STILLWATER — First, Oklahoma State's quarterback carousel scrapped the plan to use J.W. Walsh in a specialty package, because he needed to start in place of an injured Wes Lunt.
Then, Walsh's own knee injury took him off the field for three games.
But then in the final month of the season, we saw Walsh enter the game in short-yardage and goal-line situations, using his athleticism and grit to power his way into the end zone and occasionally lofting balls to Kye Staley and Jeremy Seaton for scores.
Should Clint Chelf, as expected, win the Cowboys' starting quarterback job, Walsh will still have that package role. That is established.
But could Walsh's role expand even more in 2013? Perhaps.
Reports out of camp indicate Walsh has continued to progress — and impress. He's also viewed as one of the team's top leaders. And new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich has experience game-planning to a quarterback who's more dual-threat than pure Air Raid, as Shippensburg's Zach Zulli tallied 102 carries and rushed for two scores in addition to putting up eye-popping passing numbers (4,747 yards, 54 touchdowns).
Walsh's biggest detriment is his arm strength, which was clearly exposed during his time as the starter, when he had difficulty zipping balls to outside receivers and downfield.
With practices and scrimmages closed during the spring and fall, it's difficult to gauge exactly how much he's improved in that area until the season begins. But Walsh said back in the spring, before quarterbacks were put off limits to the media until after the first game, that his arm has been a focus of his offseason.
“I think it's just being comfortable with the offense,” Walsh said, “and making sure that I know where to go with the ball and (to) be on time with it and not just catch the ball (off the snap) and just take off running.
“I want to make sure the coaches know that they can trust me back there in the pocket and that I can deliver nice, timely balls.”
So Walsh is going to play in some capacity. How much? We'll see.
“He's a big part of our team,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said.