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Rudolph Isn’t a Scrambler, but Career Growth Proves Elusiveness



In Mason Rudolph’s first career start, FOX analyst Charles Davis used “crafty, surprisingly athletic,” and “unique” to describe the baby-faced freshman.

Davis was huge on Rudolph. After one throw, Gus Johnson asked Davis what he thought about the former No. 5 pocket passer in the nation.

“The Ben Roethelisberger comparison is not out of the question by his ability to move in and out of the pocket,” Davis said.

Rudolph was 6-foot-4, 217 pounds in that game against then-No. 6 Baylor. Now a senior, he is listed at 6-5, 230. Even after gaining almost 15 pounds, Rudolph is much more refined in the pocket.

He isn’t Baker Mayfield, but he doesn’t have to be because he can make plays like these.

Not a scrambler. An Eluder.

Mike Yurcich, the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, said he, Rudolph and the other throwers go through footwork and movement drills every day.

“He asks for them all the time,” Yurcich said. “He’s always working on it.”

Yurcich said Rudolph has always had that “knack” for inside-the-pocket adjustments. He said his discipline with his eyes downfield is impressive and has only grown.

Rudolph’s increased escapability has had an impact on all others on the field. On passing downs, the running backs don’t have the burden of pass protection for that extra half second. Same thing for the offensive linemen and Cowboy Backs.

The biggest impact on Rudolph’s increased awareness in the pocket and ability to extend it is on the receivers.

The extra second might be the difference between Marcell Ateman turning around on that curl route or Jalen McCleskey getting past the roaming linebacker on the drag. James Washington said experience has led to that extra split second.

“It just gives us that extra second,” Washington said. “If we’re having trouble with the route and need an extra second more to get open, it’s there, and it all starts with our offensive linemen.”

Rudolph is going on three full years experience in the OSU system but also significant time with some of the Cowboys’ starting front five all in the system together.

Zach Crabtree started in that Baylor game three years ago at right tackle. Brad Lundblade was a starter in Waco, too, at center. Now in year two with Marcus Keyes at left guard, the core is there, and for the most part, it has been there.

That is huge for a quarterback learning to move inside the pocket. Even with one-year guy Aaron Cochran at left tackle, you can sense Rudolph’s internal clock is a tick too soon or too late at times.

That is an example of coach Mike Gundy’s new favorite phrase, “getting out of his box,” or “out of his world.”

Rudolph doesn’t extend plays sideline-to-sideline, at least not as well as he thinks he can sometimes. However he is excellent at the vertical tweaks, fakes and dodges. Yurcich said they are still working on refining his instinct to run with it or as he put it:

“He’s gotta understand there’s a timing in his head of when to get it going and get vertical and get north,” Yurcich said. “And pack that rock away.”

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