OKLAHOMA CITY — Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon passed up the chance for a big payday in the pros to pursue a championship in college.
Even with months to go before the season starts, they're seeing an increased commitment from their Oklahoma State teammates.
"We're probably training harder now than we were at this time last year," Weeden said Friday. "Our goal really — we've accomplished a lot and we had a good last year and all — but we know that we don't want to take a step backward. We want to keep going forward and keep getting better. We know it's not going to be easy."
Weeden said that attendance is nearly 100 percent during players-only offseason workouts after the Cowboys set a school record with 11 wins last season and shared the Big 12 South title with rival Oklahoma. OSU finished at No. 13 in the AP poll.
"You can tell by the people that are here and the people that are actually working out, you can tell the atmosphere is they want to be here and that we're trying to get better," said Blackmon, an All-American and the Biletnikoff Award winner last season as the nation's top receiver.
"More and more people are starting to buy in each year and you can see it happening."
Weeden and Blackmon came from nowhere to emerge as one of the nation's most productive tandems last season. Weeden was in his first season as a starter and Blackmon had only 20 receptions before making that many touchdown catches last season.
Blackmon finished with 1,782 yards receiving, leading the Bowl Subdivision at 148.5 per game. Weeden set school records with 4,277 yards passing and 34 TDs, both in the top four in the country.
So instead of being relatively unknown this offseason, Weeden and Blackmon are being promoted as potential Heisman Trophy candidates. Beyond talking with reporters, they also held online chats through Facebook and Twitter sites created around a Weeden2Blackmon theme.
The goals — laid out when the two held a joint news conference in January to say they'd be back at Oklahoma State instead of entering the NFL draft — are to earn the school's first Big 12 title and first BCS bowl appearance.
"We put ourselves in this situation, winning 11 games and having the success that we had last year" Weeden said. "We earned the right to kind of be not looked at as an underdog any more. But we also know that we're not going to creep up on anybody on our schedule. We're going to get everybody's best."
The pair have become closer and now hang out more frequently, beyond when they're playing catch about every other day or leading offseason workouts.
"I train as hard as I possibly can and try to get my body right. I really truly feel that the guys that we have all make each other better," Weeden said. "I think Blackmon does a great job of leading those receivers and I try to do same with the offensive line and the running backs and the other quarterbacks."Comment on this story
Both said there have been relatively few adjustments to make after Todd Monken replaced Dana Holgorsen as the offensive coordinator. Holgorsen left to become West Virginia's head coach, but Monken has tried to keep most of his system in place with a few tweaks.
"We go about our business the same way," Weeden said. "We kind of look at it like, 'If it's not broke, don't fix it' but we still know we have a long ways to go."
Weeden said the Cowboys are currently training four days a week. They'll open training camp in August, and the season opener is Sept. 3 against Louisiana-Lafayette at home in Stillwater.
"It'll be here before we know it, so I'm really buckling down and getting to the business at hand," Weeden said. "This is a big year for us, so we understand the importance of it and now's the time to get going."