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OSU Football: What's The Enemy Saying?

Coaches around the Big 12 provide their thoughts on Mason Rudolph, the Cowboys defense and the OSU running game.

A few years back Athlon's in an effort to spice up its preseason college football magazines did something really interesting. No, I'm not talking about the six or seven pages of cheerleaders, poms, dancers, and twirlers. In each of the school previews they included a boxed off section of the preview with the thoughts of another coach in the conference commenting on the school being previewed. It was anonymous, had to be, because no coach is going to go on record giving his honest thoughts, sometimes brutally honest, about a school they have to play. Talking about the ultimate bulletin board material, that would be it.

I spoke to John Helsley, who writes for Athlon's and told me that the chore of collecting those comments is passed around among the writers in each conference. He has had to do it on several occasions and said he hasn't had a hard time. You have to hit coaches that know you, trust you, but they are willing to participate as long as they know you will keep it anonymous and that you won't spread it around where it can be tracked back to them. 

Athlon's idea was so good it was copied and now the ESPN College Football Magazine features anonymous coach's comments as half of its content. 

So, what was said about Oklahoma State, who by the way was picked second by the ESPN editorial staff.

Question: Coach, can you talk about Mason Rudolph?

Answer from unidentified Big 12 offensive coach: "He's a good player, but he doesn't scare you. I don't think he's dynamic like, say, the kid (Patrick Mahomes) at Texas Tech. He's a pocket passer and he doesn't have a cannon. He's not Brandon Weeden, even if they want him to be."

My Take: This should have been asked to a defensive coach and you might have got another answer because even without a strong threat of a running game, Rudolph was the best big-play quarterback in college football. It helps having a receiver like James Washington, who was his favorite target on the long ball, but Rudolph defied football logic with his production last season. I will agree that Rudolph doesn't have as strong an arm as Weeden but he has an arm that is plenty strong enough. He is extremely accurate on the long ball and he makes really good decisions. Rudolph is one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12 and I think most of the league's defensive coaches would show a healthy respect for him.   

Question: Coach, can you talk about attacking the OSU defense?

Answer from an unidentified Big 12 offensive coach: "You have to do a darn good job of deciphering coverage. Glenn (defensive coordinator Spencer) will do some different things, like go with a prevent look on second-and-10, so you have to do a good job in practice because you never know what you're going to get."

My Take: He's right, Spencer likes to try to throw the opposing offense off balance and will show plenty of disguises at them and then change at the snap. The Cowboys are also multiple in defenses with personnel but can run almost all their defenses out of either four- or three-man fronts and with either regular, nickel, or dime packages in the secondary. It's a process that has become a necessity due to the ability of offenses to go to vastly different looks without changing personnel. Spencer makes sure he has several players in key positions (middle linebacker and safety) that are thinkers and can do some adjustments on the field on their own.  

Question: Coach, can you talk about how OSU can be less reliant on Rudolph?

Answer from an unidentified Big 12 offensive coach: "You know (Rudolph is) a competitor because he makes big plays when they need them. They won so many close games. You have to give them credit because he didn't have a consistent running game. The key for him this year is they have to develop a running game. He needs help."

My Take: There is nothing like stating the obvious and that is exactly what this coach did. Oklahoma State won a lot of close games last season and the Cowboys did it without much of a running attack. The run game had to have the influence of running quarterback J.W. Walsh and then offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich was using his imagination and picking the brains of his offensive staff each week to come up with any kind of tweaks to help the offense seem balanced. It was really impressive the way they kept the overall production of the offense up with so little run game during much of the season. Again, at the end, the obvious from the Big 12 coach in saying that Oklahoma State needs to develop a running game and that Rudolph needs help. I will say this. I walked through the Oklahoma State locker room earlier this week and there is a new name on a locker in the running back section, "Barry J. Sanders" and that may take care of some of the help, some.

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