The question coming out of the spring game for Oklahoma State pertained to the offensive mix.
Well, to be less specific, the offense in general.
That offense will be operating under first-year coordinator Dana Holgorsen, who joined the Cowboys after serving in the same capacity at Houston and also has ties to Mike Leach's aerial assault after working for eight seasons under the Texas Tech coach.
After inconsistencies slowed the offense at times in the spring, Oklahoma State blended just 33 runs into 106 plays during the spring game. Don't jump to the conclusion, however, this is designed to get the ball in the air whenever possible. One issue was the OSU staff did not want to use Kendall Hunter much.
Bothered most of last season with a nagging foot/ankle injury, Hunter looked sharp with four carries for 43 yards and four receptions for 28 yards. He didn't need a substantial amount of work. Coaches know what the senior is capable of after he led the Big 12 in rushing in 2008, so there was no use risking an injury.
The bigger concern is how Brandon Weeden adapts as the starting quarterback. The former professional baseball pitcher showed promise a year ago when he rescued Oklahoma State from an upset in the second half of its win against Colorado.
In the spring game, Weeden, 26, definitely separated himself, making great reads while engineering the new offense almost flawlessly. He distributed the ball well and showcased some players who could emerge as threats, particularly sophomore wideout Tracy Moore. Weeden finished 22 of 34 passing for 257 yards and four touchdowns.
"With him it's about making good decisions. He can make every throw," Holgorsen said. "That's why I study his eyes. If his eyes are in the right place, then we will keep getting better."
Defensively, time is needed for Oklahoma State to mature. Young players must fill in key spots at both linebacker and the secondary, while emphasis was also placed on generating a better pass rush from the defensive line.
Line play could eventually decide whether the Cowboys continue to contend in the Big 12 South after going 6-2 last season before finishing 9-4 with a loss against Mississippi in the Cotton Bowl.NOTES, QUOTES
--Oklahoma State did not issue a recruiting promise to QB Johnny Deaton that he'd crack the two-deep in spring camp. But the freshman reported early and managed to do just that, completing 14 of 18 passes for 63 yards, with one interception, in the Cowboys' spring game. Deaton moved ahead of QB Clint Chelf, a redshirt freshman.
--An odd scoring system was implemented in the spring game, which pitted the offense against the defense. The defense grabbed a quick 2-0 lead by making a tackle for a loss on the first play from scrimmage, and also was rewarded points for not allowing a first down. The offense, however, eventually was declared the winner.
QB Johnny Deaton -- The freshman enrolled in time to participate in spring practice and solidified the No. 2 spot behind Brandon Weeden. Deaton didn't show any nerves playing before a crowd in the spring game.
LB Caleb Levey -- Another freshman who enrolled early, Levey was solid in the spring game, recording five tackles. He snagged an interception in an earlier spring scrimmage.
LB Joe Mitchell -- The freshman sparkled throughout the spring, then was in on a team-high six solo tackles in the spring game. He is positioned to start in the new "Star" position created by the OSU staff.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I made strides, but I still have a long ways to go. You can never relax and put the cruise control on." -- Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden.STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: Enough talent exists on both sides of the ball for Oklahoma State to flourish, but much of it is unproven and could take time to develop. What the Cowboys achieve in three September nonconference games (against Washington State, Troy and Tulsa) will be critical, though all are at home and could create a false read. QB Brandon Weeden certainly seems capable of stepping in and delivering, with pressure relieved somewhat by the presence of talented RB Kendall Hunter. Several promising players are stepping into spots on defense, though it will take time for that unit to mesh. The Cowboys must remain hungry and unsatisfied. Stumbling in the last two games a year ago, when a listless 27-0 loss at Oklahoma preceded the Cotton Bowl defeat, indicates that OSU's climb is far from over.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: College teams aren't given much time to tinker in the spring with only 15 practices allotted, but new Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen said he managed to install his entire package. If it is indeed that simple, then that's the beauty of the offense, which allows receivers to make plays after the catch but will also incorporate the rushing threat supplied by veteran RB Kendall Hunter. If QB Brandon Weeden stands up under pressure as the new starter, something he figures to do at the age of 26, and receivers continue to step up and prove consistent, the Cowboys should have little trouble moving the ball. WR Tracy Moore could break out as a huge weapon, though WR Hubert Anyiam returns as the most dependable receiver. The new offense also plays at a quick tempo, but adjustments must account for four new starters along the line.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Much was made about the arrival of Bill Young prior to last season and the veteran defensive coordinator wasted no time putting his aggressive stamp on the Cowboys. This season, however, is when Young will earn his money following the loss of playmakers such as CB Perrish Cox, LB Donald Booker and LB Patrick Lavine. Although Oklahoma State emerged as the fourth-best defense in the Big 12, allowing 330 yards and 22 points on average, it didn't generate consistent pressure. It averaged barely two sacks defensively and carried a negative margin considering the offensive line allowed 3.7 sacks on average. LB Joe Mitchell is a newcomer to watch. CB Brodrick Brown will try to capitalize on a nice bowl performance.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: While the Cowboys will miss the breakaway capabilities of Cox as a return man, they realize they must improve on an 18.4-yard kickoff return average, which ranked last in the Big 12. They return P Quinn Sharp, who averaged 44.4 yards as a freshman. PK Dan Bailey also returns.
--WR Hubert Anyiam suffered a foot injury during spring drills, which required surgery. He should recovery in time to participate in fall camp.
--RB Travis Miller, considered one of the Cowboys' budding stars during spring camp, absorbed a hard hit after catching a swing pass on the first play of the spring scrimmage. "It knocked him silly," said OSU coach Mike Gundy, who did not permit Miller to return as a precaution.
--WR Josh Cooper has been hampered by injuries throughout his OSU career, but the junior could benefit greatly in the new offensive system. He will move into the slot and not be considered undersized at 5-11, 192 pounds.
Previous Report: 04/28/2010