Oklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh was listed on Wednesday's preseason watch list for the Davey O'Brien award, which is given to the nation's top quarterback. Walsh was one of five Big 12 quarterbacks featured on the list and the first Cowboy to appear on a watch list this offseason.
Clint Chelf started the 2013 season opener, but was replaced by Walsh after 7 plays, who started the next five games before being pulled against TCU. Prior to that, Walsh threw for 1,324 yards (220.7 YPG) and nine touchdowns. Walsh also rushed for 294 yards while leading the Cowboys to a 5-1 record. His only loss as a starter was a rough outing at West Virginia, but Walsh still managed to put up three touchdowns and 322 yards, although he did throw two critical interceptions in the 30-21 loss. After being pulled against TCU, Walsh only threw three passes the rest of the season.
The junior's best production came in 2012. In six games with seven or more pass attempts, Walsh threw for 1,553 yards and twelve touchdowns. Walsh also ended the season in the top five in the nation in total QBR. One of his best performances came against Iowa State where he threw for 415 yards and found the end zone through the air and with his legs (and we found out he was actually playing on one leg). That injury, which at first appeared to be season ending, handed the reins back to the ill-fated career of Wes Lunt. Following a win against TCU, Lunt suffered a concussion against Kansas State, opening the door for Clint Chelf, who would guide the Cowboys through the remainder of the season.
Walsh's injury would turn out, sort of controversially, to NOT be season ending, but the dye was cast. Walsh became OSU's version of OU's "Belldozer," coming in for goal line and short yardage situations, which had been experimented with prior to Lunt's knee injury against UL-Lafayette.
After Iowa State, Walsh would next see the field four weeks later against Texas Tech, throwing one pass for a two-yard touchdown and running for another. He would rush for 20 yds on 7 carries over the next two games, throwing and completing only one pass. Walsh would find the end zone twice in the Heart of Dallas Bowl against Purdue. He completed five of seven passes for 86 yds and two TD's for the Cowboys.
J.W. Walsh has proven himself worthy to at least be on this list as the season begins, and it may finally be time that Walsh begins to earn respect as a starting QB. He has posted a 5-2 record as a starter (7-2 if you count UL-L and Mississippi St) to go along with strong statistical numbers, but has yet to "wow" us with his arm. With a whole season calling the shots, Walsh could remain in the Davey O'Brien Award conversation for a while, but will Gundy's short leash from 2013 resurface? Walsh could be an incomplete pass or interception away from the bench.
The truth of the matter is, with Oklahoma State's weak schedule (excluding Florida State), Walsh could lead the Cowboys to an impressive start and find OSU in the mix for the Big 12 title as they enter November. But the coaches need to open up the playbook and give Walsh an unobstructed opportunity to run the offense. You have a backup that hasn't played in a game since high school (Weeden, anyone?) and a true freshman that you would love to redshirt. The defense is on the "rebuilding" side of the ledger, as best we can tell, so what better time to give Walsh charge of the offense? Walsh just might shock Stillwater and turn a year to forget into a year Cowboy fans will never forget.