SAN ANTONIO — It may have been two days late, but for Oklahoma State fans — somehow or other, Christmas came just the same.
Cowboy quarterback Mason Rudolph and big-play wideout James Washington on Tuesday declared their intention to return to Stillwater for their senior season, unwrapping a shiny orange gift for OSU faithful two days ahead of Thursday’s Alamo Bowl matchup against Colorado.
“I think both of us, we know we can compete at that level. That’s going to be next year,” Rudolph said. “If we made the jump this year, I think we would have both been ready, but we also know just what college means to us and what we’ve been enjoying, we’ve been enjoying these first three years, and we know the tremendous talent and opportunity we have next year coming back.”
“Just come back and have another year with our brothers,” said Washington. “I look forward to coming back and having another year with him and everyone else, and plus we get degrees. It’s worth it, so why not?”
The dynamic duo made their announcement after Tuesday’s practice via a video posted to the OSU football Twitter feed, then attended a scheduled Alamo Bowl press conference.
It’s easily the biggest recruiting get of the year for an OSU program that continues to build on its own momentum.
Rudolph, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound junior from Rock Hill, South Carolina, ranks fourth in school history in passing attempts (926) and completions (575), third in passing yards (8,400) and fifth in passing touchdowns (52) in just over two seasons. With just a statistically average 2017, Rudolph easily will pass Brandon Weeden in all four categories.
And with Washington back, he’s almost certain to do it.
In three seasons, Washington, a 6-foot, 205-pound junior from Stamford, Texas, ranks ninth in school history in receptions (143), fourth in receiving yards (2,752) and fifth in touchdown catches (25). Washington would need a massive season to surpass Rashaun Woods’ records — something like 150 catches, 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns — but with Rudolph throwing the ball to him again next year, maybe it’s possible.
“We both kind of talked with each other and coaches and kind of came up with the idea that it would be best if we both came back to just get another year of experience,” Washington said. “It wouldn’t hurt.”
Maybe the happiest one of all is OSU offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. OSU in 9-3 this season and is scheduled to return eight offensive starters plus injured Marcel Ateman and backup extraordinaire Chris Lacy.
“I think they understand what’s at stake,” Yurcich said. “There’ a lot to it, and you would have to ask them, but I would suspect they understand what all returns and what’s at stake for us.
“(Rudolph is) a very mature young man. People ask me all the time what makes him effective, and I really feel it’s his demeanor, his even-tempered, never-get-too-high, never-get-too-low (mentality). As a quarterback in this profession or as a college quarterback at a big program like ours, you’re going to face some criticism. You’re also going to face some pats on the back when you do well. His ability to stay the course and stay steady regardless of success or failure has made him improve, and he understands what it takes to win. He also understands that he hasn’t arrived. He’s always looking to do more and to become a better player.
“James, I mean, what can you say? The acrobatic catches, the explosive plays down the field, allowing you to — when we run the football and there’s two safeties high and then they drop down a safety and play it low, usually you call 28’s number. He’s an electric player, and I can’t say enough about this young man’s character and what he is to our program from a leadership standpoint, a guy who leads by example, who is very consistent.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard on The Franchise Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. every weekday with co-host Lauren Rew and most mornings on The Franchise in Oklahoma City. Listen on fm107.9, am1270 on the 107.7 Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page.