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OSU Offensive Player to Watch: QB Mason Rudolph

Is Mason Rudolph the next Big 12 QB star?

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Once upon a time, there was a young QB named Trevone Boykin.  He wasn't always a QB, but he was forced into the position by injuries and stupid decision-making by his predecessor, Casey Pachall.  And now look at him: a Heisman candidate raking in the awards each week, as his numbers continue to increase.  But there's a young QB just a few hours north of Boykin who could turn into quite the big name in the next couple of years.  Mason Rudolph is a true sophomore QB from South Carolina.  Unlike Boykin, he's been a QB from the beginning.  As a high school junior, he threw for 3,990 yards and 41 touchdowns while leading his team to the state finals.  His senior year he totaled 4,377 yards passing and 64 touchdowns, with an additional 543 yards on 129 carries and 16 rushing touchdowns.  He led Northwestern High School to a 62-35 win in the South Carolina Class 4A Division II Championship Game.

In 2014, Rudolph planned to redshirt the season.  But like Boykin's story, an injury to starting QB Daxx Garman forced Rudolph into starting his college career early.  In a face-off with then-number-6 Baylor, he totaled 281 yards passing—the most ever for an OSU player's first game.  He ended the 2014 season with 853 yards and 6 touchdowns in 3 games.  He had a 57% completion rate.  For fun, here's his first-year stats vs. Boykin's, plus a game breakdown this season:

This season, Rudolph is 179 of 280 attempts passing for 2,482 yards and 12 touchdowns.  His completion percentage is up to 63.9%.  Rudolph has shared the QB position with senior J.W.Walsh, who's 18-of-23 for 296 yards this year.  Walsh has a good completion rate at 78.3% and 9 touchdowns, with his longest pass at a whopping 75 yards.  He also averages more yards than Rudolph.  The Cowboys have used this 2-QB system to their advantage this season, and it could help them this weekend, if only because it allows one QB more rest during a quick-turnover situation.  They've also used this system to mix up their passing-vs-running game in the hope of confusing opponents.  The disadvantage to this is that there doesn't seem to be any kind of actual game plan for using Walsh each game.  And in a press conference memorialized by the great Cowboys Ride For Free, there were some questions raised about each QB feeling a bit slighted.  Coach Mike Gundy has also said that it's like "preparing for two different offenses."  If the Frog defense can push the pace of the Cowboys' offensive game, they may incite some confusion when trying to change QBs.

But the real threat from Oklahoma State is their fighting spirit.  My gosh, the Cowboys are freakin' resilient.  The only team that matches that resiliency this season is the Frogs, so this will literally be a scrappy brawl 'til the end.  One of Rudolph's weaknesses appears to be his interception-ability (Yep, I'm making that an official word).  He has 8 interceptions so far this season, ranging from 0-3 in any given game.  In the first 4 games this season, he threw 3 interceptions, versus 5 in the last 4 games.  In the overtime win against West Virginia, Rudolph threw 3 interceptions: 1 in the first quarter, 2 in the third.  Of course, you can blame it on him attempting longer, riskier passes in do-or-die games if you want.  But the bigger point is that the Frog defense has to take advantage of opportunities like this.  Now that they've got a bit of a groove going, they've got to look for those special plays that get the Frogs any extra opportunity with the ball.  In last week's game against Tech, Rudolph made some basic errors that the Red Raiders simply took full advantage of; the Frogs have to do that, too.  The Cowboys have proven they have the fight to come back from multiple-touchdown deficits, so the Frogs should never get too comfortable.

Rudolph is a great player who may become one of the next great Big 12 QB stories.  But he's not error-free, which will allow the experienced Frogs a major advantage on Saturday.