The late season lifting of the redshirt on Rudolph was controversial until his performance in the Baylor game settled down some fans. Then his play and leadership in the Bedlam victory and in earning that important 13th game of the season and extended the school record streak of bowl seasons made all the rest of the detractors feel better as Rudolph was getting added snaps and experience.
It did spark the question as to why Rudolph did not play earlier. I had said on the subject that in practice it was around late October to early November where in practice he started to look like the starting quarterback. Gundy apparently felt similar.
"Everybody wanted to do it earlier. He was not ready to play. Period. . . . You can look at some of the greatest quarterbacks ever in the NFL. When they played before they were ready, they were terrible. (Rudolph) was not ready," Gundy said during the media session in his office on Wednesday.
"People say, ‘Well, how do you know?’ I just have to go on 25 years (of coaching experience). What if he goes out there too early, gets sacked six times and gets a concussion like Daxx did? Now what are we going to do? How is (Rudolph’s) demeanor? How is his appearance?"
Readers on GoPokes.com knew that was a concern of his high school head coach at Northwestern in Rock Hill, S.C. Kyle Richardson had seen a similar situation with his starting quarterback prior to Rudolph as Justin Worley, another record-setting quarterback for the Trojans, had his redshirt pulled late in his freshman season with the Vols and it was more nightmare than the success enjoyed by Rudolph.
Gundy still got grief in the aftermath of the success even from those close to him.
"Even my kids at home were on me about it. The little one (Gage) (said), ‘Really? We could have played (Rudolph) six weeks ago.’ I said, ‘You need to worry about your spelling test on Friday.’ But the talk is that.
"We will never know. I just didn’t think (Rudolph) was anywhere near ready to go in and function in that environment and take big-time hits. When that time came, we had to get our team prepared to win a football game, and that doesn’t happen unless we give ourselves the best chance to win."
When asked about the determining factor as to why he decided to go with Rudolph, Gundy simply said he was the healthy one and the one that gave us the best chance to win.
Now Gundy has named him the team's starting quarterback going into spring. Rudolph finished his three game sprint at the end of the season with 49 completions in 86 attempts for 853 yards. He had six touchdowns and four interceptions. Most important he was 2-1 with wins over Oklahoma and Washington.
Garman played more snaps, threw more passes, and took more hits than any Oklahoma State quarterback this season, and he earns special mention with Gundy. The head coach is that way in that he can admire many qualities, especially those that keep a player going back on the field when most of what he is experiencing in punishment.
"I’m very thankful for and loyal to what Daxx did for us," Gundy said showing respect in his voice. "We got to a point in the season where we played good teams, we were not very good. Daxx took a beating for it and was put into a situation that was difficult.
"When Mason came in – and timing is important in everything we do – he just kind of provided a lift. And then Zach Crabtree (recovered from an ankle injury and returned to right tackle). When Zach Crabtree was injured, it really hurt our football team. When he came back, we became better in pass protection and Mason made some throws and ignited us."
That leaves another well respected quarterback in Walsh, who in the opening game came so very close to slaying the defending national champion Florida State. In five quarters, Walsh was 20-of-36 passing for 233 yards, a touchdown and an interception along with 93 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 15 carries. He averaged 6.2-yards a carry, the best for any runner with more than two carries.
Gundy has made it crystal clear that Walsh has a place with this team, a valuable role in store no matter what. The hope is he can stay healthy enough to fulfill that role.
"He’s still a quarterback. He’s not going to play another position," Gundy said. "I just hope he can stay healthy, and he hopes he can stay healthy. As always, he’s been a great kid. He has a great attitude and he loves Oklahoma State. He wants to be a part of the team.
"Mason is our starting quarterback. J.W. is going to be in there and get all the reps behind (Rudolph in practice). Daxx (Garman) will get some work. We can do some things different with J.W. than we do with Mason," Gundy continued defining his veteran signal callers. "(Walsh) can pull it and run it. . . . He has earned the right to be a quarterback, and he’s a good one. He just hasn’t stayed healthy very long."
Once again, Oklahoma State has gone into the spring with a surplus of quarterbacks, but as Gundy, his staff, and Cowboy fans have learned over the years -- and as recent as this last season -- you sometimes need all of them to get through the Big 12.