STILLWATER – Payne County was not a quarterback wasteland when Brandon Weeden arrived on campus in 2007.
One of OSU's five greatest quarterbacks ever, Josh Fields, was only four years gone. Weeden's head coach, Mike Gundy, was considered the school's best QB of all time. And Zac Robinson was about to take over the quarterback job and send the Cowboy record book to a new printing.
Four years later, Weeden has surpassed them all, but it's not enough to call Weeden OSU's greatest quarterback ever. He's more than that.
Weeden is a transformative quarterback. A program-changing quarterback. A culture-changing quarterback.
“Unbelievable,” said OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young. “I've only been coaching 42 years, but I've never seen anything that compares to it.”
It happens occasionally in college football. Jim Plunkett at Stanford. Turner Gill at Nebraska. Gary Sheide at Brigham Young. Jack Mildren and Josh Heupel at OU.
A quarterback shows up and so impacts a football program, it's forever elevated. Forges a legacy that goes far beyond the ballot box for bowl games or stiff-arming hardware.
Weeden is doing that at OSU in this magical season of 2011. The Cowboy offense is spectacular, but it's not like the Cowboys haven't been scoring touchdowns over the years. 1988. 2003. 2008. And most of the seasons adjacent to those. OSU has found the end zone more than a little.
But this is different. The Cowboys' success – a 10-0 record, the nation's No. 2 ranking, a berth in the Big Bowl if OSU can win at Iowa State and conquer Bedlam – has changed the landscape.
“We kind of have everything set up here,” Gundy said.
With apologies to the likes of Robinson and Gundy, not that many high school hotshots watched their feats and said, wow, sign me up.
But that's exactly what the best QB recruits will say after watching Weeden. An offense that can run and pass. An offense that doesn't huddle, because that would only cut down on the time allowed to score touchdowns. An offense that makes the quarterback a defacto coach-on-the-field. An offense that throws deep, throws short, throws intermediate, throws sideways, usually all within the span of six or seven plays.
“That was kind of our goal,” Gundy said. “To create an offense where people wanted to come.
“Recruiting, he's going to be huge for us. People are taking note of what we're doing.”
This is not to suggest that Weeden is a miracle man. That he showed up and sprinkled gold-dust over a beleaguered program. Cowboys from Bob Fenimore to Boone Pickens have laid the groundwork to give OSU a chance to win big.