Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph left campus as one of the most productive players in the history of the school. Now, coach Mike Gundy has his work cut out replacing him.
The Cowboys aren’t alone. As many as nine Big 12 teams could start a different quarterback than opening day last season. But out of that group, six have an expected starter under center. Two of the other teams are down to at least two options.
But at Oklahoma State, the battle is open. Four quarterbacks will be on campus in the next few weeks. All have a chance to win the starting job.
Oklahoma State has two quarterbacks with experience on the roster, but neither has much. Senior Taylor Cornelius, a former walk-on, is the most experienced passer on the roster; he has 24 career pass attempts. Sophomore Keondre Wudtee has 3 attempts against South Alabama to his name.
Rudolph was one of the best and most consistent quarterbacks in the Big 12 over the past three seasons. After taking over on Nov. 22, 2014 against Baylor, Rudolph didn’t miss a start. He did get pulled with an injury against Oklahoma in 2015. Otherwise, he took almost every significant snap for the Cowboys. It’s part of what made him a Cowboys legend, but it does mean the depth is somewhat unproven.
In his most significant action against Pitt, Cornelius complete 3-of-5 passes for 75 yards. However, all the passes came in garbage time. The same was true against Baylor, when he rushed 3 times for 66 yards and a touchdown.
Wudtee has 36 total yards in his college career. While two years in the system is nice, he has little experience on the field.
Cornelius has been at Oklahoma State since 2014. That gives him a leg up in any competition. However, none of the quarterbacks on the roster are an obvious choice.
The Cowboys have two heralded options coming in at quarterback.
Four-star Denton (Texas) Guyer quarterback Spencer Sanders is rated the No. 8 dual-threat quarterback in the nation after a standout high school career.
As a senior, Sanders led Guyer to a 14-1 record. He threw for 3,877 yards and tossed 54 touchdown passes to just 7 interceptions in a season that ended in the state playoffs. His performance was good enough to earn Gatorade Texas Player of the Year honors. Previous winners include TCU quarterback Shawn Robinson and Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray.
Sanders is giving himself a leg up in the competition. The class of 2018 member enrolled early in Stillwater. That will give him time to learn the offense. The other major offseason addition to Oklahoma State’s roster will have to adjust quicker.
Hawaii graduate transfer Dru Brown will join the program in June. Brown is an experienced passer, and started the last two seasons at Hawaii. In 2016, Brown threw for 2,488 yards and 19 touchdowns. He led Hawaii to its first bowl berth since 2010.
The Rainbow Warriors took a big step back in 2017, but Brown still threw for 2,785 yards and 18 touchdowns to just 8 interceptions. He’s been very clear that he intends to win the starting quarterback job in 2018.
Gundy has never shied away from getting creative at quarterback. In 2015, he used Rudolph as the starting quarterback and J.W. Walsh as a short-yardage option thanks to his running ability. Gundy also started a late-20s former baseball player, Brandon Weeden, and won the Big 12.
For that reason, it’s clear Oklahoma State is keeping every option available.
Sanders is the most talented quarterback on the roster. He proved that during his standout high school career. As a senior, Sanders completed 66.5 percent of his passes to high school teammates while playing in a tough division. He has plenty to learn, but the talent is there.
That said, Brown has 25 times more collegiate passing yards in two seasons than every other quarterback on the roster combined. Cornelius provides the most familiarity with the system. Wudtee is a wild card.
Luckily, any quarterback won’t be completely alone. Wide receivers Jalen McCleskey, Dillon Stoner and Tyron Johnson are all back in 2018. Running back Justice Hill might be the best running back in the conference next season, and J.D. King is a nice counterpart.
Gundy has plenty of options to choose from heading into 2018. After losing one of the best players in program history, that’s all he can ask for.
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