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Key Position Battles: Back-Up Quarterback

You know who the most popular player is on so many teams, the second-team quarterback. That has not been the case nor will it be the case this season if Oklahoma State is going to have any chance to fulfill the expectations that range from ESPN analyst Trevor Mattich predicting a potential College Football Playoff run to Lindy's projection of a Big 12 Championship and possible berth in the CFP, to almost every other preseason source ranking the Cowboys somewhere between eighth in the nation and

Some lofty projections for the Oklahoma State Cowboys this season, but they are based on senior quarterback Mason Rudolph throwing to a bevy of talented receivers including senior James Washington and Chris Lacy along with slot Jalen McCleskey and six-foot-four Marcell Ateman. Rudolph is a college career 62.3 percent passer with 8,714-yards and 55 touchdowns to just 17 interceptions. Rudolph has also proven himself a tough guy that can run and get tough yards and the end zone when needed. The Cowboy just don't need him to sprain and ankle, bust a rib, or bruise an elbow this season. 

That said, you have to have a back-up quarterback and ideally, if the Cowboys can put some opponents away early then offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich can start preparing and grooming a successor to Rudolph. The competition started in the spring, really back in the fall. New freshman Jelani Woods from Georgia arrived early in January but even at 6-7, 240 pounds he is most likely going to red-shirt. Red-shirt sophomore John Kolar is talented, really talented as a runner, but he is also out of the mix. 

So, who is in the running to be Rudolph's back-up and maybe the heir apparent for 2018 as quarterback?

"That is the million dollar question and the one I get hit on the most," Yurcich told me a couple of days ago. "It is a good question and one that we are going to continue to try and figure out going into fall camp. It has been determined that it is between Taylor (Cornelius) and Keondre (Wudtee) right now. That is where we are at right now and that battle will continue in fall camp."

Cornelius is a walk-on and now a junior out of Bushland, Texas in the panhandle of the Lone Star state. He was a four-sport star in high school and is a talented quarterback. He also has played in some college games, not much, but some. 

Cornelius has been in four games and is 9-of-14 in his career passing for 72-yards with neither a touchdown or an interception. He had seven carries last season for 38-yards and a touchdown against Southeastern Louisiana. He's been sacked three times in his career, twice as a freshman, but he also carried twice in a game with Kansas for 21-yards. None of that was really under pressure except that pressure that was self-imposed. 

His physical skills are being 6-6, 225 pounds with good athletic ability and a solid arm and release.

The competition is red-shirt freshman Keondre Wudtee, who is 6-4, 215 pounds and is very athletic. In high school at Parkway in Bossier City he was a three-sport star (football, basketball, track). In football he threw for over 3,000-yards and 29 touchdowns with only nine interceptions as a senior. He can also run.

Wudtee has a long release but a strong arm that is getting more accurate and precise with every practice including those this summer. He is more than capable of the spectacular play that coaches crave and fans go bonkers over. His biggest concern is the need to minimize mistakes.

Woods and 2018 quarterback commitment Spencer Sanders of Denton Ryan could also very well be in the running to have next as the starting quarterback following Rudolph. Yurcich would like to be prepping a strong candidate for the 2018 job, but the number one question in deciding the quarterback depth will be this. If something happens to Rudolph and the second quarterback has to come in for a series, a quarter, a half, a game, or more; who can come in and perform and make winning plays?

"The hardest thing and this goes all the way through the history of football itself, you don’t really know until you are in a live situation as to how that guy will really respond," Yurcich asked out loud. "The NFL, college, to high school that is just the way it is. There are indicators, certainly, like how they practice and how they do in live situations in scrimmages. At the same time do you really want to get your quarterback hit in scrimmages and take a chance on going a man down. Is it full go in their mind and how do they process that? Will they be different when it is in a game and nobody knows that until you start playing? Every coach in America, at all levels, wonders that. There are indicators like how they played in high school."

Indicators, but Yurcich is looking for the answer to a situation that he truly hopes never ends up presenting itself, at least not this season. 

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