Rudolph's Arm is Fine, Protection More Critical for Success
For those of us that get to see him on a daily basis, the reporting from ESPN and Scout Inc.'s Todd McShay that Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph had a liability with a less than stellar arm strength-wise. McShay had Rudolph as a top 10 quarterback in college football, so obviously he had good things to say about the Cowboys junior signal caller. Rudolph has a good arm and all you need for proof is all of the long distance completions he had with James Washington and other receivers last season.
Well before McShay's top 10 was released, head coach Mike Gundy came out and said that Rudolph has improved more than any quarterback he has seen at Oklahoma State in his time here as head coach, and that includes his arm strength. Now Gundy may not be all that excited about McShay and any other media "scouts" propping his underclassmen for slots in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Nobody knows what the future holds, but this I am sure of, Rudolph's arm strength will be just that, a strength. Rudolph will have a good season especially if the offensive line improves and the running threat for this offense is better and stronger. Also, if the two juniors, Rudolph and Washington, stay healthy and stay together at Oklahoma State through their senior seasons then they will leave as the number one passing combination in OSU football history.
Advisors Doing a Good Job; Good to Have Henson Back
One sight at Oklahoma State football practice that is not only familiar but really good to see is former Cowboys player and assistant coach Josh Henson roaming the field and taking notes, analyzing what it going on and what can be done to get better. Henson left Oklahoma State with Les Miles and helped him win a national championship at LSU. He then went to Missouri and joined Gary Pinkel as offensive line coach and then offensive coordinator as the Tigers entered the SEC. Mizzou won two SEC East Division championships. Now Henson has replaced Darrell Wyatt as the offensive analyst for the Cowboys. Bill Clay, another former OSU assistant under Miles, is back as the defensive analyst.
"Well, Josh is an Oklahoma State guy," Gundy said of having Henson back. "He and Sean (Henson's wife) were both here in school. He's done very well on his own. He's gone down and worked. He went down and worked with coach Miles, then went on to be a coordinator and did very well. Missouri had tremendous success those years that they were there. They won a lot of game.
"With offensive line play, in the running game, he's been trained by one of the best by coach Miles. I feel strongly about the knowledge he brings to the table in that area. And he has expanded that now. He understands quarterback play. He understands the passing game, down field stuff. Those guys, to a certain extent, linemen or coaching line they live in a world about as big as this stage. They don't know anything going on behind those cameras. Well, he's evolved to knowing the game even more. Of course, Bill Clay is back with us. Both those guys are a great addition for us."
Gundy broke the seal on the Big 12 having analysts last season and now several schools have followed suit. Nick Saban at Alabama has had them for some time. In fact, Alabama wanted to hire Henson. Gundy loves having them and would love to have more.
"Well, not necessarily how you did it without them, you would like to have three or four more on each side of the ball like the SEC," Gundy said. "Five or six on each side of the ball, we would love to have that. You just image of Daryl White was here last year; he's at Houston, the knowledge that he brought to the game. And there are other guys out there. I know that I think Tim Beckett went to North Carolina to work for [Larry] Fedora.
"When you bring guys like that that have been coaching 25 years and they understand the position and their wear and tear mentally daily is much more than ours because they aren't actually coaching and recruiting. All they are doing is thinking and looking at ball, then they can bring or give us great suggestions that maybe we can't come up with just because of the fatigue of being in the season. So they are certainly a great asset to our program."
On top of that with Henson, Gundy has a ready made candidate if he loses an assistant on the offensive side of the ball.
Cornelius and Other Walk-ons Doing Fine
On this very board there was some concern that after walk-on senior running back Keegan Metcalf was awarded a scholarship this week that walk-on projected backup quarterback Taylor Cornelius might be upset. First, Cornelius really loves it at Oklahoma State and you can see in his eyes when he talks about the opportunity that he is fired up about it. Cornelius was on scholarship over the summer and that helped him out some. Also, walk-ons now get more help than ever before with meals and other aspects where schools can help out. Thanks to Nike and the equipment staff they also get a wardrobe of athletic gear.
As a result, Gundy believes that the walk-on program at Oklahoma State is better off than it has ever been.
"It's hard to compare what everyone else has, but this is the best group we've ever had," Gundy said of the walk-on class that grew another 15 players or so with the start of school. "There's two reasons for that. One, because we have a plan and a system set up to be able to go out and bring young men in that at some point probably should have gotten a scholarship at this level or maybe right below. That's something that's just my opinion.
