OC Todd Monken Discusses Preparation for Fall 2020 Season
Georgia Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken offered the following comments Tuesday afternoon.
On where he starts when designing a new offense and combining Coach Smart’s goals and the direction he wants to go to launch his offense… “First off, being three different places the last five years there’s a number of things that we’ve done in the past, So, you start with what you’ve done recently, and then what you’ve done the last few years that you liked and want to carry over. Obviously, the games are different, the NFL compared to college football, there’s different various or, you know, of what you want to accomplish from a tempo standpoint, from a personnel standpoint. But, we are still in the process of building that. We went through the spring and did that—then the summer and we’re continuing to work on that as we speak.” On what he and Coach Smart envisioned UGA’s offense to look like once he joined the staff… “Scoring points and not turning it over. I know that’s really simple, but obviously that’s—when we spoke about his vision of the offense, was certainly what I think every coach wants, which is take advantage of your personnel, the players that you can recruit here at the University of Georgia, doing a great job in terms of utilizing those people, putting them in the best position to be successful. Obviously, as coaches we are paid to maximize our players measurable skill sets, so that’s probably the first and foremost—the talent that we get here is finding a way every day to develop those players, and then utilize their skill set to the best of their ability. Obviously, the most important part is moving the football and scoring points, whether that’s running the football or throwing the football. Being explosive and not turning it over—it’s a pretty simple game.” On whether he feels he has brought any concepts of NFL offense back to the collegiate level/his thoughts on the changes over time between the two levels… “Well Seth, you’re right. You definitely see changes in the NFL in terms of spreading the field out, athletic quarterbacks, RPOs—that has changed, dramatically. The bottom line is as high school started doing more of that and then colleges did, then the players you are drafting—when you’re drafting certain players that’s what they’re accustomed to doing at quarterback. They’re more comfortable in [shot] gun—more comfortable with that style of system, trying to keep it as simple as you can. Obviously, it’s very difficult, the NFL level against the best in the world just like in this league. So there’s obviously things that we will take from a number of places I have been over the last 10 years, from Oklahoma State to Southern Miss, to the last couple of stops I’ve been in the NFL. There’s a number of things that I liked—the things I’ve done in the past and things that other people did. So, that’s really what you do. You put together what you think is the best way to move the football and score points.” On whether there was an “Aha” moment in his offensive philosophy or whether his strategy is more of an adaptive/collective approach… “Alright, so that’s a great question because there’s different times when you’ve coached as long as I have where you go through systems of, early on, where variety in offenses was going from pro to slot. I mean that was a variety. Like, ‘Holy cow they’re going from pro to slot.’ And differences in coverages might be what their variations were from pro to slot. And then when you go into the early 90s there were a few teams that were going one back and were spreading it out, but really still your quarterbacks were not nearly as athletic. If a quarterback was a runner, you’d play a triple option style offense. If he was a thrower, much of those at that time were throwers not runners. Obviously the game has evolved in terms of the athleticism of the position. So, you evolve as you get going. I try to think back, what would have been 18 years ago when I got with Les Miles, and Les Miles was a ‘run it,’ as an offensive line coach. He thinks, fourth-and-fours toss it Jacob Hester on toss power for a first down as opposed to throwing it. But before then I was at Louisiana Tech, where we were no huddle and throwing it under Gary Crowton, then you go from there. So you develop things you like then you go to Oklahoma State back again, and I learned a little bit of the air raid with the Dana Holgorsen that he had learned through Mike Leach, and that group from previously. You develop the things you like, and then you go to the NFL and, like you said, you bounce around things you like there, ways of identifying how to attack people and again it still comes down to utilizing your personnel to the best of their ability. You have to be able to be balanced. Balance isn’t just run-pass, it’s ball distribution to players. It’s utilizing the whole field. Obviously, being able to comfortably turn around and hand the ball of is a big part of that for your quarterback. You got to be careful how often you put so much on a player’s plate.” On his assessment of the talent level in the quarterback room/what will ultimately decide who takes the starting position… “Well, I really like our guys. We have a good number of players at that position. Starting from, you know, a couple of transfers that as we all know about, and then some young players that are on our roster. So, it’s been fun to be in the room because they all vary. They are different in