STILLWATER — Watching Todd Monken coach might be one of my favorite parts of spring football.
The guy is always animated, always hands-on and always easy to hear from anywhere on the field. That makes him always entertaining.
“What I really enjoy doing is going out there and yelling and acting like an idiot and coaching,” Monken said, “…and those guys getting better and the ups and downs of being (ticked) and being happy. That part of it is the fun of it.”
And much of the focus during the final three weeks of spring football — and next fall — will be on Monken, because two of the biggest questions for Oklahoma State heading into 2012 are at the two positions the Cowboy offensive coordinator is primarily involved with.
Monken (and head coach Mike Gundy) must choose and then develop a new starting quarterback. And Monken must help Kasey Dunn and Doug Meacham rebuild a Cowboy receiving corps that lost five of its top eight pass-catchers from a year ago.
Then there's the question of how Monken will fare coordinating the spread offense Dana Holgorsen installed in 2010 without the superstar quarterback-receiver combination of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon that absolutely thrived in the system.
But while it might be Holgorsen's template, it will have Monken's wrinkles next season. It actually already did in 2011, even with Weeden and Blackmon.
Monken noted that the Cowboys ran 40 more play-action passes in 2010 than last season. In 2011, OSU was better at what Monken calls the “quick game,” or an even more tempo-based form of the spread. But the Cowboys were not as successful running at tunnel and running back screens last season as in 2010.
“Now it's, ‘OK how do you build on that? How do you take that system that's been so successful for so many people and make it your own?'” Monken said of where he goes from here. “We changed a bunch of routes (last season). There's a bunch of them that have our imprint (of me and Dunn and Meacham).
“There's always a tweak of it, but the base way that it's called you're going to see it the same as (Texas) A&M, as Houston, as here, as similar to Louisiana Tech.”
Monken admits that every place he's coached, he's believed that their offensive system is “the way.” The no-huddle, throw-it-around style of Louisiana Tech. The balance of the running game of Tatum Bell and passing game led by Rashaun Woods under Les Miles during his first stint at OSU. The run-first, play-action scheme anchored by Maurice Jones-Drew with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Now, he believes OSU's up-tempo spread is “the way,” to the point that he called Holgorsen “maybe the best hire (Gundy's) ever made.”
That's the case with or without Weeden and Blackmon.
“Right now, it's hard to say, ‘(Screw) what we just did,'” Monken said. “Now, is (a lot of the success) because of Weeden? Is it because of Black? Yeah, it is. But did (Mike) Leach and them have continued success (at Texas Tech) once they lost kids? Sure they did.
“So, where that all goes, I don't know. But there's almost no way of turning back.”
OSU averaged 46.5 points and 535 yards per game during the past two seasons. That's part system, part elite playmakers. And now it's a baseline that fans and those involved with the program will likely expect.
Obviously, replacing talents such as Weeden and Blackmon will be nearly impossible, and Monken said it will be difficult to reach those same numbers in 2012.
But Monken does have high expectations of the running back tandem of Joseph Randle (1,216 rushing yards, 24 touchdowns in 2011), Jeremy Smith (646 yards, nine touchdowns) and even Herschel Sims (242 yards, two touchdowns). Should J.W. Walsh or Clint Chelf win the starting quarterback job, they could add another element to the offense because they bring mobility that Weeden didn't have. And Monken believes in OSU's frequent success with developing offensive playmakers.
This spring will be crucial to that process. But, as Monken said, this is the fun part of his job.
“There'll be plenty of days where we're like what in the (shoot)? That was terrible,” Monken said. “And there'll be days like, ‘Man, I think we're getting a little bit better.' It'll be baby steps.”