The Oklahoma State Cowboys were picked to finish fifth in the Big 12 Preseason Media Poll due in part to the tremendous turnover facing the team in 2014. There are plenty of question marks about the Pokes this fall which makes them one of the more interesting teams to watch in the conference. Whether they exceed expectations this season or fall short could end up relying on how well J.W. Walsh steps up and takes control of this offense.
Walsh has had an up and down career so far under center for Oklahoma State. He had a phenomenal, though injury-plagued freshman season where he completed 66.9 percent of his passes as he threw for 1,564 yards with 13 touchdowns to three interceptions while rushing for 290 yards and another seven touchdowns. His play in 2012 effectively chased classmate Wes Lunt (who transferred to the Illinois Fighting Illini) and put Walsh in the hunt for the No. 1 quarterback job in 2013.
Early on, Walsh looked like he would find quick success as a sophomore. He accounted for 260 total yards of offense and a touchdown in the team’s season-opening win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs and threw for 326 yards with five total touchdowns the following week against the UTSA Roadrunners. But he started to struggle as the season wore on, completing just 42.6 percent of his passes in a loss to the West Virginia Mountaineers and going 9-for-18 with two picks against the TCU Horned Frogs, and Clint Chelf took over as starting quarterback down the stretch.
After the TCU game, Walsh saw action in just two more games, attempting just three passes and rushing the ball once. With Chelf now gone, the job reverts back to Walsh, at least for now. During the spring, Walsh battled with freshman Mason Rudolph and junior Daxx Garman to try and recapture some of his confidence and control over the offense. For now, he appears to be the man under center for Oklahoma State but the memory of his short leash last season could have lingering effects on his confidence.
But for Oklahoma State to find success in 2014, they need J.W. Walsh at his best and they need him to take control of the offense. There will be no shortage of challenges for the Cowboys, starting with a season-opener against the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles and ending with road games against the Kansas State Wildcats, Baylor Bears and Oklahoma Sooners in Bedlam during the final month of the regular season.
Can Walsh rise to the task at hand and show he’s the man to lead the Pokes in 2014 or will Oklahoma State struggle with inconsistency under center, sabotaging a young roster before they even get started?