Rudolph returns with high expectations

Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph could be playing quarterback in NFL exhibition games right now instead of preparing for the upcoming Cowboy season.

A surefire draft pick, Rudolph was picked for the cover of one of the four regional editions of Sports Illustrated and the magazine is predicting that OSU will be one of four teams in the college football playoff. The other three picks are Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State.

“…it’s pretty cool to be recognized as one of the teams that people have confidence in, but like I’ve said before, none of that stuff matters preseason wise,” Rudolph said. “I think it’ll add to the collective chemistry that this team feels and has day to day at practice. It just gives us an extra boost, not that we pay attention to that stuff, but it’s inevitable to hear about it. It’s cool, but it’s a team deal.

“It’s good anytime we get some national attention, which we have lately, so it’s good for us and good for the program.”

And Rudolph is one of the top names in preseason speculation for the Heisman Trophy.

“I think we know we can be better than last year, and that’s the goal every year,” Rudolph said. “Any time you got a group of guys like we do on both sides of the ball, it’s fun for me. It’s fun for the team. It’s the best team chemistry I’ve ever been a part of thus far in my career. Guys are eager to hang out with each other off the field. We’re just a big group of friends, and we just happen to play football too.”

With Rudolph at quarterback, No. 10 OSU has been very good but there are loftier goals to achieve.

“With the success we’ve had up until this point, and not being able to get over the hump yet, I think it’s similar to my high school situation,” Rudolph said. “My sophomore year we weren’t very good, my junior year we made it to the state championship and lost. My senior year we went undefeated and won (the state championship). I think the steps I’ve taken personally in just making strides in the offseason – I’m looking forward to this season. We’ve had a great summer and a great offseason.

“I just want to bring the best out of my teammates, be a great teammate and push those guys every day. That’s all I can do. I got one more season and one more chapter to go. I think I’ve put myself in a good situation as far as preparation goes.”

OSU coach Mike Gundy was asked to compare Rudolph to former Cowboy quarterbacks.

“That’s a hard question,” Gundy said. “Fortunately, we’ve had some really good players here at a lot of different positions. What I said earlier at Big 12 Media Days is that he’ll be talked about as one of the best to ever play here. The debate could go on about who is best, and it could do so at the wide receiver position or any other spot as well.

“What he brings to the table, with his ability to win games and be successful, will see him go down as one of the very best to ever play here. He has been really focused and done great. He’s been getting a lot of notoriety and so forth, and he has handled that really well. I like what he’s doing now at practice from a leadership standpoint more than any of his other three years so I’m really excited to watch him play. He’s so driven and works so hard. Oklahoma State fans and coaches will be sorry to see him go, that’s for sure.”

Gundy said Rudolph has matured and improved over the years and that has put him in a position to succeed.

“He’s changed considerably over the last couple years,” Gundy said. “What he did to get the team’s respect was early in his career, he played when he was hurt and when he was really injured. And at the quarterback position, the players respect that.

“So he got them on his side then when he would play injured and then he’s done it since then. He’s had a couple pretty significant injuries, and he’s played beyond the injury. He is very —  at some point other than making twitter videos in the summer at lakes, you see him do some stuff at the lake or whatever — but other than that he’s pretty straight lined. You don’t hear a lot. He’s very driven like I had mentioned earlier. He understands what he wants our team to accomplish and he knows what he wants to accomplish, and it’s hard to really get him off of that. So we’re fortunate that we have a guy who can stay focused and lead the team.”

Another reason Rudolph came back could be the weapons that return on offense.

Wide receiver James Washington could be one of the best at his position in the nation.

“Over the camps, I’ve seen more leadership than last year,” Washington said. “That goes from two-year guys to four-year guys, and just a bunch of leadership from just about everyone. We have more of a bond this year.

“Our offense and defense is closer than ever, and I really think that is what brought us closer and will make us better in the long run.”

And sophomore Justice Hill helped OSU make a big leap in the running game last year, which in turn helped the passing attack.

“He does more of his leadership by leading by example,” Washington said. “During workouts, he’s always giving 110 percent. I don’t know if you saw the video of him squatting 565 pounds – the kid is only 195 pounds – so that’s ridiculous. He’s showing younger guys, ‘Look, I can do this, so you can too if you just work hard.'”