STILLWATER, Oklahoma — J.W. Walsh hasn't been declared the starting quarterback yet, though the junior is clearly the front-runner for the job and his coach and teammates are expecting big things from him this season.
After winning the top job last year with his performance in Oklahoma State's opener, Walsh was replaced after five starts by the since-graduated Clint Chelf. But as well as he played at times in 2013, when he passed for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns, it's easy to forget Walsh is still relatively inexperienced.
But with another offseason of training and maturity, he seems more assured and ready to lead the offense for the Cowboys. OSU coach Mike Gundy expects nothing less.
"J.W. still hasn't played one full season, and he will continue to get better and develop as the season goes on," said Gundy, whose team finished 10-3 and was ranked 17th last year. "He'll play better this year than what he played last year. We certainly expect that and it's our responsibility to put him in that position where he can perform and play at a high level."
Still, Gundy would not name Walsh the starter for the Cowboys' 2014 opener on Aug. 30 in the Cowboys Classic at AT&T Stadium in Dallas against defending national champion Florida State.
"It's a very good possibility" that OSU will use multiple QBs this year, Gundy said.
Besides Walsh, the other candidates to line up at QB for Oklahoma State this season are freshman Mason Rudolph, who may end up being red-shirted, and Daxx Garman, a junior who transferred from Arizona.
Gundy said he wasn't sure if they would see game action.
"We'll just have to see how it all plays out and how those guys develop," he said. "I watched (Rudolph) a bit today and thought he was considerably better than he was when we finished in the spring."
If more than one quarterback does end up taking meaningful snaps this season, it would mark the third straight year that Oklahoma State had multiple signal callers, as Walsh and Chelf also split time in 2012 with then-senior Wes Lunt.
"Our quarterback situation this year is a little different than it's been in the past in that we vary our offensive style based on who's in the game, because they're different," Gundy said. "And we expect that player, that style, to perform at a level where we can move the ball and score points."
While Walsh will not be available to talk to the media until the season opener, his receivers spoke for him, expressing confidence in the junior QB from Denton, Texas.
"J.W. is a heck of an athlete. He's matured as a player since he got here, and as a person overall," said junior receiver David Glidden, who caught 15 passes for 173 yards last year. "He was a leader when he got here, but now everyone looks up to him. He does something, he says something, and everyone's going to do exactly what he says. I think his improvements are being made every day, and he's looked great to me so far."