STILLWATER — Oklahoma State springs have become annual auditions for the Cowboys glamour job: quarterback.
Same this time around.
Talk of another quarterback competition ruled pre-spring chatter, and Mike Gundy and his coaches are taking long hard looks at what they’ve got in J.W. Walsh, Daxx Garman and Mason Rudolph.
Yet as far as the starter, the QB 1 now and going forward at least into the start of next season, forget the drama.
It’s Walsh, and that held true even before news spread of a knee injury Garman suffered in Friday’s practice.
“I think so,” Gundy said Saturday after OSU’s Orange Blitz, an open practice taking the place of a spring game. “We’ll finish up next week and then make a decision on what we want to do.”
Gundy stopped short of announcing Walsh as the clear No. 1, although he generally agreed with media speculation to the point, which included the thought that Walsh’s scrambling skills best fit an offensive line in major transition.
“No question,” Gundy said.
As we’ve learned recently, the Cowboys have been known to need and use multiple quarterbacks, even while winning 18 games the past two seasons. They utilized three starters in 2012 and two a year ago, including Walsh during a five-game stretch, before he was — again — replaced by Clint Chelf.
So continued analysis and development is wise.
Still, if Gundy won’t officially give his nod, his actions are telling, with Walsh taking the majority of the first-team snaps in the week’s scrimmages.
“He’s going to be our guy,” senior offensive tackle Daniel Koenig said of Walsh. “He has to be.”
By all accounts, Walsh has earned that distinction, with a sharp and productive spring. He made plays — and, notably, many throws — in Tuesday’s extended scrimmage, and was on regularly on target and on time Saturday.
“He’s become more of a leader,” Koenig said. “He’s staying in the pocket more, which is good. Maybe a year or two years ago, he’d get nervous back there and start scrambling. But now he’s sitting in there and throwing. And that’s great.
“I think he feels more comfortable.”
Consistency and decision-making became an issue for the junior-to-be last season, as well as an inability to fully utilize OSU’s outside weapons in the passing game. All those things led to the move back to Chelf.
Saturday, mostly against OSU’s first-team defense, Walsh was in command. He completed 8-of-12 passes in the scripted 48-play scrimmage, with a 40-yard touchdown to fullback Teddy Johnson out of the backfield. Rudolph completed 3-of-6 passes, including a 46-yard scoring strike to Blake Webb. Walk-on Jake Hubanek completed one of his two passing attempts.
Garman, who played well in Tuesday’s scrimmage, had become a major storyline before the Blitz ever began Saturday, with word — and rumors of the severity — of his knee injury spreading.
A source told The Oklahoman that he went down without being hit, but while scrambling, tumbling awkwardly to the turf. He was helped up and taken from the field on a cart. Speculation of a torn ACL spread across the Internet.
Gundy said the extent of the injury wasn’t known, but late Saturday another source revealed that Garman had not torn his ACL and was “expected to be fine,” although his return to spring drills could be in question.
With only three practices remaining, and with Walsh’s apparent hold on the starting job, there’s no need for Garman to rush.
The shape of the position could change, of course, in the fall. It has the last two seasons. But among the Cowboys, there’s a sense that this time things are different.
“J.W. is going to be a go-getter, no matter what,” said receiver Brandon Sheperd. “If there’s anything different, I think he’s more hungry now. It’s kind of scary.”