Cowboys Postseason Analysis: Quarterback

Mason Rudolph will not be sharing the quarterback duties with anyone as he prepares to lead the Cowboys in 2016.

This is a great position to start with because it performed well all season, and the top performer returns for two more seasons. No, I don't anticipate that Mason Rudolph will declare early for the NFL Draft. I think he could very well wind up in the NFL but I think playing his four years in college would be beneficial to him.

Rudolph was tops in the Big 12 in yards per completion and was third in the NCAA. He was second in the Big 12 in total passing yards and yards per pass attempt, and ranked high in the NCAA as well. Rudolph completed 62.6 percent of his passes (264 of 424) for 3,770 yards with 21 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Remember that is playing only in certain down and distances in the score zone. Conservatively, if J.W. Walsh had not been around for those situations then Rudolph would have had at least eight more touchdown passes, maybe more. 

Rudolph is not the finished product. He can get better and he knows it. Much of that improvement will come in game management and defensive recognition. 

"Mason got greedy a few times and rather than hand the ball off he went with throws to the outside," head coach Mike Gundy said of Rudolph in the Sugar Bowl. "As he progresses, Rudolph is going to better recognize situations and what should be done with calls at the line of scrimmage."

"I know I can get better and I know I can improve," Rudolph said. "I will go home and relax a little, that will be good. Then when we get back to school it is all about getting into the offseason but also about getting back in the quarterback room and studying situations and improving off what we can learn from this season. I look forward to getting better and being a more complete quarterback for this team."

Rudolph is big and strong, and he is also more athletic than some may give him credit for. Don't look for him to run triple option but you saw this season he is capable of running the football when presented with the option. He is also fairly smart about not taking big hits. He should have the full load for next season and I really do believe he looks forward to that. 

Walsh was good for Rudolph, the two are good friends, but it is more likely that the two-quarterback system grown out of some necessity and the advantage of having both quarterbacks will end here. Walsh and Oklahoma State have filed paperwork to gain Walsh a sixth year of eligibility but in actual games lost he is a few short of what the rule requires to get that extra year.

Walsh made the most of his final year, whether it was the true package on short yardage and score zone situations or it was an offense stymied by lack of a conventional run game such as at Texas Tech where Walsh took over in a victorious fourth quarter. Walsh was third on the team in rushing with 359 yards and 13 touchdowns on 77 carries with a per carry average of 4.9, second best on the team behind Raymond Taylor. You could say that overall Walsh was the most effective ball carrier on the offense. He also completed 57 of 85 passes for 787 yards and another 13 touchdowns and just one interception all season. 

His leadership was a key as he and inside receiver David Glidden seem to be able to punch those buttons in teammates that only seniors know how to get to. Walsh will be missed and as Gundy has hinted maybe he won't be gone for long or forever. He could end up coaching at his alma mater again someday. His production should not be missed as part of it will need to be developed with a stronger rushing attack and Rudolph is anxious to pick up some of that responsibility. 

Now behind Rudolph on the depth chart there should be a battle between walk-on Taylor Cornelius and redshirt freshman John Kolar. Cornelius got some playing time this season, compleeting 2 of 5 passes for 8 yards and 4 carries for 16 yards. He looked good with his reps in practice and he is a talented player and athletic enough to be dual threat. 

Kolar truly was a scout team quarterback this season but you could see he was getting bigger and stronger and it appeared he was learning a lot being around the three older quarterbacks. His transition when he returns back to campus will be from being a scout team quarterback to working toward competing for the second spot on the depth chart. It will not be a cinch as Cornelius is good and has a head start. 

Recruiting is important as the Cowboys lost long time quarterback commitment Nick Starkel and now are pursuing two dual threat candidates in Louisiana standout Keondre Wudtee (6-4, 190) and Californian Devon Modster (6-1, 210). Because of the ability of both these players and the loss of Walsh as a dual threat option, depending on the advancement of the rushing attack, then Cornelius, Kolar or a freshman could be in line to contribute if it is needed. The hope is that the run attack improves enough to allow Rudolph's full game to flourish.

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