terms of their personalities. They all want to be really, really good players. They all want to work at it. There is never an issue in terms of them understanding what they are trying to get accomplished, offensively. So, you know, obviously the difficulty of not having spring ball, and not going through some of those practices, there’s only so many things you can do in meetings without actually getting out there, and things they can do on their own. Right now, it’s an open competition. We’re looking at all of the players because they all have talent, and we’re excited about getting to scrimmage this Saturday and seeing where we’re at.” On how Georgia plans to score more points than the team scored last season… “I’m not going to compare to last year because, even though I’ve looked at the tape, I wasn’t here. It’s hard for me to assess what they did last year, other than watching the tape. The important thing is consistency. In my mind, it’s not about last year. I’m not comparing anything to last year— that isn’t what I’m talking about. It’s about how [we can] constantly score against the opponents we play each week because an average is only worth its salt if you consistently do it. You can’t carry over points, so in one week if you score 60 and the next you score 10, you’re averaging 35 points a game but you’re not very good offensively. You’re very inconsistent. So [the question is] how do you score each week to put yourself in the best chance to be successful? Obviously, you’ve got to find a way to be explosive consistently. You’ve got to be able to score touchdowns in the red zone. It’s really pretty simple that way, is to be explosive offensive and then, once you get down there, find a way to score touchdowns. Taking advantage of those opportunities and how you go about that— every team is a little bit different in that regard. That’s probably the most important thing. I’m bot comparing this year’s offense to last year’s, I’m not doing that. I’m just saying that the history of us scoring points is having explosive plays and scoring touchdowns in the red zone." On his overall impression of UGA’s receiver group, specifically from a pass-catcher standpoint… "This is a group of talented guys who have truly been a joy to work with. They’re excited about the opportunities they have in front of them, with a couple of guys leaving last year. We’re still relatively young with certain guys we’re counting on, like George [Pickens] and some of the incoming freshmen, and even some of the older guys who still have work to do as developmental players who need the reps; guys like Matt Landers, Demetris Robertson. I know [Robertson] is one of our older players, but from a developmental standpoint. [I think] players like Tommy Bush and some of our older guys will push for playing time. Kearis Jackson has been a relative surprise in terms of his consistency and the ways he has played and developed. That’s what we’re paid to do. We’re paid to recruit really talented players and then develop them and maximize their measurable skill sets. That’s what coaching is, and utilizing what they bring to the table." On the ways he has been able to build a rapport with the entire offensive unit and if it has been difficult/ways he has worked with the players on getting them to buy in to his philosophy... "It's been hard because of the situation we've been dealt in terms of spring ball, in terms of all of our players have had to deal with; the virus, school and other things they’ve dealt with on personal levels. It affects everybody a little bit differently, so that's been difficult. [It’s also difficult] when you lose a number of players to the NFL Draft off last year's team. You’ve got a number of players who are talented players, but they just haven't played probably as much football as you'd like, but that doesn't matter. No one cares. This is a 'get it done’ business, and the good news is we have talent. We’re better today than we were yesterday, and we were better yesterday than we were Saturday. That's what you do. Everybody asks what you do about the future and about the games and about the virus, but I don’t know. I know about today. Today is Tuesday, and we have meetings today. Then we will practice tomorrow. We'll work. We'll work hard to get our guys better and figure out what they can do, and that's probably the biggest thing. What can they do? How can they take the field and show what they're capable of doing and one thing about going against our defense, our players and our coaches is. It's great in one respect because you go against some really, really good players and outstanding schemes and it really challenges you as a young player and a coach, the negative is it's very difficult to develop confidence? We're constantly trying to develop that part of it. That allows your players to be successful on a daily basis and figure out what [they] can do, knowing that you're going against really good players [opponents] on the other side and really good coaches. The fact is, for where we want to be, we're going to see some really good defenses that are very similar to ours." On the running back situation/who will step up behind Zamir White and get a lot of carries... “It’s hard to say. We really haven't had a scrimmage yet. We've hit a little bit. The first day of pads was yesterday. Zamir[White] I think has had a tremendous off-season, as has James Cook. Then you take into account Kenny McIntosh who came in last year and had a really good start to his career. [He