When the OSU football depth chart dropped before the season, Mike Gundy hit us with the dreaded or in between Taylor Cornelius and Keondre Wudtee at the backup quarterback position.
Wudtee was believed to have been playing from behind in the race to Cornelius throughout fall camp before a late-camp surge, and while Cornelius wasn’t the official backup, he was the only QB not named Mason Rudolph to participate in the season-opener a week ago.
Against South Alabama though, it was Wudtee, not Cornelius, who got game action. (This was likely due to an injury to Cornelius, as reported by the OSU broadcast team.)
Nevertheless, it was a thrill to finally see Wudtee unleashed.
The 6-foot-4 dual-threat QB from Bossier City, La. came out guns ablazing immediately, and he was bailed out of a pretty bad pass with a called facemask penalty.
Here’s his first college pass attempt aimed at the Biletnikoff Award favorite. Timing wise, that could’ve been on the money had Washington not been held up. But the free safety read his eyes all the way as he telegraphed where he was planning to go from the moment he caught the snap.
Working the safety over is Mason Rudolph’s wheelhouse, but Wudtee’s first pass attempt was unfortunately a lesson in what not to do.
Wudtee’s wheels were a big part of what made him an intriguing name in recruiting circles late in his senior year at Bossier High, and I really thought OSU showcased that talent well with design runs and option runs in zone read. Here he is following the Cowboy Back straight up the gut for a respectable six-yard gain. And look, ball security!
In Wudtee’s first incompletion targeted at Washington, he threw off his back foot and it flew directly into what quickly became double coverage. But in his next pass attempt became his first college completion to Tylan Wallace, in part because Wudtee was able to step into the throw and rocket it across the field.
I really liked this throw. This is big boy stuff. It wasn’t exactly in the breadbasket, but throwing it cross-field was impressive. Wallace was open on a timing route for a second or two before Wudtee delivered the rock, but I was impressed with his arm strength on this throw and Wallace did well to secure the ball before attempting to turn up field.
On the ensuing play, OSU put Wudtee in the Walsh package and let him go to work in the zone read. [*rubs hands together in excitement.]
Wudtee correctly called his own number after seeing the middle stuffed with defenders and bounced it outside for an 18-yard gain and fourth-down conversion. It was his biggest play of the game.
He’s not fast, but he’s athletic. So dubbing him the next Vince Young would be … inackurut. But I think his athleticism and mobility is similar to that of … a tight end, maybe? Yeah, a tight end. Fast, but won’t necessarily run away from you with the burners.
OK, now that I’ve got the brunt of the praise out of the way, let’s take a look at some not-so-bueno Wudtee action down the stretch.
In back-to-back throws in the fourth quarter, Wudtee went overthrow-underthrow with OSU already playing from behind the chains.
Here’s the overthrow to the sideline targeted for Austin Parker—an uncatchable ball even if Marcell Ateman was standing on Jelani Woods’ shoulders!
And here’s the underthrow to LD Brown in the backfield.
Wudtee signed off with a final stat line of 7 passing yards on 1-of-3 attempts and 29 rushing yards on 3 attempts.
Although I’m cautiously optimisic about Wudtee’s development, there’s two areas he needs to improve on: Timing routes with receivers, and accuracy of his passes. That much we knew would be a work in progress, and to date, it’s still an area it appears needs to improve on.
What I was most encouraged with was his ability run the zone read and tuck and run when needed. I know it’s South Alabama, but pulling the ball on a fourth and 2 as a freshman in his first game to pick up 18 yards is impressive by any measure. He’s not Chuba Hubbard quick, but he’s fast enough to play at this level as a dual-threat option out of the backfield.
If Cornelius is able to return to health, there’s likely no definitive time for when Wudtee might play again — so this was a good barometer of his development in an environment in which his performance mattered not.
Despite the obvious weaknesses in the passing game, I thought he flashed some upside. If he can shore up his passing deficiencies he can be a real threat as a dual-threat signal caller for the Cowboys down the road. But for now, he’s still a bit of a work in progress.
“He needs a lot of work,” Mike Gundy told the Tulsa World about Wudtee after Friday’s game. “But it was good to see him get out there a play a little bit.”