Oklahoma State Cowboys
Mike Yurcich – Offensive Coordinator
Mason Rudolph – Jr., QB
James Washington – Jr., WR
Chris Carson – Sr., RB
Austin Hays – Sr., WR
Zachary Crabtree – Jr., RT
THE MODERATOR: This afternoon’s press conference will feature the Oklahoma State offense. It’s my pleasure to introduce offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. If you could introduce the players you brought with you today and talk about how the bowl prep has gone.
MIKE YURCICH: Sure. First of all want to thank the people at Valero and the Alamo Bowl. The hospitality and their generosity is second to none. It’s been a great time, great experience, and practices have wrapped up. We’re going to go into our final phase here now, and we’ve had 13 really good practices we feel, and now as we close in, I think it’s 53 hours now until game time. It’s now time to just kind of lock it in and let the bodies recover and keep thinking about our assignments, our schemes, and I know the guys — I know myself, we’re really looking forward to this ballgame. It feels like a long time coming, and a great opportunity for us.
But with me today are five tremendous, tremendous young men, and there was a theme this year for us as a program: Development of the person and the player. Coach Gundy, Coach Tudman, I call him a life coach, he does a lot for us, strength and conditioning, obviously. But he’s a tremendous voice, and he delivers messages to our team on a weekly basis. I think Coach has done a great job of making sure that all of our guys understand that this is a game. It’s a game to be played, it’s a game to be played with toughness and competitiveness, but at the same time, off the field, we also have to develop the person, as well.
It’s a joy for me to share the stage with five young men who are tremendous people, as well, starting right here with Mason Rudolph, a tremendous player, recruited him out of South Carolina, came all the way to Oklahoma State, saw an opportunity, and we hit it off, and it’s been a joy to coach him. He’s 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 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. I respect him very much, and thank him for all he’s done for us as a program.
Next to him is James Washington. 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. You have to really kind of pull the reins back on James because he always wants to go, go, go, and we’ve got to make sure that he’s ready for the games. He’s just a tremendous effort guy, and he’s very consistent.
Chris Carson, next to James. Chris, recruited him out of junior college, out of Butler, and I’ll tell you what; Chris is exactly what we hoped he’d be. Physical, tough back who really overcame a lot of adversity this season, came back really strong from an injury, and has really produced in a big-time way, physical, punishing back that’s just really an all-around back that you never have to sub out in any situation. He’s the man.
Next to him, Zach Crabtree. Zach, a lot of experience, a lot of snaps. He’s all ball. He’s all football man, and the guy is going to be a coach one day, and he’s a fun guy to be around. He keeps it light, but yet when game time comes, we run it his way because he’s a very consistent, tough player, and has emerged as one of our leaders on offense.
Last but not least, Mr. Hays, Austin Hays, from San Antonio, from Reagan High School. I’ll tell you, Hays has done a heck of a job. He was here before I got here, and he knows a lot of football. He’s played just about every position in the receiving corps. We move him outside to inside. He’s battled injuries, he’s battled through injuries, and he just brings a great side of it from just a player/coach type guy. He’s coaching the young guys up. He’s got that experience. He’s in the back of the line, and you know he’s always talking football, and if somebody is not in line, he’s going to smack them and get them straight. You have to have that type of leadership, and I appreciate, we appreciate everything that he’s done for us as a program.
He said to us earlier that he’s interested in getting into coaching. I told him he’s absolutely insane to start this journey as a coach, but he said he wants to GA, so that’s the type of mentality he is. I told him, your dating life I hear is pretty good, and it’s drastically going to change when you take a GA position. You know that, right? In a couple years, man, on Saturday night when you’re grinding on film, I told you.
But that’s the introduction.
- James, Mason, you guys made an announcement on Twitter coming back. Can you talk about what went into the decision, and I’m sure Cowboy fans everywhere are celebrating today, but go through the last few days for you guys.
MASON RUDOLPH: Yeah, I think it was a long thought-out decision with both myself and James, I think. We were in pretty similar positions. I think both of us, we know we can compete at that level. That’s going to be next year. 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.
We’re both really looking forward to not only this game and capping off the season right with an Alamo victory, but also just a great off-season, just making sure that we are improving our game mentally and physically and then just kind of putting an exclamation point on both of our careers.
JAMES WASHINGTON: Just basically like he said, just come back and have another year with our brothers. 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. But yeah, pretty much covers it, what he said.
- Mike, can you talk about the impact of that decision, and then by extension the fact that these guys are going to be together three full seasons at the end, just the legacy potential that Rudolph to Washington has for Oklahoma State football.
