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Oklahoma State likes to rotate receivers to keep their starters fresh. That is a known aspect to the OSU offense.
Another known aspect is that in 2012, the Cowboys are very young at all four receiving spots past the starting unit. In their surprising loss to Arizona last Saturday, they did not rotate much. According to offensive coordinator, that was by design, in order to surround true freshman quarterback Wes Lunt with as much experience as possible.
"We've said this, going forward, we're very young," Monken said. "Even in the slot, Josh Stewart is a true sophomore. Blake Jackson just got here. Blake Webb is a true freshman. John Goodlett is a walk-on kid that's done great. There is just such an inexperienced factor that right now, they're doing half the stuff right and half the stuff wrong. But that's part of it.
"What people don't understand is they're learning as they're going, so all of their reps, they're going to move forward and get better. We're going to continue to get better. I know statistically we did well, but we're going to continue to be better because the guys that haven't played a lot are going to continue to grow. I think they're going to get better and better and give us a chance to give those guys (starters) more of a blow."
One veteran receiver did not see many snaps against Arizona, and Monken said in retrospect he would probably change that.
"We probably wanted to play Charlie Moore a little bit more," he said. "We wanted to get him more involved, but Tracy Moore was doing so well, so (Charlie) was only rotating at X and a little bit at Z. So, we need to probably get more of that going a little bit."
As for Lunt, Monken's initial post-game analysis of his young tutor's play held up after film review.
"I thought Wes played his butt off. I said that after the game and I still believe that after we watched it (on tape). Now, did he make a number of mistakes? Of course he did. Does he have a lot of room to improve? Of course he does. Do we need to help him more and keep the game more in balance or us out front to allow ourselves to be more balanced? Of course we do.
"He's a guy that is pretty level-headed and he understands that he's our quarterback and we go as he goes. I never sensed during the game that he was frustrated. Even after the pick (six), he could explain exactly what happened and why. I think he's only going to continue to get better, as all of our players I think will. I think there are some things that he can see on the film and be better with, but I thought played fine. I thought he competed."
Lunt has shown to be accurate in practice and went 11-for-11 in his debut against massively overmatched Savannah State in OSU's season-opener. For Monken, the question was whether that would carry over in a game where his quarterback was under duress. Duress might be understating the circumstances Lunt saw in Arizona on Saturday.
"The number one thing that I wanted to see was 'is his accuracy going to carry over?' Anybody that watched the game knows he's an accurate thrower. If he sets his feet, the ball is gonna be there. Even on the flea-flicker, that was right there to Tracy (Moore). He threw it into three guys, but it's right there. Even on the one that he mis-read a coverage and got tipped early in the game, it was right to Tracy. That's one thing about him - he's an accurate thrower."
Asked if the limited time Lunt and the rest of the first-team offense got in the opener played a factor, OSU's second-year coordinator gave a classic "Monken answer" that hit all angles of a possible response.
"I just think that you're always looking for ways to keep your edge sharp, and the way you do that is to compete," Monken said. "You need games to get guys plays. So, do I think that our other guys (non-starters) probably played better (at Arizona) because they played against Savannah State? Of course. Do I think we could have used a little bit better of a 'go' to get our guys sharp? Sure. That's part of it. That's not the whole reason why we played the way we played.
"And I'm not promoting that next year we go out and open the season with Alabama so we can be sharp. All I'm saying is that there are times when as coaches, it's always a puzzle and you try and fix it. So you're looking at why - not excuses, we didn't play well enough and didn't coach them well enough - you're looking for ways down the road to say 'how can we be better for games two, three and four. Now, we'll see that this week. If we don't play better this week, then (the opener) didn't make any difference. If we play better then we'll understand; 'hey we got something from (Arizona) from the guys that hadn't played much before."
Monken was certain of one part of the answer.
"Last year, it wouldn't have mattered if we played Savannah State or anyone," he said. "We had experienced guys then. Maybe we needed a little bit longer go to show some of the things we needed to work on."
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