It was no surprise that Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was named the 2016 Preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. He is coming off a season in which he threw for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns while leading the Sooners to the Big 12 title and the College Football Playoff.
However, Mayfield might not even be the best quarterback in the conference or the state of Oklahoma. Those titles may belong to Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph.
From the first moment Rudolph came onto the scene in Stillwater in 2014, he has transformed the outlook of the Cowboys’ football program.
In his collegiate career, he has started 15 games. His record in those 15 starts is 12-3. Before he became the starter for Oklahoma State, the Pokes went 5-6 in their last 11 games.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound quarterback out of South Carolina started three games his freshman year. He led the Cowboys to wins over Oklahoma and Washington. Rudolph finished his freshman season with 853 yards and six touchdowns. After creating a few rumblings in 2014, he created even more noise in 2015.
While splitting time with former co-starter J.W. Walsh–who graduated from Oklahoma State this offseason–Rudolph completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 3,770 yards, 21 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. He passed for more than 300 yards in six of his 12 starts while leading Oklahoma State to a 10-3 record. He played through injuries in several of those games as well.
Against Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl, he played with a small fracture in his right foot. Although the Cowboys lost 48-20 to the Rebels, Rudolph performed relatively well for being injured. He completed 58.1 percent of his passes for 178 yards.
Compared to the statistics of Mayfield or Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes, Rudolph’s numbers seem to make him the third- or fourth-best quarterback in the Big 12. However, the way he produced his 2015 numbers paints a much more favorable picture.
While he passed for an outstanding 3,770 yards, Rudolph threw nearly 25 percent of those yards against the blitz. Last season, he was one of four quarterbacks who were blitzed more 100 times. The numbers he posted against the blitz were ridiculous.
Last year, Rudolph posted a quarterback rating of 87.6–the best in the Big 12–and completed 57 of 94 passes for 912 yards, six touchdowns and one interception against the blitz. If Oklahoma State’s running game improves in 2016, Rudolph could be more efficient for the Cowboys, since opposing defenses will have to be concerned about the ground game as well.
Not only did he excel against the blitz last season, but he was the best downfield passer in college football as well.
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) June 24, 2016
Rudolph receives a lot of flack for supposedly not being able to make an intermediate throw, but when looking at game film, he can make intermediate passes.
Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph 2015 passing chart… very strong numbers down the middle of the field pic.twitter.com/sPyjHvjncX
— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) June 21, 2016
Over the middle, Rudolph completed 63.8 percent of his passes. Covering the full width of the field, he nailed just under 60 percent between 10 and 20 yards. He also completed 67 percent of his passes from the 1-10 yard range. As a true sophomore, his passing ability was outstanding.
As previously mentioned, Rudolph split time with other quarterbacks in his first two seasons at Oklahoma State. In 2016, the Cowboys are Rudolph’s team–which should enable him to prove he is the best signal caller in the Big 12. Last year, Oklahoma State used Walsh to be a running threat while Rudolph was the passing threat. Walsh’s exit means Rudolph’s rushing numbers could spike in 2016.
— Cowboy Football (@CowboyFB) July 20, 2016
Rudolph could craft a resume which surpasses Baker Mayfield–his main competitor, and also the man who is considered by many to be the best dual-threat signal caller in the Big 12.
The table is set for Mason Rudolph. He gets to be THE LONE man under center for Oklahoma State. No more sharing time with another player. If everything lines up for him and the Cowboys, Rudolph will be considered the best signal caller in the Big 12 at the end of the 2016 season.