This week, we're featuring five Big 12 players on the spot this spring. Maybe they're coming back from injury. Maybe they have much to prove after a disappointing 2013 season. Maybe they're embroiled in a key position battle. Whatever the case, this spring is big for them. Today’s player on the spot: Oklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh.
In 2012, the Big 12 player with the highest QBR wasn’t Geno Smith. Or Landry Jones. Or Collin Klein.
It was Walsh, whose 86.1 Adjusted QBR was the fifth-highest score in the country.
Though he didn’t win the starting job coming out of spring two years ago, Walsh shined when his number was called. He was tremendous in a last-second loss to Texas in 2012, then delivered a gutty performance three weeks later in a victory over Iowa State while playing through an injured knee.
When his knee healed a month later, he came back to operate Oklahoma State’s short-yardage package to perfection, scoring five rushing touchdowns in the Cowboys’ final three regular-season games.
But 2013 was a different story for Walsh.
He used his wheels to help topple Mississippi State in the opener. But after shredding a hapless UTSA defense the following week, Walsh struggled.
He completed just 42.6 percent of his passes and threw two interceptions in a stunning loss at West Virginia. Then, after throwing another two interceptions early against TCU, he was benched for good as Clint Chelf took over.
In 2012, Walsh had a 66.9 completion percentage and threw 13 touchdowns to three interceptions. In 2013, he only connected on 59.5 percent of his passes, and his touchdown-to-interception ratio was nine to five.
Now headed into his junior season, Walsh’s career has come to a crossroads. Chelf is gone, and Walsh is the only quarterback on the roster with a down of experience. If Walsh can return to the player he was in 2012 -- when he completed his shorter throws and connected on enough of them down the field to keep the offense humming -- he can lock up the job.
But if his limited arm strength continues to plague him and his decision-making remains inconsistent, that could open the door for Mason Rudolph to seize the job as a true freshman, the way Wes Lunt did two springs ago.
The Cowboys love Walsh’s leadership and toughness. Neither quality can be denied. But the only way he’ll stay atop the depth chart is if he completes passes. And that starts this spring.