Mason Rudolph: His Coach's Take

Mason Rudolph is the face of the Oklahoma State recruiting class. The only quarterback in the class threw for more than 4,300 yards and 64 touchdowns in leading his team to a 15-0 record this past season. With National Signing Day set for Wednesday, we visited with Northwestern (Rock Hill, S.C.) High School head coach Kyle Richardson about Rudolph and his future with the Cowboys.

What are Mason's strengths as a football player?
Richardson: He's very strong. He loves the weight room. He's a really strong quarterback, which really helps his durability. We ran him a little bit more this year than I've ever run a quarterback, and it was directly related to him being able to take some of the pain inflicted when you get hit. He was able to take that and be able to play the next snap. I usually don't do that with quarterbacks but he played this year at about 220 pounds, which is pretty good size. He's a strong, physical kid. I kid around with him all the time, his dad was a linebacker in college, and I tell him he thinks he's a linebacker playing quarterback. A lot of times I'd get upset with him because I want my quarterbacks to get out of trouble and play the next snap but there were a couple of times where he wanted to go hit somebody, and that's not really what we're teaching him to do. He's a strong, tough kid who doesn't mind contact. He doesn't panic in the pocket when he's got people around him, he just stays true to his system and he's trying to find a way out whether it's with his arm or with his feet when things break down, and that's such a huge threat.

What are his numbers in the weight room?
Richardson: To be honest, I really don't know. When it was all said and done, he was pound-for-pound one of the three strongest kids on the team, regardless of position. He was one of the top three.

What do you think will be the biggest transition for him moving from the high school game to the Big 12 Conference?
Richardson: The speed of the game is the answer I gave for any kid going to college. I feel like from a mental standpoint it is what it is. He's going into pretty much the same exact system that he's played in here for the last three years. He's good in the classroom, as well as in the football classroom. I don't see that being a big transition. Those same windows (of where to throw the football) that are a little bit bigger on the high school level close up a little bit at the college level because of the speed of the defense, and that may be the biggest transition (for him). Sometimes changing your body and getting bigger is a transition for most kids, and not that he's not going to get bigger and stronger in the weight room, but he's well above the average size of the high school kid coming out and going into college as far as the weight room and that type of deal.

Mason is already on campus after enrolling in January, and will be participating in spring practice. Do you think he has a chance to make an instant impact or will there be an adjustment period for him?
Richardson: I don't know what they have (as far as quarterbacks on campus), and I don't get to watch a lot of football during the season, so I can't tell you who's there, who's played what, how good they were or anything like that. I know the reason he chose Oklahoma State over LSU was because of one, the system and being able to play in the same system that he's been playing in for three years and if everything stays the same it will be four more years at that level. Playing in the same system and knowing that Oklahoma State was only going to bring one quarterback in on this recruiting class. Looking at the roster and just looking at seniors, juniors, sophomores and whatever and knowing that they didn't have as many quarterbacks as LSU was a big plus. I think he's got a shot to go in there, now how quick he can play and learn some of the transition gaps, the speed of defense and stuff like that is going to be up to him really to take advantage of his reps that he gets in the spring. The quarterback (we had at Northwestern) before him went to Tennessee and he played as a true freshman when the starting quarterback got hurt. He's not the first guy (from Northwestern High School) to go to the next level at this position from this system and played as a true freshman.

What do you think he's capable of accomplishing over the course of his college career?
Richardson: Honestly, because I think he has such a jump start into his college career because I tell you he's going into the same exact system (that we've run here at Northwestern) – and I kidded (OSU offensive coordinator Mike) Yurcich when he was recruiting that I've been running this system nine years longer than he has – I think the sky is the limit for him. You never can predict injuries and stuff like that but if the coaching staff stays in place, he continues to grow and get better in that system, you can already see at Oklahoma State what the quarterbacks have done in that system. Mason has done it at the high school level, he's in the national record books 13 different times in some capacity, and he holds a lot of state records too. We've seen the success he's had on the high school level in that system, and going to the next level I don't see it being any different.

What will you remember the most about coaching him?
Richardson: The biggest thing I'll remember is we kind of came in together under the same circumstances. I was offensive coordinator (at Northwestern) for four years before I became the head coach. Mason was at the private school, and Mason had been coming to my little football camps each summer, and that's how we kind of made the connection. I convinced his parents to have him leave private school and come to the public school because my quarterback, Justin Worley, a three-year starter for me, was leaving to go to Tennessee. A long story short, when he came in I was taking over for the head coach who had been the head coach for 20-something years, had won three state titles, had been inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame, and Justin Worley had just won the Gatorade Player of the Year, broke every state record possible, and was in the national record book 15 different times. Mason and I kind of came in together. The first meeting I had with him I told him, we can't get caught up in what's happened in the past. All we can do is come in this room and work our tails off to make our own identity and set our own legacy. For three years we did that together and this year we ended up winning the state championship and finishing 15-0. He became the Shrine Bowl (All-Star game) MVP and did some things that Worley had not done. I told him right before he left (for OSU), we kind of stamped our own identity. This team ended up finishing as the highest ranked team in the history of the state in the USA Today (national rankings) by finishing number seven, and only one other South Carolina team had ever finished that high. What I'll remember most about him is he just came in and didn't get caught up in the hype of playing this position in this system at this school, and didn't fall under the pressure of the spotlight that happens when you're playing at this school. He just came in and was Mason, and didn't try to be anybody else. He put his own stamp on the program and created his own legacy.

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