Big 12 beat: Will Cowboys’ opponents be asking ‘Where’s Walsh?

Mobile Oklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh is the backup this season, but apparently still in the offensive game plan


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — While West Virginia was hosting its second closed scrimmage of the preseason (no media eyes allowed and no stats provided), there was news being made in faraway corners of the Big 12:

Watch out for Walsh: Oklahoma State senior J.W. Walsh is now the backup quarterback to young and talented Mason Rudolph, but he’s too athletic to spend his final season planted on the sideline.

And too committed to OSU to leave as a graduate transfer.

“This place is like home,” Walsh told The Oklahoman. “I feel extremely comfortable here and it’s because the community has been very loyal to me.”

In return, coach Mike Gundy and some teammates alluded to packages that will use Walsh’s mobility. It’s easy to picture him as a pass/run threat in the red zone or, in less conventional circumstances, a fleaflicker threat.

“He’s going to play. We’re going to use him,” said Gundy.

Walsh is 7-3 as a starter in a career twice derailed by serious injuries—a torn knee ligament in 2013 and a broken foot last year. West Virginia fans saw one of his worst performances two years ago in Morgantown when Walsh finished 20-of-47 in a 30-21 upset loss. He threw three touchdowns that day but also two interceptions, one returned by Icky Banks for a pick-six.

Swoopes, there it is: Texas coach Charlie Strong says junior Tyrone Swoopes would be the starting quarterback as of Saturday, though redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard figures to see action in the opener at Notre Dame.

Swoopes underperformed last season, failing to crack the Big 12’s top 10 in quarterback efficiency—really bad in a 10-team league. He threw 11 interceptions against 13 touchdowns and the Longhorns’ 6.2 yards per pass ranked 102nd nationally.

Both Swoopes and Heard were four-star prospects ranked among the nation’s top dual-threat quarterbacks in consecutive classes. So the playbook should be consistent regardless who’s in the game.

K-State on the run again: With 3,000-yard passer Jake Waters and frequently unstoppable receiver Tyler Lockett departed, Kansas City Star beat writer Kellis Robinett predicts Kansas State will return to the ground game:

“You will see more runs than passes. Things will be much different than a year ago, when K-State threw for 3,736 yards and rushed for 1,745. This offense should resemble what you saw from the Collin Klein teams of 2011 and 2012, when the Wildcats leaned on the quarterback run game and attempted runs twice as often as they attempted passes.”

Last season the Wildcats were No. 4 nationally at 9.1 yards per pass, but 101st in yards per carry at 3.5. Their 1 yard on 29 rushes against West Virginia didn’t help the average, though K-State still prevailed 26-20.

UT tight ends: If Texas was serious about creating matchup problems with its tight ends, the plans may change now that the position has been hit by injuries and academic issues.

Sophomore Blake Whitley appears lost for the season with a torn ACL, Andrew Beck could miss time with a less severe knee injury, and four-star signee Devonaire Clarington can’t begin practicing until he retakes his ACT.

That paves the way for another true freshman, DeAndre McNeal, to gain early playing time. He’s three inches shorter than the 6-foot-5 Clarington, but faster and potentially a bigger threat in the open field. McNeal was the 25th-rated athlete in the 2015 recruiting class, per Rivals.

Junior Davis Webb is battling sophomore Pat Mahomes to win the favor of Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury.


Tech’s QB battle:  Two weeks before the season opener, Kliff Kingsbury says he’s still undecided on Texas Tech’s starting quarterback. The candidates are Davis Webb (whom Kingsbury projected as a first-round talent before his sophomore season turned rocky); and Pat Mahomes (coming off three late-season starts in which he threw for 1,317 yards, 14 TDs and two interceptions).

Webb is 1-1 in two starts against West Virginia, with impressive numbers: 64-of-96 for 810 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.

Frog-hopping: TCU’s top punt returner, junior Cameron Echols-Luper, announced he’s transferring to Arkansas State for a chance to play quarterback. Luper was fourth in the Big 12 at 10.6 yards per punt return last season, but had yet to make much of an impact at receiver, with 13 catches for 93 yards in two seasons.

Tyreek Hill pleads guilty:  On the same day Baylor defensive end Sam Ukwuachu was sentenced for sexually assaulting a Bears soccer player, former All-Big 12 Oklahoma State player Tyreek Hill plea bargained a three-year deferred sentence for choking and punching his pregnant girlfriend in December.

Hill’s 92-yard punt return score stunned Oklahoma late in last year’s Bedlam game and sent the Cowboys bowling with a 38-35 overtime victory. Five days later, he was arrested on the felony charge of domestic abuse by strangulation and soon dismissed from the football team.

After announcing in spring that he planned to enroll at Akron, Hill has not done so. Whether a Division I program will give him a chance to complete his playing career remains unknown.