All-America receiver Justin Blackmon and quarterback Brandon Weeden are returning to Oklahoma State, giving the Cowboys another season with the two key playmakers in one of the nation's most dynamic offenses.
"We won 11 games with a lot of inexperienced guys and a lot of young guys, and you can only think that it's going to get better," Weeden said while seated just to the right of Blackmon during a joint news conference. "We're excited with where we're at."
Blackmon and Weeden helped propel the Cowboys to their first 11-win season and the No. 13 ranking at the end of the season, setting numerous records along the way. They'll return to a loaded offense that ranked behind only Oregon and Boise State in yardage and scoring and that now will lose only All-America running back Kendall Hunter and third-leading receiver Bo Bowling from the starting lineup.
"We have one goal, and that's to win all our games next year," said Blackmon, the first receiver to be selected the Big 12's offensive player of the year. "It's the same goal we've had since I've been here. We fell short this year, and next year we're going to come out and we're going to try to get it."
The Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation's top receiver, Blackmon led the Bowl Subdivision with 148.5 yards receiving per game and 20 touchdown catches. His 1,782 yards receiving were the most ever by a sophomore, and he also set an NCAA mark with at least 100 yards receiving and a touchdown in 12 straight games.
Blackmon was considered a possible first-round draft pick, had he joined Georgia's A.J. Green and Alabama's Julio Jones in heading to the NFL early.
"It really wasn't that tough because it's not like the money was in my hand," Blackmon said. "It wasn't a guarantee. Those are just little sheets. That could've been anywhere from mid (first) to second round. It's just the way it played out.
"I think that I can come back, get better and hopefully pop up into maybe that top 10 and get higher."
Weeden set school records with 4,277 yards passing and 34 TDs — both in the top four in the FBS — and was named the all-Big 12 quarterback in his first year as a starter. A former second-round draft pick by the New York Yankees, the 27-year-old Weeden pitched for five years in the minor leagues before an arm injury convinced him to pursue his other dream.
"That was really what it all came down to. What is one extra year as far as age versus what is one extra year on the field? What's the difference between 27 and 28, I guess is the way I looked at it," Weeden said.
"On the flip side is I get to come back here and play 13 games and hopefully 14. Next year, I will be playing football regardless whereas if I decided to go to the NFL, I wouldn't be playing right away. Basically, being a second-team guy, you're not getting any snaps."
Weeden wasn't thought to be an early-round draft possibility, but coach Mike Gundy suggested that he has all the tools to get there: a 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame and a strong, accurate arm that he can use to make any throw.
"I think that when he's finished here — people will be surprised — that I think he'll be a first-round pick," Gundy said. "I don't say that much, and I hate to say it about anybody because I don't like to really put pressure on kids."
The two offensive stars consulted with each other after Oklahoma State's 36-10 victory over Arizona in the Alamo Bowl. Weeden said he "teetered back and forth for two weeks" while Blackmon said it was "pretty much a given that I was leaning the other way" when the process started.
But in recent days, Weeden sent Blackmon a text message that he was thinking about returning. Blackmon recalled thinking, "All right, yeah, we can do that."
"Playing at Oklahoma State is a privilege, and you only get one opportunity to play here," Weeden said. "When Blackmon decided he was coming back, it was pretty much a lock I was coming back."
Blackmon said he examined how tight end Brandon Pettigrew and Russell Okung stayed at Oklahoma State for their senior seasons and improved their draft stock, and he considers himself in a similar position. Pettigrew ended up as the No. 20 overall pick in the 2009 draft and Okung went at No. 6 last year.
But there was no single factor that made him decide to come back.
"It was just overall if I wanted to go into the real world or if I wanted to be out there," Blackmon said. "I'm still young. I'm still a kid. Being around here, I enjoy being in Stillwater. I enjoy being in college. It's a good time and the people here made it that much easier to come back because they back us 100 percent here.
"It was a tough decision, but it really wasn't hard when you got down to it."
No matter how many people they talked to or what projections they looked at, nothing provided either player with the kind of concrete information that made the decision easy.
"People give you their insight and they tell you what they think. Nobody has answers," Weeden said. "That's the thing. You've got to go with your gut.
"This decision came down to us two, and we both decided this was the best fit for us."