We're going to be taking a look at some key position groups over the next few weeks. Let's start with the obvious choice, and probably the most important, quarterback.
As we all know, the guy behind center can make the difference between an average team and a good team. (Or a good team and a great team).
First off, Rudolph is the guy. Don't listen to Jason Sehorn. It's settled. We won't have to endure the QB carrousel that has become the norm in Stillwater over the last couple of seasons. That is a good thing.
I was a little surprised when Mike Gundy named No. 2 (well No. 10 at the time) the starter before spring camp. Not because Rudolph hadn't earned it. He had. But mainly because of Gundy's recent history of dealing with QB's. He named Clint Chelf the starter for 2013 but that didn't last through the first quarter of the first game. Then you had that whole situation with Wes Lunt.
Gundy has been hesitant to commit to a guy prematurely. He's also prone to being tough on QB's. It's probably because he's been the guy taking snaps. I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing either. You want your leader to have some grit.
So why the sudden change of heart? Well there's two ways to look at it. Either Coach Gundy decided to turn over a new leaf or (more likely) that he's not been this confident in a guy Brandon Weeden. Either way, it's a good thing for the team.
Saturday, in his first start at Boone Pickens Stadium, Rudolph went 23-for-35 throwing for 401 yards. He had two touchdowns and one interception. While he missed some throws in the first half, overall he threw the ball well, completing 65.7 percent of his passes. He's got a cannon for an arm and he's elusive in the pocket. He has shown solid decision making skills and doesn't get rattled easily.
But there's another part of this equation. The "Walsh-dozer" (Nope, that doesn't work for me). J.W. Walsh is a true "dual-threat" quarterback. He doesn't have the strongest arm but he can be effective throwing the ball. His athleticism is what keeps defenses guessing. He is battle tested and completely capable of leading the team to a win.
Mike Gundy made it clear well before the season opener that Walsh would be used in certain packages. We have already witnessed it in the first two games, and we have no reason to think it won't continue throughout the season.
But it brings up an interesting question. Can/Should you play two quarterbacks? The "Walsh Package" has been productive so far. Any time you make an opposing defensive coordinator scheme for two different quarterbacks, you give yourself an advantage. But how does it affect Rudolph's development? Time will tell, I guess. But Gundy has said himself that Rudolph will be going through a learning curve. That five or six game stretch where he has to make some mistakes and work through them. Confidence is a huge part of that. You would hate to put even a sliver of doubt in his mind that you trust him when it counts.
Now, this may not even be an issue. Rudolph seems to have his head on straight and there's no reason to think there is any contention in the locker room or that there ever will be. He seems like a team first guy, as is J-Dub. But that experience in the red zone could prove critical for Rudolph.
Is the "Walsh Package" better for the team? Probably. At least for now. Six points are six points. (You notice I didn't say seven). You can't settle for field goals when you get deep into enemy territory. Especially with Oklahoma State's kicking situation.
I personally would have liked Rudolph to get that red zone experience in these first few games, before getting into conference play. But then again, you have to win those games too. If the Cowboys had come home 0-1 from Mt. Pleasant there would have been riots and death threats.
So the good news... Oklahoma State has two quarterbacks that can play, and one that could be special. We can only wait and see how this dynamic will play out.
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