Dana Holgorsen Is Ready For His OSU Debut

The new-look Oklahoma State offense debuts Saturday night with six first-time starters, including quarterback Brandon Weeden and four new linemen. But the person Cowboy fans will be watching is new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, who they hope can work the same magic that he did a year ago at Houston when the Cougars led the nation in scoring (42.2 points) and passing offense (433 yards).

The 39-year-old Holgorsen takes over calling the plays from head coach Mike Gundy, who hired the Mike Leach protégé in January after he had spent the past two years at Houston after eight seasons at Texas Tech.

Holgorsen has been both excited (with the prospect of getting the ball into Kendall Hunter's hands) and disappointed (with some Cowboy receivers inability to catch the football) throughout fall practice, and is looking forward to seeing what transpires in Saturday's nationally televised season opener against Washington State at Boone Pickens Stadium.

"No, I don't get nervous. It's all the same to me. I do the same thing in games that I do in practice, get the plays in there and hopefully these guys can handle it," Holgorsen said when asked if he would be nervous when the game kicks off at 6 p.m. (Central Daylight Time).

But one person who probably will be nervous is Brandon Weeden, who despite being 26 years old will be making his first start at quarterback since 2001 when he was a senior at Santa Fe High School in Edmond, Okla.

"I've said this from day one with Brandon, he really hasn't started since 1980 or something like that … it's all going to be about him going through the whole routine of game day, not getting to worked up in pregame," said Holgorsen of Weeden, who has completed 16 of 27 passes for four touchdowns with one interception the past two years as a backup to Zac Robinson.

"He's got an even keel attitude but that's got to remain the same. The same thing throughout the course of the game, whether some good things happen or some bad things happen, he needs to be able to handle it and stay on an even keel all day. That's going to be mostly my job on game day to make sure that happens," Holgorsen added.

Holgorsen would feel much better with game day just four days away if he had seen more consistent play from the Cowboys receiving corps during fall camp. The inability to catch the ball during fall practices and scrimmages has plagued several receivers who Holgorsen was expecting to contribute this season.

"It's up and down with specific people. What we're trying to do right now is only get the guys in position to make plays that are going to be relied on to make plays. So a lot of people that were in that scrimmage (where we dropped some passes), from all 11 (on offense) – from O-linemen, to running back, to receivers – are not going to be the guys you see out there," said Holgorsen.

"We tried to narrow it down to the good ones, and the ones that are actually going to play, and it tended to look a little bit better. They're still going to have to get better every week but from that scrimmage it's gotten better with the guys that are going to be relied on to play."

But couldn't a few of those receivers be "gamers," a player who doesn't practice well but performs on Saturdays?

Holgorsen admits he's had a few players like that but "I wouldn't mention who they are, though. I'm not going to let some guys on our team right now say, ‘Well, if that guy did it, then maybe I could do it.' Where we're at right now, and our guys know this, is the guys who practice well this week are going to get reps, and the guys who don't practice well this week are not going to get reps," he said.

"You never know how things are going to go with injuries, and if a guy's third team this week and you have an injury and the guy gets in there, and we didn't think he was going to make a play and he did, that's just an added bonus."

Holgorsen isn't ready to say Weeden is the second coming of Case Keenum, the Houston quarterback who led the nation with more than 400 yards of total offense the past two seasons, or even former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell, who led the nation in total offense in 2007. But he has been pleased with the progress since the spring from the Cowboy quarterback.

"He's gotten better, obviously, from a knowledge standpoint. He's learned from some of the things he's done well, and he's learned from some of the things he hasn't done so well," said Holgorsen. "Just his base understanding of what we're trying to do has improved, and a lot of his footwork and being able to handle things in the pocket, he wasn't real good at early.

"The ultimate test is going to be when they're coming at him for real, and once they get to him, what they do to him and how we react to that is going to be the ultimate test, which I'm pretty anxious to see how that unfolds on Saturday."

Weeden has the green light to change plays at the line of scrimmage, and Holgorsen likes what he's seen.

"The biggest thing is to not over-think it, which he does at times," the offensive coordinator says. "He's a smart kid, and he understands what we're trying to do, so he out-thinks himself at times. If I see that, I've got to pull him back on that. But if he sees something that he feels good about, he just needs to be real simple and get it done quickly."

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