By CLIFF BRUNT, AP Sports Writer
STILLWATER (AP) — Oklahoma State believes quarterback Mason Rudolph has a shot at the Heisman Trophy.
He can make an early impression when the tenth-ranked Cowboys host Tulsa on Thursday night at 6:30.
“I’m ready to go,” Rudolph said. “It’s been a long offseason. It’s been fun. We got a lot of good work, a lot of good practice, we’ve fine-tuned it and we’re ready to go.”
Rudolph passed for 4,091 yards last season, with 28 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He passed for 314 yards and three touchdowns in an Alamo Bowl win over Colorado last season then chose to return for his senior season, fueling talk about Oklahoma State seeking Big 12 and national titles.
Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery thought, and perhaps hoped, that the Alamo Bowl was Rudolph’s final college game.
“He’s an NFL guy,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t know why he didn’t come out last year, with the quarterback draft class like it was. And I’m not saying that just because we’re playing them. But he’s got an NFL arm, he’s got an NFL body. Obviously, he’s been operating at a high level. He’s got a bunch of starts underneath his belt.”
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said Rudolph is poised for a special finish to his college career. He said Rudolph has remained focused through all the hype.
“What he brings to the table, with his ability to win games and be successful, will see him go down as one of the very best to ever play here,” Gundy said.
Here are five things to watch as Oklahoma State tries to avoid a slip-up:
TULSA QBs: Montgomery said he hasn’t chosen between Luke Skipper and Chad President at quarterback. Both are inexperienced.
“We haven’t made a decision on it yet,” Montgomery said at his weekly news conference. “Both of those guys, I think, are both talented players that can bring something similar to the table. They also have some differences between them. We have confidence in both of these young men and we’ll see how it all plays out when we get to game time.”
RUNNING BACK MATCHUP: Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill ran for 1,142 yards as a freshman . With Rudolph at quarterback, an exceptional group of receivers and an experienced offensive line, Hill might find more room to run than last year.
Tulsa’s D’Angelo Brewer ran for 1,435 yards last season, and could do more damage this season since he won’t be splitting carries as much.
SPREADING THE WEALTH: Oklahoma State’s receiving corps is among the nation’s best. James Washington is a preseason Associated Press first-team All-American. Jalen McCleskey is on the Biletnikoff watch list. Chris Lacy caught 31 passes last season. Marcell Ateman is back after missing last season with a foot injury. Tyron Johnson, a transfer from LSU, should get looks, too.
TULSA OFFENSIVE LINE: Four of the Golden Hurricanes’ starting linemen return. Offensive tackle Evan Plagg and center Chandler Miller are on the Outland Trophy watch list. Offensive guard Tyler Bowling joined Plagg as second-team all-American Athletic Conference picks last season. Tackle Willie Wright has 23 career starts.
BILL YOUNG: Tulsa’s 71-year-old co-defensive coordinator was the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State before Gundy fired him after the 2012 season. Among his coaching stops, Young has led defenses at Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC and Miami. He has six returning starters back, including two solid defensive ends. Jesse Brubaker had a team-high 13.5 tackles for loss last season and Jeremy Smith had eight tackles for loss in 10 games.
More AP college football: http://collegefootball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25 .
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