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Will they stay or will they go?

A few players postseason decisions will alter the direction of the program.

NCAA Football: Cactus Bowl-Washington vs Oklahoma State Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

There’s been a lot of talk about the future of certain players at OSU. In particular, those of Mason Rudolph, James Washington, and Marcell Ateman. The decisions of these three players will have a serious impact on this team and its future.

Rudolph seems destined for some kind of NFL career. He has the size, talent, and leadership skills to fit in well at the next level; the question is more about when. He currently projects as a second to fourth round pick, depending on who you ask. That said, Mason doesn’t seem to be in any kind of hurry to leave Stillwater, and many sense that there is a good chance he could return for his senior season.

Washington has a far more complex situation. Word around the program is that Washington is itching to move to the next level, but his draft stock as of now is unclear. He is an athletically gifted receiver who is great vertical deep threat to have, but there’s still questions about him as a complete receiver. His route-running is still pretty rudimentary; in most games you really won’t see him run anything other than a fly, post, or a comeback route. His main attribute is simply blowing by guys, which works on the college level, but not always on the pro stage. His hands are good, but not great, and his support blocking definitely needs improvement. Many would probably agree that another season in Stillwater would be the most beneficial for him, but then again a player’s motivation for entering the draft early can be altered by personal reasons.

Ateman has quite a different question on his hands. Last year’s No. 2 receiver hasn’t played a down this season due to offseason foot surgery, and with half of his senior year having already been played, many are suggesting that he is held out so he can receive a medical redshirt and play a full season in 2017. Ateman was also recently blessed with the arrival of a little baby girl, which may end up factoring into his decision to play this season or not.

I know this is looking a little far ahead to the future but it simply has to be asked: how amazingly good would our offense be if all three returned next season?

Think about it. Mason would be still launching deep bombs to Washington and Ateman on the outside, with Chris Lacy also providing a deep threat. Pair that with the inside recievers, which will consist of Jalen McCleskey, LSU transfer Tyron Johnson (who will be an immediate starter), a fully-healed Dillon Stoner, and incoming freshman Tylan Wallace, and you may have one of the best receiver groups in the country.

The emergence of Justice Hill as the lead running back as a true freshman only makes the thought of that offense more enticing. Jeff Carr and incoming freshman Chuba Hubbard only add more explosiveness to the backfield behind Hill.

All of this talent being captained by Rudolph, who by that time would be one of the most talented and seasoned quarterbacks in the country, sounds simply incredible.

But it all depends on the decisions that these young men make in the following months, and regardless I hope they make the decisions that satisfy themselves, not me or any other OSU fan. But good lord it would be fun to see.

If Washington and Ateman do leave, the outside receiver position would have a lot of inexperience going into next season. They would be accompanied by Jhajuan Seales and Austin Hays on their departure, leaving Chris Lacy as the only experienced outside receiver. That said, there is a lot of young receiving talent in this incoming recruiting class, like the 6’3” Shamond Greenwood from Garland, who could step in and play right away.

The quarterback situation would be much stickier if Rudolph left early. The current backup is Taylor Cornelius, who will be a redshirt junior next season, so it’s presumable that he would get a look at the job. There is also former four-star recruit John Kolar, who will be a redshirt sophomore next season, that many expect to try and compete to see if he can live up to the hype he received in recruiting. My favorite pick to replace Rudolph in the case of his departure is Keondre Wudtee. The freshman is redshirting this season, but he is a tall quarterback with room to grow physically, and he also brings a dual-threat ability to the table.

The situations surrounding these three big decisions will be something to keep an eye on.