Last July, OSU's big football questions were these.
Could Brandon Weeden fill the shoes of Zac Robinson?
Could anyone fill the shoes of Dez Bryant?
Could Dana Holgorsen maintain the Cowboy standard of offensive excellence?
The answers last summer were maybe, probably not and hopefully. By November, the answers were absotively, posilutely and had it all the way.
This July, Weeden is the reigning All-Big 12 quarterback, OSU's first all-conference QB since the Missouri Valley days; Justin Blackmon boldly went where Rashaun Woods, Adarius Bowman and Dez had never gone, to the Biletnikoff trophy; and Holgorsen is head coach at West Virginia.
A transition season became a transformative season. Eleven victories, the most in school history. A tie atop the Big 12 South, matching the '76 Cowboys for the best conference performance in 50 years of Big Something football.
Now Weeden and Blackmon are back. Holgorsen is gone. Which leads to a different question.
Did Weeden and Blackmon make Holgorsen, or did Holgorsen make Weeden and Blackmon?
Was the meteoric rise of Holgorsen as an offensive mastermind the result of a whiskered quarterback, itching to prove himself after a failed crack at baseball, and a perfectly built receiver just waiting his turn? Or were the emergence of Rifleman and Justin B. the result of Holgorsen arriving from Houston to install a new-age offense?
The answer, of course, is somewhere in the middle.
Without a quarterback like Weeden and a receiver like Blackmon, no way would Holgorsen be the West Virginia coach today. He might have been noticed eventually, but to be identified immediately, even down the Country Roads, required players of exceptional quality.
Without an innovative mind like Holgorsen, no way would Weeden and Blackmon have ascended to the awards they won. Mike Gundy himself, the all-time Big Eight passing leader, never made all-conference. Blackmon was so under the radar last summer, The Oklahoman sports staff debated on which Cowboy receiver, Blackmon or Hubert Anyiam, to place on the cover of our football annual. We lucked out and chose J.B.
But to which side does the needle lean? That's what the 2011 season is for. Think about it.
Weeden and Blackmon return to an offense now run by Todd Monken, who has excellent credentials but is not from the Hal Mumme/Mike Leach family tree. If the Cowboys keep piling up the points and yardage, if Weeden and Blackmon make the case that they are the best Cowboys ever at their positions, Holgorsen's Stillwater stock will not be quite so high. Holgorsen should receive plenty of credit for his 2010 work, but a repeat performance by the pitcher/catcher combo will stamp Weeden and Blackmon as players of a particularly special order.
Holgorsen takes over at West Virginia, which returns a quarterback, Geno Smith, with more belt notches than Weeden took into the 2010 season. But West Virginia's offense hasn't been much to get excited about since the Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl 3½ years ago, so if the Mountaineers start lighting up the Big East, Holgorsen's magic is unchallenged. He will have turned three straight QBs into stars: Houston's Case Keenum, Weeden and Smith.
It's possible that both scenarios occur. Truth is, OSU has been playing big-time offense for a decade, long before Weeden, Blackmon or Holgorsen were a gleam in Gundy's eye. And West Virginia's recent quagmire aside, the Mountaineers have had their offensive moments. Here's betting that Holgorsen has more ballplayers than you would think from a team that scored seven points on North Carolina State, 14 on Syracuse and 17 on Louisville.
If both Weeden/Blackmon and Holgorsen excel without the other, we're back somewhere in the middle. And fans in Stillwater and Morgantown will be very pleased.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.