Todd Monken left the Jacksonville Jaguars to become Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator in February, meaning he would need a commanding knowledge of the Cowboys' spread offense by the time spring practice began in March. Monken had run similar schemes before, most notably at pass-happy Louisiana Tech a decade ago. But each individual strain of the spread packs its own tricks, so Monken called in an expert: Brandon Weeden, the Pokes' all-conference quarterback.
While spending the spring with Oklahoma State's top-ranked golf team, Weeden carved out eight hours a week to review tape with his new coordinator. Monken also spent many a late night watching film on his own in the office before returning to his temporary home in a hotel. But once word got out about the sessions with Weeden and the team's other QBs, the teacher-as-pupil narrative raised plenty of nervous eyebrows. "It got blown out of proportion," Weeden says of the meetings. "We just kind of picked each other's brains."
Yet it would be hard to fault Cowboys fans for wanting reassurance that the principles that produced last fall's eye-popping numbers—44.2 points per game, Weeden's 4,277 passing yards, wideout Justin Blackmon's 20 TD catches—would remain intact. Folks in Stillwater can rest easy: Monken has promised only slight modifications to the offensive system, and if the 95 total points in the Cowboys' spring game is any indication, a production falloff is not among them. Says Weeden, who will be protected by five returning offensive linemen, "We have no real reason to change."
What will be noticeably different are the accompanying expectations. With an unproven baseball washout at QB (Weeden, who turns 28 in October, spent five years in the minors as a pitcher) and no clear No. 1 receiver last summer, Oklahoma State was tabbed for a fifth-place finish in the Big 12 South, allowing them to catch early opponents off guard. Now, entering the fall nationally ranked and with a school-backed Weeden2Blackmon social media campaign, the Pokes won't surprise anyone. "I know a lot of people want to say it's better to sneak up on people," Weeden says, "but I'd rather have the target on my back and people chasing us."