Monken intrigued by Georgia’s big-play potential

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Monken intrigued by Georgia’s big-play potential

Georgia receiver George Pickens (1) during the Bulldogs’ practice session in Athens, Ga., on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Georgia receiver George Pickens (1) during the Bulldogs’ practice session in Athens, Ga., on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. (Photo by Tony Walsh)

One of the biggest things Georgia’s offense lacked last season was explosive plays from the line of scrimmage, but this year that might change under the direction of new offensive coordinator Todd Monken. The veteran coach has a knack for creating explosive plays and opening up the field; some might say it’s the most impressive part of his repertoire.

Just a few practices in and he’s noticed that the Bulldogs have potential in that area. Like mentioned before, it’s something that Georgia struggled with a year ago. Nevertheless, in his first meeting with reporters since taking the job in January, Monken expressed both his desire to see the offense post big players and had some optimism about the unit’s ability to produce.

“It’s a lot more fun that way when you’re explosive,” Monken said. “It’s funny how it works. Obviously, how do you get explosive plays, first your ability to run the football to put the defense in run-pass conflicts is the number one way to get explosives, either hitting open space at the intermediate levels or or over the top. The next part is, how do you get skilled players in space that can beat people. That’s at every level. That’s what you try to do at every level and I think we have the guys to do it. The proof will be in the pudding once we start playing games but I do like what I see.”

Monken also explained his definition of what an explosive play is.

“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,” Monken said. “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.”

During his second stint at Oklahoma State, the team set school single season records in total offensive yards, passing yards, completion percentage, total points scored, and passing touchdowns. He crafted quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon, whom were both first round draft picks in the 2012 NFL Draft.

“I was very fortunate to fall into a great situation of an established offense,” said Monken about his time in Stillwater. “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.

Todd Monken’s First UGA Press Conference – August 25, 2020

While he was in his third year as a head coach at Southern Miss, his offense led the nation with 109 plays of 20 yards or more. A few years prior, the Golden Eagles were winless the season before Monken arrived. In 2018 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his offense led the pros in passing offense and finished third in total offense. Led by Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick, the offense set multiple organization records in passing yards, passing touchdowns, and total yards.

Monken has proved in the past that he can coach up great offenses or turn them around. Although, Georgia will have to improve in 2020 if they want to reach the College Football Playoff. Creating more opportunities for explosive plays is one of the main areas the unit will have to excel in for a playoff berth to happen.

Georgia was very good at creating havoc for defenses in 2017 and 2018. The Bulldogs finished No. 7 in the nation in 2017 with 89 scrimmage plays of 20 yards or more in 15 games. The following year in 2018, it was a tad bit ahead of that pace with 84 plays of 20 yards or more in 14 games. Last season, the Bulldogs fell to No. 70 in 2019 with just 59 in 14 games.

For the most part, the Bulldogs do most of their damage to opposing defenses on the ground, while Monken’s success comes through the air. His 2011 OSU offense had 75 percent of its 20-plus-yard plays come through the air, and that number fell just slightly to 72.3 percent in 2012. When his Golden Eagles led the nation’ in plays of 20 yards or more, 72.4 percent of them were in the passing game. 

Georgia’s passing game produced less than half of their 20-plus-yard plays in 2017 and just over 50 percent in 2018. However, last season the offense created 41 of the 59 explosive plays through the air. Regardless, Monken was brought in to raise that number exponentially.

When recently asked about what him and Kirby envisioned in the offense, he gave an honest answer.

“Scoring points and not turning it over,” Monken said. “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.”

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Currently an intern for BI, and a junior journalism major at the University of Georgia.