"And then our administration is backing us up because there's a lot of requirements involved in bringing walk-ons financially. There's things we can do now. We can feed them, obviously in all of pre-season, but during the season there's a lot of things we can do, academic resources. We go right up to the line of a NCAA standpoint and say this is everything we can do. We're going to do every single thing we can to make this best, this is the best place for you to walk-on. We have to get the administration and coach Holder and a lot of people to agree with that, because there's some value in.
"So this group we have now is the best group we've had overall, and for Oklahoma State to continue to play at the level we have, we have to have as many walk-ons as possible that can help us, because what that does is allows us to find out if they fit our system and allows them to find out if we can fit their system, and it has to work for both sides. Sometimes they're here and it may not and they go somewhere else to play."
Jake Hubenak took advantage of that by heading to Blinn College and then on to Texas A&M where he is on scholarship. Last year Jake Lagow went to Cisco College and now he is on scholarship and is projected to start at quarterback at Indiana. Cornelius, Cowboys fans will be glad to know, is past being able to transfer to a junior college.
Oklahoma State recruiting is at 18 commitments for the class of 2017. That is further along at this date than the Cowboys have ever been in recruiting the next class. No guarantees because these commitments are non-binding.
You have to be tech savvy these days to catch the eyes of recruits because they are tech savvy. Check out some of the highlight tapes or graphics on Twitter put out by some of these recruits. As a result, Gundy, recruiting coordinator Johnny Barr, and others involved in the process and the organization of it like Mike Groce, Sharla Curtis, and Beni Tonga have added two more graphic designers to assist with the creative and technical output.
"They've been awesome, and we need two more," Gundy said enthusiastically. "Everything is moving in that direction, you guys know that. It'd be a waste of oxygen for me to talk about how important technology is. You could read, there's an article on ESPN that talked about just recently you guys may have seen it today or yesterday. It came out and talked about how it's changed the subscribers and just what technology and social media is doing to all of our lives.
"So if we don't try to stay ahead of the game in that part of the world then we're really lessening our chances in recruiting the quality student athletes that need to come here and perform on the football field because that's the world they live in. When I was gone a couple of weeks ago with my kids playing baseball in Colorado, we had a break for two days between two tournaments, so we just got in a minivan and started going north. We didn't stop until we got to Yosemite. Not Yosemite, Yellowstone. I wish we could have gone to Yosemite but we didn't have time. We went to Yellowstone.
"Well, they lost cell service for a day and a half. Well you would have thought they lost their life – 11 and 14 I'm serious. For me it was awesome. Kevin [Klintworth] and Gavin [Lang] were trying to call me, and I don't have any cell service. They didn't have WiFi or anything, for 36 hours they lost essentially their phones. They wanted to turn around and go the other direction as fast as they could so they could get into cell service and get into WiFi service, and so that will give you an example of how important these guys are from a communications standpoint to who we're trying to target and what we're trying to accomplish."
On recruiting and hairstyle, "I mentioned it needed a little trim here and there, and our social media people said I can't do it because our ratings are going up too much."
Math Plays into Richards' Mind Games
Remember when he arrived and was pressed into duty as a true freshman, former quarterback turned cornerback Ramon Richards was lauded for being an outstanding student. Richards was recruited by Harvard, Yale and Princeton. The Ivy Leaguers wanted the San Antonio Brackenridge graduate in the land of high-end academics. Richards is now dedicated to being the best defensive back in America and I bet he may be the only one playing math games on the field.
"After a while, it all becomes patterns. You get used to seeing certain patterns and applying them," Richards said of his habit of playing math games and counting on the field. "When we're doing nothing, I'll count how many pictures are around or how many people are in here. When I'm bored, that's what I think about. When I'm on the field, counting my receivers and counting my threats. It kind of helps in a sense."
Crabtree Singing R-E-S-P-E-C-T
With all the talk about the offensive line and how it needs to improve and the run game must be better, starting right tackle on offense Zach Crabtree is convinced of a reason the overall Oklahoma State team is better. Now, before getting into Crabtree's reasoning, it is important to say that Crabtree and left tackle Victor Salako, who has been better and much more mobile in the pre-season because of the offseason surgery to remove two big bone spurs in his foot and his losing some 25 pounds form his 345 playing weight last season, are solid at the tackles. They will be a strength for the offensive line.
Now Crabtree believes a strength for this team overall, is the respect the players have for each other.
"The respect we have for each other in this locker room," Crabtree answered as to the major reason the Cowboys will be better. "Once you respect guys like that it makes you want to play a lot harder for the guy next to you. It's always been like that here at Oklahoma State but this team is special. That locker room is special."
Now make the run game and pass protection just as special.