With that in mind, and our determination to bring a fresh approach to an age old preseason football magazine chore of previewing a team position by position, we are going to preview the 2009 Cowboys by presenting two scenarios at each position. There will be the best-case scenario in which the team deals with no injuries and no drop-off in production from last season at each position, and what that position can contribute to the season. Then we will follow the best case scenario with what we call the fire-drill scenario. This will present potential catastrophic problems and what can be done and which players could step up to keep the team going and the excitement from the preseason prognostications of an epic campaign alive.
Obviously, we are rooting for the best case scenario but head coach Mike Gundy will be the first one to tell you that in the course of a college football season – especially one where a team plays a schedule with six likely opponents in the Top 25, seven teams that went to bowl games in 2008, and the ultra-rugged Big 12 South – there are always pitfalls and adversity, most in the form of injuries. You have to have a team that is ready to execute a fire drill and get it right.
3-Alex Cate, 6-1, 200, Jr., Salt Lake City (Cottonwood), Utah
4-Brandon Weeden, 6-4, 215, So., Edmond (Santa Fe), Okla.
18-Clint Chelf, 6-0, 205, Fr., Enid, Okla.
17-Brandon Stringer, 6-4, 206, So., Lawton (Eisenhower), Okla.
We probably should have ended with this position as this is the spot on the team that most experts and fans alike would agree is most critical to have the best case scenario. Oklahoma State fans will be praying every night that Zac Robinson stays healthy. That said, we have to present a fire drill situation and also face facts that roughly 68 percent of the teams in college football will have to play someone other than their starting quarterback in significant snaps at some point during the season.
Best Case: It's easy, Robinson goes through the entire season with nothing as much as a hair out of place. Robinson has shown to be very durable over his career, especially for a running quarterback that executes as much zone read and speed option as he does. Credit that trait to Robinson and to his head coach, who played with a similar durability.
Robinson is a tough guy and the added 10 pounds he put on in the spring seemed to do little to slow down his speed and may serve him well in the strength department in handling those blows he takes. Those blows, or lack there of, is where Gundy comes in. The head coach has done a good job of drilling Robinson in the art of self preservation. Robinson uses tactics that often keep him from taking hard hits and flush blows from defenders.
Robinson has produced a total of 7,786 yards of total offense and 69 touchdowns in his career. He is on course to break most of the quarterback records held by Gundy and Josh Fields. Last season alone he threw for 3,064 yards and ran for 562 yards, combined production of 3,626 yards with 33 touchdowns. His value to the team is paramount, so the best case scenario is a huge factor to the Cowboys success.
If Robinson stays healthy then Gundy will look to get veterans Brandon Weeden and Alex Cate some playing time and will be able to redshirt incoming freshman and candidate for the future Clint Chelf.
Fire Drill Scenario: Gundy held off naming a second team quarterback in the spring, but Weeden's name was on the tip of his tongue. Gundy was especially complimentary of the 25-year-old former professional baseball pitcher that has a rocket arm. Weeden showed throughout spring that his command of the offense and his comfort being back in football was greatly improved. In one scrimmage Gundy felt he was the best producer on offense.
"Brandon Weeden played very well today," said Gundy after a mid-spring scrimmage. "Maybe his best scrimmage. He is really coming along and getting better. He has improved a lot over the past four weeks."
The age factor with Weeden is a novelty, but one you get the feeling that Gundy appreciates.
"Prior to the quarterback meetings in there before we get started, you can have discussions about Ron Guidry and Kent Tekulve and guys like that, and he is the only one that can relate to it then you know he is a little more mature than the other ones," joked Gundy. "There is such a difference between being 25 and 18, especially with males. He has matured."
The question is can Weeden step in at quarterback against the caliber of opponents the Cowboys play and win games? The answer is we don't know. However, the guess here is that if Weeden has to play, and with a few expected modifications in the offense, he could lead the Cowboys to victory.
You get the feeling the complimentary playmakers have confidence in him, especially his cannon arm. If the best case scenario plays out there is one situation in the heat of the moment that you would likely see Weeden. If the Cowboys ever get into a Hail Mary-situation like they had a year ago at Texas, Weeden's arm may be the best weapon.