Weeden, Cowboys Open Spring Drills

STILLWATER - The Oklahoma State Cowboys were back on the field at Boone PIckens Stadium for the first time since wrapping up preparations for the 2010 Alamo Bowl last December that saw them down Arizona 36-10 in completing a school record-breaking 11-2 season. The same enthusiasm the Cowboys had prior to heading to San Antonio was evident Monday under the gray skies and cooler temperatures.

"Heck, this is best temperature for the players," said head coach Mike Gundy, watching the 95 players suited up for the start of spring practice. "This is the way they like it."

The head coach was in a good mood because among the largest number of players Oklahoma State has had out for spring practice in the Gundy era, and ever for that matter, are standouts like quarterback Brandon Weeden, wide receiver Justin Blackmon, running backs Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith, a complete offensive line, inside receiver Josh Cooper, defensive ends Richetti Jones and Jamie Blatnick, star linebacker Shaun Lewis, cornerback Brodrick Brown, and safeties Markelle Martin and Johnny Thomas.

In all there are 37 lettermen and 19 returning starters including specialists.

"It was good to be back on the field," added Gundy. "It's always a fun time for us to be out on the field to see some of the young players out there competing. Obviously, (it is) not as stressful for us as it is during the season. There is a lot of enthusiasm, just in helmets so that limits us on the things that we can do. Good to see the new coaches out there and things seemed to be going pretty smooth.

"Certainly, much different this year than last year when we had a lot of new players out there," continued the head coach who is going into his seventh season. "Even the young players on defense saw just a limited role but were able to play in the games and gain some experience. This is as big a group as far as returning starters that we've had since I've been here."

A lot has been made of the coaching changes and, in particular new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who is back for a second stint at Oklahoma State since leaving for LSU with former head coach Les Miles and winding up in Jacksonville with the NFL's Jaguars.

Monken came in with the intent to continue running the spread offense initiated by former offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. The stories have had a lot on the process of quarterback Weeden teaching Monken the ropes of the attack. Weeden said too much has been made of him being the teacher.

"Way too much made of it," he said. "Saying that I'm teaching him is a little over the top. He'll just ask questions and I'll offer my thoughts on things that we did or adjustments that we made late in the year. That is really it more than anything.

"He watched the film and had the jest of it by watching the film. He and I changed some things in the offense just the past couple of weeks, but saying that I am teaching is a little overboard."

Weeden did say the first day went very well.

"It was smooth and I thought the way we operated we looked good," said Weeden. "The signals were there and they were there quickly. He even ran through them twice and Coach Holgorsen wouldn't do that and sometimes I had to guess."

Monken is an extremely intelligent football coach, and there was not a doubt he would have the offense down in time for practice one and he did.

"There were a few flaws in the signals, but it was fun," said Monken. "It was a little something different and it is a rarity that you get to do something different and work a completely different offense from what you've worked with the last four years. The exciting part is getting on the field and coaching them."

Defensively, coordinator Bill Young has holes to fill including replacing both starters at defensive tackle and the middle and weakside linebacker positions.

Young did maximize his experience on the defensive line with a late decision to split starting defensive ends Richetti Jones and Jamie Blatnick, who had both played the weakside end but now Baltnick will play the strong side "Leo" end.

"He (Blatnick) has got to get a little more proficient in his drops," said Young. "We do a little bit of the zone blitzing, but it is really a pretty interchangeable position for him."

Monday's practice lasted a little more than two hours and included first day of three days of offensive installation, very similar to last spring. The defense also worked on re-teaching their schemes.

The Cowboys will be back on the field on Wednesday following the morning Pro Day where the NFL scouts will be in to time and test the departing Oklahoma State seniors. Running back Kendall Hunter and linebacker Orie Lemon will run again, and will be looking to better their NFL Combine times. Cornerback Andrew McGee will work out after skipping the workouts at the Combine because of injury.

The team will practice Wednesday afternoon and then go again on Thursday before breaking for spring break. Practice will resume on Tuesday, March 22, leading up to the Orange-White game at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 16.

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