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Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Old offense fits a new playcaller at OSU

By David Ubben

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Oklahoma State's primary objective this spring is rare. That's not news to them.

"It’s a little unique," coach Mike Gundy said.

Todd Monken
New Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken inherits a talented cast.
It's underway now, and the finished product will determine whether another special season is on its way, one that can top Oklahoma State's historic 11-2 campaign in 2010.

Dana Holgorsen's version of the Air Raid offense transformed an offense with no proven receivers, a former All-American running back returning from a nagging injury and a quarterback who hadn't started a game in nine years into the best offense in the Big 12.

Justin Blackmon had 20 career catches. In 2010, he had 20 touchdown catches, most in college football. He led the nation with 1,782 yards and won the Biletnikoff Award. Brandon Weeden earned a first-team all-conference designation, the first Cowboys quarterback to do so since 1932. Kendall Hunter rushed for 1,548 yards, second-most in the Big 12 and ninth-most nationally.

But after just one year in Stillwater, Holgorsen left for West Virginia, where he is slated to take over as head coach in 2012 after coordinating the offense in 2011.

Back at Oklahoma State, it was clear the offense was anything but broken. The Cowboys had no plans to fix it.

The answer? Bring in an offensive coordinator and teach him the offense they learned over the past year. Gundy called on Todd Monken, a former Oklahoma State receivers coach who was doing the same with the Jacksonville Jaguars, to fill Holgorsen's role.

"We wanted one guy to learn instead of 50 guys," Gundy said.

The playbooks are there. Monken can sit down and watch last season's games, with the plays listed on the film of each play. Gundy can provide insight and answer questions when necessary. In meetings and other opportunities, Weeden does the same.

"He’s enjoying it," Gundy said of Monken, who this spring compared his new job to being given the keys to a Ferrari. "He enjoys the relationship he has with Brandon, and again, we have an experienced offensive line and good players, and it helps when you’ve got guys who can execute and make some plays for you."

Over the course of his 22-year career, Monken has coached receivers, running backs and quarterbacks. Just before taking the job with Oklahoma State, he moved from receivers coach to quarterbacks coach for the Jaguars.

"He’s a very smart football coach. He’s got a big wealth of knowledge in the game," Gundy said. "Any time you can hire smart football coaches, they’ll always fit into your system, and he fits that criteria. He’s just a good football coach."

He has already put his own spin on the offense, while staying true to its core values. He brought with him new route combinations to help Weeden get the ball out of his hands even faster than he did last year, while keeping the freedom that came with Holgorsen's schemes.

Justin Blackmon
Justin Blackmon says he'll have the freedom to adjust routes under new coordinator Todd Monken.
"You have a certain route and a place to get to, but after that you can kind of just find a hole and basically get open," Blackmon said. "In our old offense [before Holgorsen], everything was so precise. You have to take seven steps this way, and then it’s broken. This one, though, you just have to feel it. You’ve got a lot of freedom, and once you get good at it, it's pretty tough to stop."

The transition from the verbage overload in the NFL to the simpler terms of college football has been more difficult than it sounds, though.

"If you come in and just look at our board, you realize the terminology and stuff and you’re like, ‘Why is that called that?’ There’s no rhyme or reason behind any of it," Weeden said. "That was the hardest thing he had to wrap his mind around, what we’re trying to do and how we’re trying to do it, watching games from last year.

"Football is football. You can only run so many different plays, you just call it different things."

For Oklahoma State, the hope is for the same names and the same results, if not better. Even if there's a different face underneath the headset.

"We’re going to look the same. Again, we feel like we have good running backs, quarterback, wide receivers and offensive line, so I don’t really see many changes," Gundy said. "I think we look really similar."

Looking similar and being similar are different things once the brunt of Big 12 play hits. We'll find out soon if the Cowboys are both.