STILLWATER — When Mike Gundy hired Todd Monken to run Oklahoma State's offense in 2011, one question jumped into the minds of Cowboy fans immediately.
Will the offense change?
The answer is yes.
That answer sparks fear into the hearts of those who watched the OSU offense help the Pokes to an 11-win season in 2011.
Yet it shouldn't, because every successful offense is organic.
The Dana Holgorsen-led attack which opened the 2010 season with 65 points and 544 total yards in the Pokes season-opening win against Washington State was not the same as the offense which scored 36 points and gained 312 yards in the Alamo Bowl win over Arizona.
“What they started off as and what they ended up as was not the same offense,” Monken said. “All we're doing is taking it from there.”
For example, receiver Justin Blackmon opened the 2010 season as a potential playmaker who had shown signs he could be a difference-maker in the spring but hadn't proven it in a game, therefore Blackmon was far from the focal point of the offense. When he caught two touchdown passes in the Alamo Bowl a few months later, the Ardmore native was the 2010 Biletnikoff Award winner and a player who the Cowboy offense was built around.
Make no doubt the OSU offense will be different in 2011.
And that's a good thing.
The core concepts will remain the same, Gundy said the Cowboy offense “looks the same as last year” after OSU's first practice of the spring on Monday.
The biggest change from 2010 should be a step towards making the offense more versatile, particularly in key moments.
“There were times last year when we got stopped on third-and-one or third-and-two,” quarterback Brandon Weeden said. “(Times) when we should execute that and get a first down.”
In multiple games, the Pokes struggled in short yardage situations last season. OSU is looking to address its short yardage struggles this spring and in the fall.
Part of the problem was the thumb injury suffered by Weeden in the season opener against WSU.
“With my thumb we weren't able to get under center at all,” Weeden said.
Remember the victory formation fumble against Troy? Just one example of why putting Weeden under center was abandoned despite the fact it could have helped in short-yardage situations.
Thanks in large part to Jeremy Smith, Kendall Hunter and the Pokes offensive front, OSU was good in short-yardage, goal line situations but Blackmon in a one-on-one situation on the outside played as big a role in that success as anything else.
There were several times in 2010 when OSU could have used a power running game, either to help run out the clock or pick up first downs in short yardage situations to keep drives alive.
“Our short yardage package will change a little bit,” Weeden said. “We'll try to get back under center and use that power running game for crucial situations.”
Imagine an offense featuring Weeden and Blackmon that is high-scoring and explosive, yet, at the same time, is just as lethal and explosive in third-down, short-yardage situations.
In other words, an OSU offense under Monken that is explosive and versatile.
That's the goal for 2011.