The last pass J.W. Walsh threw as starter for Oklahoma State was a goal-line interception into the hands of TCU’s Elisha Olabode. With the arrival of the highly-touted South Carolina quarterback Mason Rudolph, many wonder whether the interception against the Horned Frogs will be the last pass Walsh throws as a starter at OSU.
What’s not to love about the red-hot quarterback from the Empire of the South? Rudolph comes in as a 4-star recruit, and had a stellar senior season in which he completed 72 percent of his passes for a ridiculous 64 touchdowns to only eight interceptions while leading his team to the state title. He competed in an air-raid offense, and he’s not exactly slow. According to Rivals, Rudolph boasts a 4.63 40 time. The student body is infatuated with Rudolph, and they’re tired of Walsh. So given a strong spring performance, why shouldn’t Gundy start Rudolph?
This is a lesson Arkansas had to learn the hard way when recruiting state favorite Mitch Mustain, who fizzled out quickly before transferring to USC to be a career backup. It’s not uncommon for star quarterback recruits to be busts. Just ask Texas, who watched a championship-caliber team underperform at the hands of a high school phenom, Garrett Gilbert. What about Harrison Beck, one of the top rated quarterbacks in his class when he committed to Nebraska. Beck would later finish his career at North Alabama.
Oklahoma State hasn’t been immune to high-profile quarterback busts of its own. The student body will certainly remember Bobby Reid, who lost his starting spot to Zac Robinson before transferring. It might not remember Johnny Deaton. That’s because the Oklahoma product threw only two passes for the Cowboys, despite being the nation’s #6 ranked QB in his class. Illinois will get to see what the more recent ex-Cowboy Wes Lunt brings this season, but quarterbacks rarely transfer if they have the opportunity to battle for the starting job.
Even some top quarterbacks who do pan out don’t blossom in their first few seasons. Matt Barkley and Jimmy Clausen saw their careers start slowly, and neither USC nor Notre Dame saw the success it envisioned from landed the highly lauded recruits. Barkley was 34-11 with USC, but crumbled when the Trojans were favored to win the national championship in 2012. Clausen was a legend before he was a reality after committing to Notre Dame. The students were ready for 60-touchdown seasons and a return to football glory. After three seasons with Notre Dame, Clausen left the school with the record for most losses as a starting quarterback.
Which brings us back to Walsh, OSU’s redshirt junior quarterback. After four seasons, there’s not a quarterback on the roster with a greater grasp of OSU’s offense – or more experience. Walsh was arguably the best quarterback on the team in 2012. Despite playing in relief of Lunt and being replaced by Chelf, Walsh led the team in completion percentage and touchdown-interception ratio, while finishing second in passing yards as a freshman before taking his place in OSU’s makeshift version of rival OU’s Belldozer package.
Walsh has proven time and again that he comes to play, and he competes on a high level. After Lunt went down with an injury early against Texas in 2012, Walsh was called on in relief, and he delivered. He would finish the game with more than 350 yards of offense and two touchdowns, a game after throwing for four touchdowns against ULL.
Later that season, Walsh bulldozed his way into the endzone against OU to put OSU up 45-38 early in the fourth after OU had battled back from a two-touchdown deficit. His most memorable performance, however, likely came in the first game of the 2013 season against Mississippi St. After a stagnant offense failed to move the ball in Chelf’s hands for several possessions, Walsh replaced him and erupted for 260 yards of offense and a touchdown in OSU’s 21-3 win.
OSU kicks off the 2014 season against defending national champion Florida State, which would be the biggest game of Walsh’s up-and-down career with the Cowboys. He has something to prove, to himself, his coaches and the OSU fan base – that he can compete, he can win, and he can get it done for the Cowboys. Lunt beat out Walsh in 2012, and Chelf in 2013, but Walsh persevered when many would have left. Both seasons he claimed the starting role. There’s no reason to doubt him now.
We invite you to join our 16,000+ fans for frequent updates and content releases. Submit your email below and follow us on Twitter