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Is Oklahoma State’s Next Starting QB Hiding in Plain Sight?



The biggest question facing Oklahoma State football this season (and into the future) is who and how it will replace Mason Rudolph, the program’s all-time leader in yards passing, TDs and a few dozen other marks. If it’s a quarterback-related record (even career wins), then it got packed up in a box and is currently residing in a storage unit in Pittsburgh.

There are a handful of candidates that offer varying degrees of excitement to OSU’s fanbase starting with incoming freshman Spencer Sanders, Mr. Texas Football himself, at the top of the list. A recent rule change should all but guarantee that we see Sanders in orange this fall, but that was probably the case anyway.

Along with Sanders this summer comes graduate transfer Dru Brown who will join the program at the end of July once his final classes with the University of Hawaii are complete.

Highlight reels and hype have me convinced that Sanders can be a star. Curiosity of the unknown has me at least intrigued by Brown. But is there someone already on campus that we are writing off too quickly?

How viable is Taylor Cornelius’ case for QB1 in 2018? Let’s start with what we know.

Body of Work

At the helm of Bushland (Texas) High School’s offense, Cornelius passed for 9,147 yards and 88 touchdowns over three seasons. But his Class 2A designation and mostly raw talent probably contributed to his zero Division I offers coming out. At that time he stood a gaunt 6 foot 6 and 218 pounds.

Now at over 230 pounds, Cornelius is no longer the lanky prospect that walked on in 2014. He’s matured both in body and in mind and knows the offense as good as any QB that will grace the roster this season.

“He’s doing really well,” Gundy said of Cornelius in the spring. “He’s been around here forever and his strength is his knowledge of our offense. He throws the ball around pretty well and he has nice size. The only thing we don’t know is how well he’ll handle playing in games.”

Over his three active seasons in Stillwater (2014 was a redshirt year) Cornelius has appeared in just 10 games. He’s totaled 220 career yards on 15-of-44 passing for zero touchdowns and zero interceptions, and he’s rushed 17 times for 108 yards and a score. His career numbers would basically amount to the worst game of Mason Rudolph’s career or a decent-to-avruj one of J.W. Walsh’s — and most of that was while beating up on a KU’s backups or after Gundy took pity on Pitt.

The point is that Cornelius has done little to nothing on the field to tell us whether or not he can succeed as a starter at the Power 5 level. That’s not his fault, he just so happened to come to campus the same year as OSU’s latest franchise QB.

Glimpses and Practice Buzz

Former OSU receiver David Glidden shared some buzz on Cornelius on the PFB podcast two years ago.

“To be honest with you, I might have to say one of the most underrated and overlooked guys is a guy that’s here right now in Taylor Cornelius,” said Glidden.

“The kid throws an outstanding ball. He’s big. He runs a lot better than people think, a lot more athletic than people think and he’s worked ever since he’s gotten here.”

His ceiling may be invariably lower than the touted Sanders, and maybe even than Brown’s, but his floor is much more concrete. The question is which of those Mike Gundy feels more strongly about come August. If Sanders or Brown are grasping the playbook quickly enough, then you go with whoever gives you the best chance to win. If Gundy is at least uncertain about that, there’s really no reason for him to not look Cornelius’ way.

Cornelius has shown us a couple of glimpses at his playmaking ability. There was the career-high 75 passing yards in a blowout of Pittsburgh, including a 39-yard dime to Tylan Wallace. Then against Kansas, his one toss went for 56 yards (and almost a score) to recently converted cornerback Tyrell Alexander while he was still on offense. Cornelius showed off his legs for the lone TD of his career on a 40-yard scamper against Baylor last Homecoming game.

One thing that we know about Gundy — if we can remember what it was like way back when he had to make quarterback decisions — is that he values a veteran in the pocket who knows the offense and a QB who can break loose on a play.

“Taylor (Cornelius) is the same as he’s been,” Gundy said when talking about QB reps this spring. “You guys have seen him for years. Now he goes out there with the first group. (Keondre) Wudtee is getting the twos. We run the same plays. We don’t do much of anything different.

“Obviously Taylor is what we think could be a more effective runner than what Mason was, but you won’t see a lot of different schemes than what we’ve done over the last four or five years.”

For Cornelius, it’s all about the competition which has already unofficially begun with player-orchestrated offseason workouts. And he already fills a leadership role which is a huge part of being the guy at QB.

“I am trying to be a bigger role model and a leader for this group because I am the older guy. So those have been big things for me this spring,” said Cornelius.

“I just try to lead by example and do everything right. Show up early, leave late, watch film on my own.”

If I had to bet my next paycheck on it, Spencer Sanders is still my pick to earn the QB1 spot at some point this fall, but don’t count Cornelius out. He’s earned his shot and as of right now, he’s got a head start.

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