MIKE YURCICH: Well, I think they understand what’s at stake. There’s 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. I think the biggest thing that James said is he said education, and that’s a beautiful thing to hear. That’s what you hope your son says if he’s ever fortunate enough to be in that position. These guys know that — I think you have to credit our head coach and the fact that we keep things joyful to a certain extent. It’s fun to play the game, it’s fun to practice at Oklahoma State, and I think our guys, when we come out and when we go to practice, they play with joy, and I think that’s a big deal. If it was a big grind-a-thon and it was just tough, as some of us do remember back in the day, maybe guys are more apt to come out. But I think this is not the first time this has happened at Oklahoma State, so Coach Gundy, his experience, and I really feel that these guys enjoy playing together. We have really good camaraderie on our team, and that’s a credit to the players. We all want as coaches, we all want to manufacture camaraderie and create camaraderie, but you can’t. It has to come within the players and they have that. It’s special, and I don’t think they want to let it go. They’re having fun.
- James, how much of this was a discussion between the two of you, or did you both kind of come to the same decision separately and then came together?
JAMES WASHINGTON: 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. It wouldn’t hurt. But yeah, I’d say it’s between both of us.
MASON RUDOLPH: Yeah, I’d say we both obviously consulted with our families and whatnot and close friends, but we made the decision that was best for both of us but to be able to do it together and to talk throughout the whole process, it was great. Yeah, like I said, we’re excited for the future.
- Chris, what enabled you to return from injury in the middle of the season and play at your best down the stretch of this season?
CHRIS CARSON: It was just the support I had from my teammates and everybody coming around and supporting me. Just made me want to come out there and work harder, and seeing the success that the running game had with Justin Taylor and Rennie Childs and all the running backs competing together, just made me want to be a part of that.
- Austin, Zach, could you guys talk about the chance to have another 10-win season? This could be the fifth 10-win season in seven years. You guys have been around and seen how good, and what that means for you guys have been a part of that?
ZACH CRABTREE: It’s big. It’s always something. I remember coming in here and Coach Gundy talking about that from day one. Any time you can hit double-digit wins at this level, it’s huge. Not many people in the country win 10 games a year, and so this game has big-time implications on it for us. We want this 10th win. It means a lot. It’s just the middle level of success, just puts you in elite company, and we’re there, and we want to stay there.
AUSTIN HAYS: Just for me, being here five years and having a chance to have three 10-win seasons, that’s unbelievable. There’s probably I think Coach Gundy told us the other day, there’s only eight or nine teams in the last four years that have won more games than we have, and to be a part of this has just been so special, and then for the guys coming back, to beat a top-10 team in Colorado and to make that our double-digit win would just be huge for the guys coming back, to create that momentum going forward and to propel them into having a great year next year.
- Mason, can you talk about what you’ve seen of Colorado’s secondary on tape?
MASON RUDOLPH: Yeah, I think so. Really tough defense, really run to the ball well, 3-4, a couple of real physical corners. We’ve seen that on tape thus far. Bigger guys, longer guys at the corner position. I think it’ll be a great challenge for us. I think comparison wise in the Big 12 you could compare them to a West Virginia style defense, just tough-nosed and great players, tough players. I think, like I said, it will be a great match for us, and we’ve really prepared well, like Coach Yurcich was saying, this whole bowl prep, whether we were in Stillwater or here, and I feel really good about where we are.
- Zach, you have a great one-two punch of running backs in Chris Carson and Justice Hill. Is there a difference in blocking for the two guys with different strengths and skill sets?
ZACH CRABTREE: Not necessarily. You’ve still got to block the play the same way. You’ve still got the same guys to block. But they have different running styles, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to give them space, give them a chance to make a play, and they both usually do. I wouldn’t say there’s really a difference, more just do your job the same way every time and give them a chance to get to the second level and go make a play.
- Chris, didn’t get a chance really to ask you this after the awards ceremony for the team, but not only did you play so well at the end of the year, but you were voted a captain by your teammates, and at Oklahoma State that kind of means more than a lot of places because it’s done after the season and your picture is mounted and so forth. What were your thoughts when you heard you’d been voted captain, and what does that mean to you?
CHRIS CARSON: At first I was kind of shocked because there’s a lot of good players on the team that are deserving of that award. I mean, it was just a blessing that the teammates voted me as a captain. I’m honored and privileged of it. I’m going to take advantage of it, and it’s a blessing, like I said.
- Zach, how excited are you to be getting another year with Mason and James?
ZACH CRABTREE: Really excited. This team has got a lot of potential next year, obviously, with those two coming back. If we get a big win Thursday, beating Colorado and kind of propel us into the off-season, it just begins to lay the foundation for what’s to come next year and the expectations for next year. Those two coming back, we’ve got a lot of experience and a lot of talent. There’s no telling what the limit is. But just excited. They’re both good kids, fun teammates, they’re good to have in the locker room, and both are good leaders, good guys to be around, so it just makes it enjoyable to be with them, and just excited to have one more year with them.
- Chris, I don’t think they’ve started to arrive yet, but I expect a lot of Oklahoma State fans to show up at some point for this game. I know they did last year in New Orleans. What are you expecting when it comes to fans and excitement and just the buzz as game day gets a little bit closer?
CHRIS CARSON: I’m just expecting a lot of Oklahoma State fans to come out and support us just like Colorado is going to have their fans. It’s going to be a great fan base for both teams. There’s going to be a lot of atmosphere, and just ready to get it started.