, I would have been in trouble.”
Dawson Bassett has been moved from linebacker to tight end, to add depth to a position the Cowboys hope to utilize more in the season ahead. … OSU has won its last six season openers. … Since 2008, the Cowboys have four wins over top-10 teams, including three against squads ranked No. 4 or higher. They beat No. 2 Missouri 28-23 in 2008, No. 8 Texas A&M 30-29 in 2011, No. 4 Stanford 41-38 in 2011 and No. 3 Baylor 49-17 in 2013.