One of the most asked questions dating back to spring football and continuing on through fall camp for the Oklahoma State Cowboys has been, who will be the back-up quarterback?
Last season the Cowboys played two quarterbacks by design with Mason Rudolph as the starter and the primary trigger in the offense, but athletic, even speedy J.W. Walsh was used in short yardage and in red and scoring zone situations. The strategy was so effective, especially with the lack of a conventional running attack, that Rudolph was responsible for 22 touchdowns (21 passing) and Walsh was responsible for 26 touchdowns (13 passing and 13 rushing).
Head coach Mike Gundy has already said they don't have a Walsh-type performer this season and that he is more than fine with Rudolph handling those situations both because he has some mobility and he has an accurate arm.
Still, the media and fans are curious about the backup. Is it redshirt freshman John Kolar, who has running ability, new freshman standout passer and runner Keondre Wudtee out of Louisiana, or is it the walk-on 6-6, 220-pounder and most experienced quarterback behind Rudolph on the roster in Taylor Cornelius?
The percentages are on Cornelius, who may be a walk-on but like walk-on sensation Jake Hubenak, who went on to lead all junior colleges in passing at Blinn and sign on with Texas A&M, and former OSU walk-on Richard Lagow, who is now expected to start at quarterback at Indiana, he is better than your normal walk-on. Cornelius was a standout four-sport athlete at Bushland, Texas. He is big, athletic, and has a good arm.
"Anytime you have experience being with a program…the quarterbacks really change each semester," Gundy explained. "He's the leading candidate now based on his experience and the improvement he's made over the last couple of seasons."
Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich is more emphatic at this stage on Cornelius.
"I had very high expectations for him. I told him that when we were recruiting him," Yurcich said. "He threw for a billion yards in high school and he's a great kid. He's got a great family, a lot of support back home and he's the type of kid who likes to compete and loves the game. I need to see him improve though. He knows there's room to improve and things he can get better at, but he's a guy who's really willing to work at those things and take ownership of them."
Cornelius is playing it coy as when asked if the added practice reps (he gets the most second team reps behind Rudolph) had helped, he said, "I get reps, John Kolar gets reps, and so does Keondre. We run up tempo in practice so everybody gets reps."
He has played in just two games at OSU, completing 2 of 5 passes for eight yards. However, he did throw for over 9,000 yards and 88 touchdowns in high school.
Our prediction is that it will wind up being more Rudolph and Cornelius as classes start and the clock moves closer to Sept. 3 and Southeastern Louisiana.