Backup QB Competition Could Be Interesting

Taylor Cornelius, John Kolar and Keondre Wudtee are trying to show the Oklahoma State coaching staff that they deserve to back up Mason Rudolph.

STILLWATER – The Oklahoma State Cowboys practice plan for Wednesday looked almost exactly like the practice plan on day one, even calling for a finish at 10:56 a.m. But like on Tuesday, the practice ran over about 10 minutes making it a nearly two and a half hour practice from pre-practice walk-through to finish.

Interestingly, I was asked if the Cowboys are doing any two-a-days in camp and the answer really is no, but it is almost like everyday is a two-a-day practice day. Like the NFL, college teams, and this includes Oklahoma State, are planning walk-throughs on their schedule. It's not a practice and doesn't count as one, but mentally, and in the Oklahoma afternoon heat, it almost feels like one even though the pace is slowed down and it is more of a jog through.

As for the practice this morning it was more of the same from Monday. The special teams period included more extensive work on punts, as the punt unit was broken down into sections and they drilled on working their tasks before bringing it all together for some reps. Zach Sinor returns as punter and Matt Hockett is backing him up. Senior Ben Grogan and spring kicking star Matt Ammendola are back as kickers and it will be interesting to see the battle there and for kick-offs. 

The practice was filled with plenty of individual drills, an outside drill with more run game and play action pass installation. There was more seven-on-seven and pass pro to keep the offensive and defensive linemen entertained. 

Still no team period with offense versus defense but that is coming tomorrow when shoulder pads are added. 

Cowboys offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich spoke with the Oklahoma State athletic media relations representative after the workout and was happy with day two, seemingly as happy as head coach Mike Gundy was with day one.

"It's awesome. We have a great bunch of guys. We have some veteran players that are returning, so you're hitting the ground running a lot faster," Yurcich said kind of hinting like Gundy did on Tuesday that the team was ahead in the preseason process. "At the same time, you've got to strip it back down and get back to the basics. It's fun to teach the fundamentals of the game. We just have helmets on right now, so it will be better tomorrow when we get the pads on a little bit more to go up against the defense in some team settings.

"I think so," Yurcich continued on the offense and the team as a whole being ahead. "My first year, we were pretty far along as well and we were pretty inexperienced there (for a time)…It's not like it's something new. In 2013, it was a lot like that as far as guys knowing the system and hitting the ground running a lot faster."

One of the major questions for the Cowboys on offense is one that they truly hope in the end is inconsequential and that is who will be the backup quarterback. There is no doubt that the best answer at quarterback and the one that is a major reason for Oklahoma State being considered by most as a top 25 team opening the season is Mason Rudolph. Rudolph is a premier talent, but check the 2013 and 2014 Cowboys, even the end of last season. Quarterbacks can be fragile, especially in the Big 12. Just ask Baylor.

So how do you size up walk-on Taylor Cornelius, redshirt freshman John Kolar and talented incoming freshman Keondre Wudtee?

"Taylor Cornelius is a guy that has really good arm strength," Yurcich said. "His feet in the pocket are very good. He's a pocket passer guy. He's a guy that understands the system very well, and he's getting better. He needs more game experience to really find out how good he can be, but he does really well in our drills and what we set up in 7­-on­-7 and team.

"John Kolar, he'll come along," Yurcich continued. "Last spring was a really good spring for John, and it looks like he's continuing on that progression. He's shown good signs so far in his limited practice time. It's hard to see those younger guys and give you a total breakdown in those limited reps. John has athleticism as well, so he can escape and we can call some quarterback runs with him if he's in the game.

"Keondre Wudtee, I'm going to hold on him because time's going to tell on him," Yurcich said of the freshman. "Obviously, he's got great athleticism, he's got great arm strength and he's a smart kid, but he has less experience in the system, so it's going to take a few more practices to get him moving to where we can evaluate him a little bit better."

Gundy knows that the competition needs to be brisk. The top two quarterbacks need all the reps they can get in this month before the season. Gundy, like Yurcich, a former quarterback, gets antsy in discussion on practice reps.

"We have about a week to come up with a plan for who we're going to give the quality reps to," Gundy said on Tuesday. "The good thing in our system, as you guys know, they get a lot of work in the first 45 minutes. The experience they can gain in that team period is important, and we'll have to make a decision on that within a week, just from the standpoint of only getting so many quality reps a day. If one of those guys has to play, we want to have a plan for them so we can function and execute as an offense." 

Cornelius came out of the spring as the number two quarterback and Kolar is third. Wudtee is now the wildcard as to whether he will play or redshirt. Kolar is confident he is ready to compete, and as Yurcich said, he has the ability to be a major run threat. 

"My emphasis was just getting better in every aspect of the game. I wanted to get stronger, faster, bigger and also getting a head start on the mental part of the game," said the Norman North product.

I would expect the competition to go on through fall camp and an answer to be close to right when classes begin.

There were a couple of high profile visitors at the Cowboys practice and all dressed in OSU gear.

Oologah defensive end commitment Brock Martin was there as was Tulsa Union wide receiver C.J. Moore and a pair of teammates. Moore is just a junior but already has several offers including the Cowboys. As a sophomore he had 27 receptions for 526 yards and 11 touchdowns. The 6-4, 170-pounder is a stud.

With Martin scratch that weight that has him listed at 218 pounds with Scout. The 6-3 Martin told Oklahoma State officials that he weighed in on Tuesday at 230 pounds. He looks powerful and should have a huge senior year after delivering 35 sacks combined his sophomore and junior seasons despite missing major time with a knee injury.

Oklahoma State practices again in the morning and on Thursday the shoulder pads get added.  

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