Spring Edition: Todd Monken Q&A

It seems like Todd Monken can't get away from having to break the mold in his role as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State. Monken, as he predicted and discussed when he arrived in Stillwater prior to the 2011 season, showed Cowboy fans that you can take a productive offense installed and coached by someone else, and improve it while making it your own. Now, Monken has a much different role.

His job is to take the offense and keep it at a level that allows the team to continue to compete at a high level with a chance to win a lot of football games, but without two of the most productive playmakers in the passing game in school history.

Monken is never one to beat around the bush or try to pull one over on you. He is honest, brutally at times, about what his players are capable of and what they need to improve on.

He admits that while the goal of the program is to keep the offense a predominant throwing system with a complimentary running attack that can run the ball.

The Cowboys have a clue, a real clue, as to what they will do offensively this season. Much of that will take greater shape as the team comes back from spring break for the final 12 practices of spring football. Below are some thoughts from Monken as the Cowboys prepare for the final few weeks of spring practice.

GP: What it the biggest difference in working with the offense now and what you had last season with Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and Co.?
Monken: We won't be nearly as deep. That's the real anxiety about it. The guys we have back up front, I think they'll be fine if we get a center... We're going to need some freshmen to play at wideout. It's hard to replace two great players who arguably could be the two best players at their position to ever play here. We can still move the ball. We'll be fine.

GP: Quarterback is not only the biggest question, although it is all that most fans can talk about. For a lot of Cowboys fans it's tough to get past that. You gave all three in Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh, and new freshman Wes Lunt equal reps the first week.
Monken: It's an open competition. Chelf is at an advantage because he has played the position and is going to be more efficient in what he does. I don't know at any point during the practices that you'll know that J.W. or Wes Lunt is better than Clint. You take J.W., for instance. One of his bullets is that he's a pretty good runner, (and) pretty instinctive with the ball in his hands. You don't go live a lot (during practices). You're judging it based on throwing it, and so it is kind of hard. There is going to be some guesswork to it.

What's their dominant trait? You had better be a good runner or a good thrower. If you're just kind of OK at everything, do we have enough other good skill players around to make you look better? No, probably not. So how do you change the game with a certain skill set? J.W., it might be with his running. Wes, it might be with his throwing.

GP: You had said that you would be surprised if Lunt earned the starting job, since he's just fresh out of high school. However, he has gathered himself in the first three practices and seemingly got past the deer-in-the-headlights look and settled in some.
Monken: There was no reason to bring Wes in and miss his senior year (of high school) if we weren't going to give him a chance to compete. He is competing. You go win a pair of state championships and do all that he did including come back from an injury his senior season and charge right back to winning games and a championship. He has something going for him. We recruited him for all those good reasons.

GP: Okay, what about Chelf and Walsh and what makes them special? You have to see them in that role to judge what they can do for the offense, right?
Monken: It's hard to judge when you're not put in that role. You think you know but you don't know. Clint is a good kid. He throws it pretty good. He's gotten a lot better. Does he have a moxie? Does he completely believe in himself? Does he take the field and it shows? No. Can you teach that? I think you can polish it, but I don't think it's teachable. Someone has to take the first snap. Someone has to go win a bunch of games for us. The guy who has the ‘it' factor is J.W. He works harder than anybody else we have. He's always out front. He's got ‘it.'

GP: The offense has put up some pretty amazing numbers, but the defense has helped more than they generally get credit for and they appear to be in shape to carry some more load this upcoming season. In football, your offense and defense have to play together and that is a good thing for Oklahoma State going forward.
Monken: You don't know who will step up and be better (on offense), but you had Blackmon for two of those years and you had Dez (Bryant) for at least the one great year. Let me put it this way, if our defense creates 44 turnovers again, we'll have (39 points and 470 yards per game). We'll be around that.

GP: As for other players, I think one player that fans are getting about is newcomer Blake Jackson, who is more than a tight end. He sure seems more like a jumbo receiver.
Monken: I think he's going to make a bunch of plays. The problem is, when that is? How many junior-college guys in their first year make that kind of impact? Hopefully, he does.

GP: Do you see the offense throwing 40 to 50 times a game heading into next season or will that mix change?
Monken: If you're committed to this, then you've got to go with it and take a lump or two, potentially, by doing it. Forty times a game is not a lot, really. You have 80 plays and you throw it 40 times, that's 50-50. You're balanced. Forty throws in this offense would not be surprising.

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