For the first time in several years, Oklahoma State has come into a season with no doubt as to who will be starting behind center, or who the backup is. But as last season showed us, the third quarterback down the list is never that far from taking the field.
Much has been said and written about Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph this offseason, and rightfully so. The incoming sophomore put an exclamation point on the end of the 2014 season, and gave Oklahoma State fans renewed hope heading into 2015 after a rather downer season. Former starter J.W. Walsh, whose injury woes last season paved the way for the emergence of Rudolph, will be back in 2015 for his senior season as the backup. Daxx Garman, had he stayed around in Stillwater, would’ve been the third string quarterback, and a pretty good one at that.
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Well, as we all know, Garman transferred to Maryland to close out his college career, leaving the Cowboys with some question marks as to who will be third on the list. I’ll readily admit that the issue of third-string quarterbacks might not be the hottest topic around, but as last season showed us, the backup’s backup might end up being the most important player on the field when all is said and done.
Not that anyone is hoping for a repeat of 2014.
Anyway, Gundy still hasn’t named the third quarterback down on the depth chart, so let’s get to know the two candidates a little better in the meantime.
John Kolar – Freshman
Kolar was a huge get for the Cowboys, as ESPN had him listed as the No.1 prospect in Oklahoma, and No.13 quarterback overall nationally. The 6-foot-4 native of Norman, Oklahoma went to high school at Norman North, and both of his parents teach at the University of Oklahoma. Kolar understandably grew up a Sooners fan, although he claims to have never held any Bedlam ill-will towards the Pokes. Despite all of the forces working against him, Kolar decided to come to Stillwater rather soon into his prep career, committing to the Cowboys in March of 2014 after being approached and offered early, later enrolling early in December so he could take part in spring practices. It is safe to say that he truly wants to be a Cowboy — This isn’t a case of some highly-touted recruit coming to Stillwater merely because he “fits in the system,” even though he happens to do just that.
Kolar is a gifted athlete, becoming a standout basketball and baseball player as well during his time in Norman. Like Rudolph, he is a big guy who is comfortable in the pocket, amassing 2,292 touchdowns and 24 touchdowns last season for the Timberwolves. Still, Kolar can run when he wants to, as evidenced by his 524 rushing yards in 2014. His style of play and frame makes him a suitable fill-in for Rudolph, allowing him to stand tall in the pocket, evading the pass rush with a few sidesteps while also being difficult to take down. Kolar’s tall frame is obviously to his benefit, but as he said during an interview with Berry Tramel on signing day back in February, one of the staff’s big goals during his first year in Stillwater is for him to put some more weight on.
Enrolling early was definitely to Kolar’s benefit, giving him valuable spring practice time behind Rudolph and Walsh while also learning the offense. Even so, I have no doubt that Mike Gundy and Mike Yurchich would prefer to redshirt Kolar for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it would give him an extra year post-Rudolph. Should the situation arise however, Kolar would undoubtedly provide a satisfactory replacement. It’s worth noting that he received first team reps backing up Rudolph during the Orange-White game back in April, throwing for 97 yards and running for another 17.
Taylor Cornelius – Redshirt Freshman
Cornelius came to Oklahoma State as a preferred walk-on after attending Bushland High School in Texas, where he won numerous awards and accolades in football, track and field, baseball, and basketball. Talented athletes are nothing new to his family, as several of his cousins are notable athletes themselves, including 1996 Olympic swimming gold medal winner Josh Davis, NFL defensive end Brandon Green, and former OU baseball standout Casey Bookout.
As a senior at Bushland, Cornelius completed 283-of-437 passes for 3,815 yards and 46 touchdowns. His 6-foot-6 frame makes him the tallest quarterback of the four, (and taller than most quarterbacks period,) giving him excellent downfield vision when in the pocket, which is where he prefers to do his work. At 190 pounds, he could stand to bulk up some more though, but still, we’re talking about an extremely athletic quarterback who is as tall as a small forward on a basketball court.
Cornelius competed last season as a valuable member of the scout team, and ended up officially redshirting by season’s end, although he apparently did come awfully close to starting the Baylor game instead of Rudolph before Gundy decided somewhat last-second to go with the Cowboys’ current starter. Cornelius was J.W. Walsh’s backup in the spring game, going 4-of-5 for 62 yards.
Despite Kolar’s fanfare and obvious raw talent, this one is closer than it seems. First of all, we already know that Gundy was almost ready to roll with Cornelius last season before he decided to burn Rudolph’s redshirt instead. Cornelius also has the benefit of a full season in the system while getting a ton of reps running the scout team.
It’s true that Kolar and Cornelius share some similarities. Both quarterbacks are tall. Both are pocket passers. If forced to choose however, I’d have to say that Gundy would go with Kolar right now if it came down to it, especially as the season drags on. Having him back up Rudolph in the spring was a a big clue to where Kolar is on the ladder, as he has clearly taken advantage of his early arrival. The fact that Gundy and Yurcich offered Kolar so soon into what would’ve likely been a long recruiting process tells me everything I need to know: They believe in him.
Should the football gods decide to play another cruel joke on the Cowboys quarterback position in 2015, expect Kolar to join the Cowboy Quarterback Redshirt-Burning Club…and expect it to go rather well.
But let’s hope it doesn’t come down to that.