Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Quarterbacks facing change of scenery
By David Ubben
Life should be good for the Big 12's veteran quarterbacks with little changing around them. But the league's top two passers are facing a lot of change. Here's a look:
Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State.
Weeden is facing the biggest change. The offense will be the same, but the voice on the headset will be different. Inexperienced playcaller Todd Monken replaces Dana Holgorsen for the Cowboys. Monken previously coached wide receivers with Mike Gundy under Les Miles at Oklahoma State and came to the Cowboys after four seasons at LSU and two as the wide receivers coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL. He was promoted to quarterbacks coach before taking the OSU job, where he'll get the keys to what he's described as a "Ferrari." That's Weeden, Biletnikoff-winning receiver Justin Blackmon and the Big 12's best offensive line.
For Weeden, though, he'll have to deal with the loss of two-time 1,500-yard back Kendall Hunter. Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith will try to fill the void, but Hunter was a steadying force last season for the Cowboys' offense, which loses just two receivers: Bo Bowling, who caught 42 passes, and Colton Chelf, who caught 11 passes.
Landry Jones, Oklahoma
Jones, like Weeden, lost his offensive coordinator to a head-coaching job in the offseason. Kevin Wilson left OU to take the job at Indiana, but Jones' new coach is a man he knows well, and a man Oklahoma knows well. Josh Heupel has coached quarterbacks for the past five seasons at Oklahoma (which featured three Big 12 titles under three different quarterbacks), and now takes over as the offensive coordinator under Bob Stoops. Heupel also quarterbacked the Sooners under Stoops to the program's last national title, in 2000.
Heupel shares coordinator duties with receivers coach Jay Norvell, but Heupel will call the plays, and did well in his first try, a 48-20 stomping of Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl. Norvell, 48, is a more experienced coach, but Heupel, 33, is on the fast track for a head-coaching job.
Jones also must deal with life without DeMarco Murray, who carried the ball 282 times last season and caught 71 passes. That's a lot of touches to replace, but for the Sooners to reach their stated goal of a title, Jones will have to find a way to distribute those receptions elsewhere and support his new stable of running backs.