Twice as nice: Stars Weeden, Blackmon to return to OSU
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Thursday, January 13, 2011
1/13/11 at 3:13 PM
Correction: The headline for this story originally misspelled Brandon Weeden's name. The story has been corrected.
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STILLWATER - As Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy dined on a grilled-chicken salad at a nearby restaurant, All-Big 12 quarterback Brandon Weeden and All-American wide receiver Justin Blackmon announced that they had decided to stay with the Cowboys instead of entering the NFL draft.
Gundy himself did not watch or listen to Wednesday's hastily arranged news conference at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
"No," he explained. "I was eating lunch."
But because other restaurant patrons reacted loudly and happily while using their smart phones to monitor the Weeden-Blackmon revelation, Gundy knew what had transpired.
The most prolific passer and most prolific pass-catcher in program history are returning for another shot at the Big 12 title and a bid to surpass the 11-win total recorded in 2010.
"It should be tremendous for season-ticket sales," Gundy said.
Weeden, who as a first-year starter became OSU's first all-conference quarterback since 1932 and the first Cowboy to pass for 4,000 yards, opened the show with this: "Justin Blackmon's coming back to Oklahoma State - and so am I."
ESPN responded by placing the Cowboys at No. 6 in its extremely early 2011 top 25.
"At this time last year, we were talking about a new offensive line and a new quarterback," Gundy recalled. "Essentially, there weren't any returning receivers that anyone wanted to talk about. (Now), there's a lot of excitement.
"With (Weeden and Blackmon) returning, most people have us I'm sure in the top 15 or top 20 in the country. If they wouldn't have returned, I doubt that we would have been in anyone's top 40."
It is believed that the NFL Draft Advisory Board projected Weeden as a third-round pick, with the possibility of ascending to the second round. The projected draft position for Blackmon, who in 2011 will be a fourth-year junior, is believed to have ranged from the middle of the first round to the middle of the second.
"I think at first, I was leaning" toward entering the draft, admitted Blackmon, who captured the Biletnikoff Award while setting single-season school records for receptions (111), receiving yards (1,782) and touchdown catches (20). " ... I think staying here one more year, with the coaching and the strength-and-conditioning staff that we have, it can get me better and get me to my full potential."
On Wednesday morning, during Sirius NFL Radio's "Opening Drive" program, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock described Blackmon as "a beast. He's better than (former Cowboy) Dez Bryant was at this stage."
"This is the opportunity of a lifetime to play at Oklahoma State," said Weeden, who will be a fifth-year senior. "To play with a guy like Blackmon - you don't get a chance like that all the time. It's a tough decision, but I felt like I made the right one."
"Once I knew for certain (that Blackmon) was coming back," Weeden added, "it was kind of a no-brainer for me."
Weeden and Blackmon made decisions to return in spite of the fact that Gundy still has not hired an offensive coordinator to succeed Dana Holgorsen, now the coordinator and head coach-designate at West Virginia.
"I had a lengthy conversation with Blackmon maybe a week ago," Gundy said. "From that point on ... I left him alone. Weeden had continued to call every other day or so and stay in touch throughout this process. He had more questions than Blackmon did.
"I just let it run its course and was there as a resource if they needed more information."
In January 2008, All-Big 12 Cowboy tight end Brandon Pettigrew decided to return to OSU instead of early entry in the draft. A year later, he was a first-round selection - the 20th pick overall. In January 2009, OSU All-American Russell Okung made the same decision to stay for one more season. A year later, he was the sixth pick overall.
An additional college season could benefit Weeden and Blackmon as much as it did Pettigrew and Okung, Gundy predicted.
"It made (Weeden and Blackmon) feel comfortable to know that they had each other for another season," Gundy said. "When (Weeden) is finished here, I think he'll be a first-round pick."
JUSTIN BLACKMON: 2010 BY THE NUMBERS
1,782 receiving yards NCAA sophomore record
148.5 receiving yds/game national best
20 touchdown catches national best
BRANDON WEEDEN: 2010 BY THE NUMBERS
4,277 passing yards school record
4,209 yards of total offense school record
34 TD passes school record
Original Print Headline: Twice as nice
Bill Haisten 581-8397
Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden (left) and wide receiver Justin Blackmon announce they will return to the OSU football program next season during a news conference in Stillwater on Wednesday. JAMES SCHAMMERHORN/OStatePhoto.com
Brandon Weeden (left) and Justin Blackmon share a laugh Wednesday. JAMES SCHAMMERHORN/OStatePhoto.com