is a] very versatile player who can do a lot of things running and catching the ball in the backfield, and then Kendall Milton who showed up in the spring and, like a lot of true freshman, you're excited to see. But, again, with that position, until you put on the pads, it's hard to really tell. I really like our guys. Daijun [Edwards], as well— I think those five guys are an impressive group.” On what skills set JT Daniels and Jamie Newman apart… “It's hard because it was only basically five days ago that, as coaches, we've been on the field with them throwing a football. I know it's hard to envision, when you really think about it, that [the coaches] have not been on the field with our players, throwing a football, until we started camp without having spring ball. Everything else is on your own when you have a football on the field, so that made it a little bit difficult. The one thing I would say about Jamie [Newman] is that, [while] everybody talks about his athleticism, he's a better thrower than people think. I think JT [Daniels] is a better athlete. Obviously, there's film on both of those guys. Obviously, JT is a young player at USC throwing the football. There's film of Jamie, obviously running Wake Forest his offense, very efficiently. Like I said, I think from the first five days that JT is a better athlete than we would have thought, and Jamie's a much better thrower." On the extent players have been able to take advantage of the practice sessions compared to the typical spring camp/how the team is maximizing the time it does have… "First of all, our players have been great through this whole situation, coming back after leaving for approximately three months and then coming back I believe early June I think our players have handled it unbelievably well and have worked awfully hard to get to this point, as have the quarterbacks to get here. Obviously, when you're doing meetings and the walkthrough stuff on the field, there's a lot of mental work [and] a lot of mental sweat that goes into it to try and do it better than [opponents] do it because that's ultimately how you get it done— doing it better than [your opponent’s] do it. There are very few new schemes. There are sometimes, but a lot of [teams] run the same thing; it’s just how to do it better than they do it. How do you maximize your players' measurable skill sets to do it better than [opponents] do it? That’s probably the biggest thing during that time, is trying to make sure that you're able to stack plays, as many plays as you can stack, where it looks like you want it to look like. We’re doing that now, but there is nothing like getting out there and actually able to practice." On his philosophy of the front offensive line… “Well, Mark you're exactly right. Getting here, we got big guys. I mean, the good news is they're big and athletic. I guess every position likes to be big, fast, physical, smart and tough. It's everybody's looking for the same guys obviously in this league, you have to guys that are able to move people up front, and still be able to move their feet and be able to pass protect. It's a really, really good group. Obviously, we lost a number of players that either came out early or transferred, but it's not for a lack of talent, it's just a matter of reps, getting our guys in the right spots. But you're right. We have good looking players as good as anywhere I've been in college, it's impressive and I'm excited to see our players to continue to develop.” On what he has seen from D'Wan Mathis and Carson Beck… “I’ve been impressed with both of them. Both of them are very talented young players. Obviously, D'Wan last year missed part of the season, but with Carson coming in the spring, and being here [and] obviously was here for the bowl game, you can see a lot of things that that you like from Carson's end of it, from his throwing and his athleticism. D’Wan, [with] his athleticism and his arm talent, as he continues to develop, and they've been rotating like the other guys in terms of giving them an opportunity to compete for the job. So, their future is really bright.” On how this coaching staff compares to his NFL stops in terms of high energy… “I think it's a little bit hard to compare, because you're dealing with practices that are different, [and] the number of players that you have are different. I've been around high energy coaches at every level. There's high energy coaches in the NFL, there's high energy coaches in college. Obviously, everybody has to be themselves and [coaches] are paid to get the best out of their players. We all have our own way of getting that done. I have to remind myself at times that the bottom line is to try and get the best out of your players, and that isn't always screaming [and] yelling. I have to remind myself of that. The bottom line is to teach and to develop and to build confidence, as opposed to tearing that down. A lot of times, my frustration and getting on the players is because I didn't do a good enough job of getting them to do it the way I'd like to do it. I did a poor job of that. The bottom line is—I'm excited. I do like our staff's energy, [and] we have a lot of it. Obviously, it comes from our head coach, Coach [Kirby] Smart. He's very energetic, very detailed, and it's been fun. It's been fun the first five days.” On whether he sees the potential of an explosive offense from the offensive group he has this season… “Well I hope so. It's a lot more fun that way when your explosive. It's funny how it