A former Cowboy star quarterback is having an impact on the current crop of Oklahoma State signal callers to help them achieve similar stardom.
Zac Robinson has been working with Cowboy quarterbacks in the off-season. Robinson, a three-year starter for OSU, was part of the “triplets” that included Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys and Kendall Hunter of the San Francisco 49ers.
Robinson was drafted by the New England Patriots in the seventh round in 2010. He was released and then played for the Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals. An elbow injury cut short his pro career and he began working with developing quarterbacks.
Robinson tutored Mason Rudolph and J.W. Walsh this summer.
“I think it helps,” said OSU coach Mike Gundy. “Certain former players have the ability to teach, instruct and coach. In my opinion, I think there are a number of people out there that aren’t really fit for the development of young people at this level. There’s a considerable difference in training J.W. Walsh compared to training a 10-year-old.
“Zac is a self-made player. I don’t know if we had stars back then, but he wouldn’t have been much more than a two-star. He came in, worked hard and maximized his potential. He was a student of the game, and he’s very intelligent. So he can pass that on, and I think it’s beneficial for our players to have a former player like Zac, who will do it for all the right reasons.”
This is a pleasant development for Rudolph, the sophomore pressed into action and who has been tabbed as the starter this season.
“In the last (several) practices, he’s been good with getting the ball in the hands of the players that the defense has allowed us to take advantage of offensively,” Gundy said of Rudolph. “I think that’s the most important part of his progress in the second year.
“He’s going to make some plays and make some mistakes, but he needs to minimize those by not trying to make too many big plays. Just take what they give him.
“Mason (Rudolph) is still young, but he’s pretty far along in a leadership role.”
Rudolph did a good job of extending plays last season when he was pulled out of a redshirt year.
“He’s done a good job of it in the three games he’s played, and he was doing that at 218 pounds,” Gundy said. “He’s 228 now so he’s obviously stronger and a little more experienced. What I hope for is that he continues that because that’s not something you can coach. Guys can either escape and get away or make a play or they can’t so hopefully he can continue that.”
The key to the quarterback play will be tempo.
“We’d like to play the entire game fast,” Gundy said. “We should be able to play faster now that we’re more experienced. The quarterback has a better feel for it. Our offensive line played as big of a role in that as anybody last year. If you go fast and they’re confused about what they’re doing, then it doesn’t look very good. So we should be able to play faster. Our goal is to get 80 plays in a game. If things go well, we’re firing on all cylinders and our scheme is good, then we’ll hit 90.”
Running back Chris Carson, a junior college transfer from Butler Junior College, was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.
“He’s done really well up to this point,” Gundy said. “It’s way too early. I mentioned it the other day and so I’m kind of repeating myself, but Coach (Pat) Jones used to always say this, ‘We’ll talk about it after they’ve been in 12 to 15 practices in 100 degrees, and they’ve been hit a bunch. Then come and ask me if they can be a running back.’
“Up to now though he’s doing good. He’s able to absorb information and put it out there in a live setting.
“He’s been hit some, but not a lot. We haven’t pushed him like we’re going to push him over the next practices, and we’ll see where he’s at.
“He is quick. He does have good feet. He does have acceleration. And if he continues on, what’ll help us is it will make Rennie (Childs) better and it’s going to keep Rennie fresh. Then we have to come up with that third (running) back, whether it’s Raymond (Taylor) or Jeff (Carr), and that’s what we’ve done here in the years when we’ve been really good and something we need to accomplish this season.”
Statistics don’t tell the whole story on running backs.
“I think there are two ways to look at it,” Gundy said. “A running back can have a good year and not get many opportunities based on the way they play so it’s like defensive statistics. I’ve said this for two or three years, and I keep thinking someone is going to grab it and run with it.
“They still put up on the TV screen yards-per-game and average-per-play or whatever that is. It’s completely opposite of what it should be defensively in statistics. It should be points allowed per possession.
“Like our defense, when we were rolling offensively here in those years, our defensive coaches and our team were facing about 16 or 17 possessions a game.
“There are teams in the league and other leagues that only face 10, or 11 or 12 possessions, so obviously they have a better chance to score points against us than they do against them.
“Well, it’s the same thing with a running back. We struggled last year because of our yards-per-attempt. It ended up at 3.5. It needs to be up around five. The number of times we run the ball, if it’s up around five, we’re going to be successful. In most cases, and with the balance of our offense, we’ll have a guy, or guys, that will combine to rush up there around that number (1,200 yards). That’s kind of the way we look at it.”
Gundy is counting on speed to help counter a bit of a lack of experience on defense.
“If we can get good defensive tackle play, we aren’t very experienced in that position, and have young guys contribute in Vince (Taylor) and Motekiai (Maile) to hold their own and develop and if we stay healthy, the depth that we have will allow us to play with a lot of speed, which in most cases results in more turnovers,” Gundy said. “We do have more experience in those positions now compared to when we were out there with young players. We have a chance to be pretty good out there on defense. I’m really excited about watching them play.
“Their practices and their aggressiveness have been good up to this point.”
During media day at OSU, Gundy talked about his schedule at the end of the regular season. OSU is supposed to host Oklahoma in November, but there is a chance the Bedlam game could be moved to the first Saturday in December to better compete with conference championship games (which the Big 12 doesn’t have).
“There are two ways to look at that,” Gundy said. “When we have the open date on Thanksgiving and we play, I think it’s good for our conference. I think it’s good for the state. It makes for an interesting game, but it doesn’t tie in with the NCAA’s recruiting calendar.
“They give us, let’s say 14 days, to recruit prior to the dead period in December. If you are selling a product to earn a living, and you had to do that to pay the bills, if someone came to you and said ‘Hey, you only have 14 days to sell vacuum cleaners,’ it would concern you. That’s really what happens, and that’s really the only way for me to answer that question.
“If they adjusted the recruiting calendar to fit championship games in other leagues and fit what our league’s trying to do, it’d be good. It just doesn’t fit with the way the recruiting calendar is.
“So, the risk is not good. Somebody is going to see these guys. That’s a contact period. They’re seeing them face-to-face, and we’re not there unless we decide to just go out and recruit and not be prepared for our game that week. That’s my only concern about it.
“I made the suggestion three years ago that they need to adjust the calendar based on what everybody is trying to accomplish.
“There are obviously people up higher than me that don’t see it that way, but why wouldn’t you? The teams that are playing at that time shouldn’t be cut out of recruiting because they’re playing well and winning.
“ Other people will say, ‘Well, if you’re winning, it doesn’t matter.’ Well, it does matter. It’s not as easy as they think. So, they need to adjust that calendar to where it fits that weekend for everybody in the country.
“They could just make it set, and then I think that everybody would want to play that weekend.”