By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: There were high expectations in Stillwater heading into the 2009 season, and rightfully so as it appeared that head coach Mike Gundy had enough talent in place to challenge for the Big 12 championship.
A 24-10 win over SEC foe Georgia in the opener was a solid start, but a 45-35
loss to Houston, at home no less, in week two wasn't what Gundy or OSU fans
had expected. Fortunately, the Cowboys would go on to win five straight,
including three-in-a-row to open conference play. The Pokes were feeling
pretty good about themselves at that point, but they were badly outplayed in
Halloween-day matchup with Texas, falling to the Longhorns in a 41-14 final.
They quickly responded by winning their next three, but a 27-0 loss to rival
Oklahoma in the regular-season finale was a bitter pill to swallow.
Still, the Cowboys were rewarded for their fine season with an invite to the
Cotton Bowl, but things didn't go their way as a 21-7 setback to Ole Miss
saddled them with a two-game losing streak to close out the campaign.
OFFENSE: With former standout Zac Robinson gone, the new Oklahoma State QB is
expected to be junior Brandon Weeden. The 26-year-old former New York Yankee
farmhand saw action in the Cowboys' 31-28 win over Colorado late last season,
showing the coaches all they needed to see in anointing him the heir apparent.
Gundy likes the maturity and poise with which Weeden conducts himself, "We all
know that we're different at 26 than we are at 18. And in order to handle the
pressures of being a quarterback and playing at this level, maturity is an
He continued, "I was very impressed with him in the spring and the way he has
adjusted in his leadership skills. He's done a nice job in the summer, see him
in the office all the time, spending time in there studying tape. So when you
have a new quarterback, if there's a strong commitment there to do the right
thing, then that gives him a chance. So I'm very excited about watching him
develop and seeing what direction he can take our football team."
Helping ease the new gunslinger into his full-time role will be a running game
(first in the Big 12 each of the past four seasons) that boasts one of the
nation's elite backs, when healthy, in senior Kendall Hunter. Hampered by
injuries last year, Hunter gained just 382 yards and scored only a single TD.
The hope is he is able to return to his 2008 form when he produced 1,555 yards
and 16 TDs, although that might be difficult considering Gundy brought in Dana
Holgorsen to run the offense. Holgorsen honed his craft under the watchful eye
of Texas Tech's Mike Leach, and he led Houston's top-ranked offense last year.
There is only one returning starter along the offensive line, so getting that
unit up to speed quickly will be integral to any success the Pokes achieve on
offense this year.
The receiving corps, while lacking star power, has some talent with junior
Hubert Anyiam (42 catches, 515 yards, three TDs) and sophomore Justin Blackmon
expected to make plays down field.
DEFENSE: The OSU defense was solid against the run last year (95.8 ypg), but
gave up far too many yards through the air (236.8 ypg). Still, foes put up
just 21.7 ppg against the Cowboys, ranking them fourth in the conference and
Unfortunately, eight starters have moved on leaving only senior DE Ugo
Chinasa, junior DE Jamie Blatnik and junior S Markelle Martin as the lone
holdovers. Chinasa was credited with 6.5 sacks a year ago while Martin is the
team's top returning tackler with 45.
Senior LB Orie Lemon is expected to be the leader in the middle of the field
after missing all of last season due to injury, and the OSU coaches love the
way he plays the game.
In addition Martin, a couple of sophomores in Brodrick Brown and Andrae May
are expected to line up at the corner spots, hopefully giving the Pokes
superior athleticism in the secondary.
Gundy, while excited about the upcoming season, knows it will take time for
the new guys to find their way.
"We've been fortunate over the last few years that we had a number of
returning starters that have provided great leadership and great continuity
over the last couple years and allowed us to have a tremendous amount of
success. But I think this upcoming season provides us with an opportunity for
us to develop some new faces, let some of these young guys get in the fold
quick, gain a lot of experience."
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Cowboys have one of the more consistent and effective
kicking games in the Big 12, as both PK Dan Bailey and P Quinn Sharp have
shown the ability to get the job done in the past. The return game is another
matter entirely, as former standouts Dez Bryant and Perrish Cox are gone,
leaving a guy like the speedy Justin Gilbert behind to leave his own mark.
OUTLOOK: Playing their first four games at home should be of great comfort to
Gundy and his team, although opening against Washington State and getting
Tulsa two weeks later will certainly prove challenging. The league lidlifter
is against Texas A&M on September 30th, and that is followed by the team's
first road test versus UL-Lafayette. Getting back to conference play, the
Pokes will hit the road for four of their final seven games, and they'll save
the toughest stretch for last when they play at Texas and Kansas before
closing the year against Oklahoma at home.
At this point, there is no telling how well Oklahoma State will perform this
season. So much depends on Weeden's progress, Hunter's health, the offensive
line's ability to gel, and the new faces on defense playing to or above their