works. How do you get explosive plays? First off, your ability to run the football, put the defense and run past conflicts, is the number one way to gain explosives. Either hitting open space in the intermediate levels or over the top, and then the next part is, how do you get skilled players in space? How do you get really good skill players in [a] space that can make people miss? So, that's at every level. That's what we're trying to accomplish, and I think we have those guys to do it. Again, the proof will be in the pudding once we get to playing games but I do like what I see.” On the characteristics and skills he looks for when evaluating quarterbacks… “Well, first of all, accuracy is number one because if you're going to throw the football, you have to be accurate with the football. That would be number one. How are they accurate in terms of throwing the football? Mental toughness. I think that's up there—that's got to be a big part of it, how they handle [it]. Because quarterbacks are closely aligned with winning and losing as coaches, they're the closest you're going to get in terms of your players being aligned with winning and losing. So, those guys have to handle the ups and downs of the position. So the mental toughness part of it, the ability to sustain through the ups and downs of playing the position and the media scrutiny. The next part is athleticism, the ability to move and extend plays the game has become that so much more in terms of your athleticism. So when you're talking about accuracy, mental toughness and the athletic ability to escape and make plays are probably the top three. I'm probably missing some but off the top of my head, those are pretty important characteristics. It’s hard to be a statue anymore and be consistently explosive and be able to move the football.” On his definition of an explosive offensive play… “Well, it's interesting to me. It's a 12-yard run or a 16-yard throw, and you're always trying to be in the top 10 in the country in everything that you do. That's obviously going to change this year. From a numbers standpoint, I think it's going to be basically in terms of where you finished in the league with explosives points all of your statistics because of the games you're playing. I mean this is very similar to a NFL schedule. I've been through that before. You have 16 tough games, 16 quality opponents. So statistically, to me, it's going to be in terms of where we rank amongst the teams and not really in terms of numbers, because the numbers [are] going to be a little bit different this year. The bottom line is you want to be explosive one out of every eight plays and that's approximately—you're looking at about 10 a game, and that's going to put you somewhere in the neighborhood in the top third, top quarter in the country. Then if you're getting 12 to 14 a game, then you're really hitting on all cylinders and you're going to be in the top 10.” On whether his experience with Oklahoma State, specifically in 2011, still influences or applies to his approach today… “Sure it does. We had really good players. I was very fortunate to fall into a great situation of an established offense. We had a high number of returning players who early on, when I learned that system, carried me. It was a lot of fun because we had a lot of really good players; upfront, quarterback, receivers, running backs. That’s usually the sign of a really good offense, is that you have good players. It's a sign that, on either side of the ball, you have good players and good coaches. I thought we took advantage of the fact we had really good coaches who have gone on to do great things at other places or are still there. I was very fortunate to be around a great staff and some really good players. Unfortunately, when you talk about that year, there were some really good things but obviously a very disappointing loss at Iowa State that is very hard to really go beyond even 10 years later.” On what he sees and looks for from the walk-ons, specifically the quarterbacks/Jackson Muschamp… “Well, first off, it's with all of our walk-ons, including the quarterbacks, there's a number of things that we do from a practice standpoint, from a teaching standpoint, that we need those guys to give us looks. They're invaluable to what we do. I tell our scholarship guys all the time [to] think about what these guys sacrificed to be here. They go through everything you go through. They lift, they run, to just be a part of it. They don't get paid a dime, [but do it] to just be a part of the Bulldog family. I mean, it's unbelievable. These guys just want to be a part of it and be able to run out of that tunnel and represent the University of Georgia. I played Division III football [and] didn't get paid to play. [It was] an awesome experience. For these guys to be a part of it, it's exciting for them. It’s something they've decided they want to be a part of it. For the quarterbacks, they'll do some of the signaling; they have in practice. They've been a part of the signaling. They're a part of the meetings-- everybody's involved in terms of when we ask questions – and they have a chance to be involved. Having Jackson [Muschamp] here, being a coach's son, it'll be interesting down the road. You know, it's a little bit early now. With Jackson just getting here, some of the other guys having to compare where else they've seen or where they've been. Those guys do a number of things for us quarterback wise when we need them in other areas for drill work.”