OSU will challenge for the Big 12 crown.
By: Athlon Sports | 5/19/11, 1:00 AM EDT
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#12 Oklahoma State
Big 12 PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Mike Gundy, 47–29 (6 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Todd Monken | DEF. COORDINATOR: Glenn Spencer, Bill Young
Before getting his chance to play, Brandon Weeden was portrayed as a somewhat disinterested underachiever with the Cowboys. Apparently, he was just awaiting his opportunity.
Seizing the starting quarterback job a year ago, Weeden produced one of the greatest passing seasons in school history, shattering six major records while guiding a recharged spread offense. Now, after contemplating a jump to the NFL, the 27-year-old former pro baseball player is back for more.
Same for wideout Justin Blackmon, another record-setter and the Biletnikoff Award winner. And the good news continues with an offensive line that returns intact and more emerging playmakers, prompting optimism and grand goals for a Cowboys team that produced a school-record 11 wins in 2010.
All-Big 12 tackle Levy Adcock anchors a line equally adept at protecting the passer or paving running lanes. The Cowboys lost All-America running back Kendall Hunter, yet return a tandem in Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith that was productive a year ago and appears primed to take off.
The receiving corps beyond Blackmon is deep and talented, too, with Josh Cooper, Michael Harrison and Hubert Anyiam proven producers.
The biggest loss would figure to be the exit of offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. But new coordinator Todd Monken, who brings NFL experience, is sticking with the system, which played well in the spring.
“I like the way things are going,” Blackmon says. “We’re getting back in the groove and everything’s pretty smooth.”
Who has the best offense in the state of Oklahoma?
There’s some rebuilding going on, yet the talent and athleticism for an overhaul has never been more plentiful at OSU. And there’s star power, too, even as youngsters are being called to fill in the gaps.
The strength of the unit is the back four. “There’s a little added pressure on the secondary to carry the load,” says strong safety Markelle Martin, whose physical play sets a tone that carries throughout the defense. Martin, a pro prospect, and free safety Johnny Thomas provide a veteran playmaking tandem. Cornerbacks Brodrick Brown and Devin Hedgepeth form one of the best duos in the league.
The concerns come in the front seven, where two new tackles must develop and two linebacker spots remain up for grabs.
Still, in ends Richetti Jones and Jamie Blatnick and Star linebacker Shaun Lewis — the Big 12’s co-Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2010 — there are players to lean on.
Brandon Weeden, QB After a breakout season as the starter, Weeden has only gained confidence to go with skills and intangibles.
Justin Blackmon, WR Sparing no one, Blackmon abused defensive backs on a weekly basis. His work ethic will push him to be better.
Markelle Martin, SS A punishing hitter, Martin puts fear in anyone who wanders into the Cowboys secondary.
|Sept. 3rd||UL Lafayette|
|Sept. 17th||at Tulsa|
|Sept. 24th||at Texas A&M|
|Oct. 15th||at Texas|
|Oct. 22nd||at Missouri|
|Nov. 5th||Kansas State|
|Nov. 12th||at Texas Tech|
|Nov. 18th||at Iowa State|
The biggest chore will be replacing Lou Groza Award winner Dan Bailey, who was all but automatic on field goal and extra point tries. Quinn Sharp may have to inherit those duties, along with his punting and kickoff chores. The return game is explosive with burner Justin Gilbert and the shifty Cooper.
Many of the key figures from last year’s special season are back, prompting dreams of a Big 12 championship and more. The Cowboys must find positive answers at defensive tackle and have players emerge at linebacker. The schedule is tougher, too, with trips to Texas A&M, Texas, Texas Tech and Missouri.
Still, the offense could be better than the one that averaged a school-record 520.2 yards and 44.2 points per game. If so, there may be no stopping the Cowboys.