For the first time in years Mike Gundy has listed a definitive starting QB. Mason Rudolph looks every bit the leader and play-maker you want to have under center. His commanding presence in the pocket helped lead the Cowboys to an upset Bedlam in Norman last year. The overtime win single-handedly changed the perception of the season, and catapulted the Pokes into a bowl game where the freshman QB continued to shine.
“We felt like [Rudolph] had established himself as the starter,” Gundy said after the spring game. “It helps the organization of your team. They have to look to somebody for leadership, and in most cases, it’s going to be your quarterback.
“No question, our job is easier when you have a quarterback that you can trust.”
So finally, Oklahoma State is free of QB controversy.
Well, At least for the time being.
If Cowboy Nation has learned anything since Brandon Weeden’s time in Stillwater, it’s that there’s a good chance they could see multiple QB’s take the field this season. The Cowboys have had nine starting QB changes in three years, and haven’t had a quarterback start more than 8 consecutive games since 2011!
J.W. Walsh earned the starting role last season, but disaster struck in the second game of the season when he went down with a season-ending injury. Daxx Garman did the best he could behind a pieced together offensive line, but a methodical week-after-week beating left him on the bench with two games to go. Gundy was forced to burn Rudolph’s redshirt as he became the third QB to start a game last season.
Unfortunately, it’s a story Cowboy fans are all too familiar with. 2014 was deja vu of 2012 when the Pokes also saw three different quarterbacks start a game, and in 2013 Chelf and Walsh played tag-you’re-it with the starting role. So, while OSU is one of the few teams that knows who their starting QB is going to be in the fall, it wouldn’t hurt to get familiar with the depth chart.
Mason Rudolph has been listed as the starter after turning around 2015 expectations for the Cowboys in the last three games of last season. Mason is tall, athletic, has a strong arm, makes good decisions under pressure, is physical, and mobile. So basically everything you want. Most importantly for the fans though, he passes the eyeball test. He has that “it” factor, and it was clear last season that Oklahoma State had its swagger back with Rudolph under center.
In the Cowboys’ spring game on Saturday Rudolph picked up where he left off.
“He’s controlling the team. He pushes everybody to work their butts off. So yeah, that excites us.” Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said after the scrimmage.
As good as Rudolph looked in Bedlam and in the Cactus Bowl victory over Washington, he’s a sophomore that’s only played in three games. How’s he going to hold up in the gauntlet that’s the Big 12 regular season? Teams will be better prepared for the OSU offense under Rudolph as the season wears on. Can he continue to make the right reads? Can he avoid the so-called sophomore slump? There will come a point where Rudolph is tested, and how he responds will determine if he’s truly the future face of the program.
Last year’s starter at the beginning of the season, JW is by far the most experienced QB on the team. OSU’s offense held their own with Walsh under center against the defending National Champion Florida State to open the season. Wash is a gamer, but his limited arm strength and his tendency to throw slightly behind his receivers can’t be overlooked.
He’s a good game manager, solid backup to Rudolph, and Gundy’s safety net. He knows the offense, and his speed and mobility is a constant threat to the defense. He can tuck the ball and burn a defense twenty yards at a time, so don’t be surprised to see Walsh utilized in specific packages. Gundy showed us in the bowl game that he’s not afraid to experiment with the playbook.
Kolar is one of the highlights of the 2015 recruiting class as 4-star QB out of Norman, OK. If Rudolph wasn’t on the roster, Kolar would make the QB race rather interesting. He has a big arm, and showed off some mobility in the Cowboy’s spring game.
“[Kolar] has a lot of natural ability,” Yurcich after the spring game. “He’s a good athlete. There’s a lot of good to take from today.”
Given a defined starter in Rudolph, a solid back up in Walsh, and barring a repeat of the last few seasons in Stillwater, Gundy is most likely hoping to redshirt Kolar this season.
The redshirt freshman has a lot of competition in front of him, but he might just be the only QB in the country four deep on the depth chart and the fans know his name. Last season Gundy had a decision to make with two games left; pack it in and play the guy that’s not ready, or give the team the best chance to win and burn the redshirt of a potential star.
Gundy made the right decision, but unfortunately for Cornelius, it might be as close as he ever gets to starting with so much youth at the position. However, should lightning strike the Cowboys a
second third fourth time, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gundy were to give him a go to keep Kolar’s redshirt in tact.
Rudolph has established himself as the clear-cut starter for Oklahoma State, but Walsh, Kolar, and Cornelius might want to keep their helmets close.