Cowboys Depth In Focus: Quarterbacks

What a difference a year makes. Or in this case, half a year. Do you realize it has only been about six months since the mixture of moaning and groaning over the fact that freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph was going to have his redshirt ripped off after 10 games to make his debut on the road against a team battling to get in the College Football Playoff in Baylor?

Head coach Mike Gundy tried to hide the fact that Daxx Garman was too beat up from the seven sacks against Texas the week before to play and that Rudolph took all the first team snaps that week in practice.

Mixed with the moaning and groaning though was the anticipation of what Rudolph might be capable of, especially since one individual covering the team had been labeling him the best high school quarterback in America from his senior season and started that campaign during the summer before his senior season. My broadcast partners Dave Hunziker and John Holcomb can tell you I was elated to see him play.

Now with the confidence of the Baylor start, the Bedlam win, and the Cactus Bowl win over Washington and following a spring where he played really well, Rudolph is the starter. Everybody from the head coach to the offensive coordinator to the fan on row 71 in the west end zone knows it.

"Real well, he wants the role," offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich answered when asked how Rudolph has adopted to being the unquestioned starting quarterback. "I think there are guys that want that last second shot. They embrace that, and I think he's one of those guys.

"J.W. [Walsh] is the same way; he's the same mold, he'll never back down. Very fortunate to have a group of young quarterbacks that are that leader type that want to take the reigns and want to be the guy. It's great to have a few of those guys around that want that.

"They want to be called upon and they have that it factor. You can't really define it, but they have it. It's great to be around those guys. They have confidence in themselves and the team has confidence in them as well."

There is no doubt about that. Rudolph's season numbers weren't overwhelming with 49-of-86 passing with six touchdowns and four interceptions for 853 yards. He is capable of so much more, but when you consider there was no patsy in the mix with Baylor, OU, and Washington, and the pressure was on.

He showed he was mature beyond his years. He possesses that maturity, but I guarantee he was helped a little too by good coaching and not just from his head coach and offensive coordinator. Walsh, who few knew at the time truly was lost for the season after his foot surgery, became very involved in preparing Rudolph.

That's Walsh as he rarely thinks of himself and is always thinking about what is best for the team. What was best at that time was for him to squeeze every bit of experience he had as a starting quarterback and pour it into Rudolph.

Gundy was watching and it is a major reason that the head coach will make Walsh a major factor on this team. It is very easy for Rudolph, as the starting quarterback, to see the need for it and concede any opportunities that he is asked to in making sure his friend and fellow quarterback gets the chance to exert his skills in helping the Cowboys offense.

Walsh's loyalty and devotion makes Gundy the most proud.

"You've got to have two guys because I think going back to Weeden, we haven't finished a season with one quarterback," Gundy said stating an actual fact. "We need them both and we're fortunate. J.W. could have rolled out of here and probably started at several places, but he loves Oklahoma State and trusts us. This is his home now and at any time he could play, you just never know."

“What (Coach Gundy) said is 100 percent accurate. I absolutely trust everyone in this organization and I think they trust me just as much," Walsh said when told of the Gundy statement. "I love this place. Coach Gundy was exactly right about this is my home. This is where I want to be. I couldn't see myself in any other jersey but a Cowboy jersey.

"This place is special to me. Everyone has treated me right, the community, team and coaches. They've brought me in like I was family, so I'm going to treat them the same."

Remember, it was Gundy who named Rudolph the starter before spring practice even started. While that could be heady and cause a young quarterback to be cocky and overconfident, even content, that has not been Rudolph.

"He's been very good. He's unselfish, a hard worker, carries himself well, speaks well, the players believe in him, and if he continues to work hard and lead by example, they'll follow him," Gundy added.

"We all know that high school, little league, college, NFL, most teams tend to go how their quarterback goes. Most teams attitudes and temperaments go as the quarterback goes, so we're lucky that Mason is doing a good job in that area, and we have J.W. Walsh. They really like and respect J.W., so we're fortunate to have two guys who are not only good football players, but good leaders for our football team."

Here is the way I see the quarterback depth chart heading into fall camp in August and this is easy. That is why I saved running backs for the last offensive position in this series as opposed to quarterbacks.

10 Mason Rudolph, 6-4.5, 235, So., Rock Hill (Northwestern), S.C.
4 J.W. Walsh, 6-2, 215, Sr., Denton (Guyer), Texas
9 John Kolar, 6-4, 190, Fr., Norman (Norman North), Okla.
14 Taylor Cornelius, 6-6, 200, RS-Fr., Bushland, Texas

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