Video/Transcript: Todd Monken and Dan Lanning Interview – January 05, 2022

Home >

Video/Transcript: Todd Monken and Dan Lanning Interview – January 05, 2022

Q. Wanted to tap into a little bit of your past experience in college and the NFL. When you joined Georgia, is part of the allure being able to work with so many guys who are sort of the potential to be future NFL players? You’ve worked at many different levels.  I’m wondering being drawn back to Georgia, part was, hey, this is where all the best and future NFL players go? 

COACH MONKEN: I think you hit it on the head. You want to be at a place where you have no barriers to success. And that starts with being able to get great football players. Working with a great staff, an elite academic institution and being right down the road from Atlanta. 





So when you’re recruiting players and their families, we check all the boxes. You want to be a place where you check all the boxes. And that was the University of Georgia. 

Q. Doing a story on Brock Bowers. How soon before he got on campus did you realize that he was going to have such an impact on your offense? And how have 

you made him a better tight end, and how has he made you a better offensive coordinator? 





COACH MONKEN: The first part of it is, first of all, you saw his work ethic. I spoke about that a week ago about how he’s wired. So we don’t have to touch on that anymore. He’s wired the right way. He works awfully hard at his craft. He only knows one speed. 

So right away we knew he’d be able to contribute. Did we know to this extent? Of course not. But once we saw him work, his skill set, we knew we had a chance to have 

somebody that we could rely on. And as he’s continued to develop — Coach Hartley deserves a lot of credit, one for recruiting him; two, for developing him. 

We’ve just tried to continually move him around, put him in position to make plays. He’s embraced that. He works awfully hard. He has a lot more to do with what we do in terms of how he works and how he prepares than I’ve had to do with his progression, and that’s just because of the way he’s wired. 

Q. As great as Stetson was the other night, as really as good as he’s been, there’s obviously two games against Alabama that are kind of a blot on his resumé.  Do you see anything kind of common in those games that is instructive about this one, or did you see those two games as just kind of separate from the rest of what Stetson does? 

COACH MONKEN: Well, I mean, I don’t see it as those two games are going to predict the future. I don’t see it that way. I see it as he’s played, I don’t know how many 

games at starting quarterback, and like any player they’ve had their moments where they haven’t played up to what they believe their standard to be or we believe that standard to be. It just so happens to have come in the second half against the team we’re about to play. 

But we just need to understand that the first two halves of each of those games was outstanding, and I’ve said that before. He has everything we need to be successful offensively. And our issues with turnovers aren’t his issue, particularly. That’s everybody in this country — if you turn the ball over you’re not going to win, no matter how you do it. 

The first turnover a year ago was a batted ball that was out of his control. The second interception was a tipped pass on an end cut that went directly to them. The third one was a poor decision. 

So the bottom line is I can do better as a coordinator to put him in better position to be successful. He understands that. Our team understands that. So I expect him to play well just like I did last week. 

Q. In that vein, you have an extensive NFL background, playing another team in close proximity just a few weeks later. Tell me a little bit about the decisions on what to change, what to do different, what to keep the same. And maybe have that same thing seem different and that kind of stuff. Seems pretty complicated. 

COACH MONKEN: Well, you’re right, it is a little bit different. You do get that in the NFL with your division teams where you play them twice. And sometimes you can play them relatively close together like this is. 

And we played them last year. So we’ve got enough film on what they want to do and they’re not going to change.  They’re successful for a reason for what they do and so are we. 

If you’re constantly changing what you do and your identity, I don’t think you’re going to be very good at anything. So obviously we take from the things that we did well and build on that and the things we didn’t do as well. And obviously there’s calls that we had that in both games or other opportunities that we didn’t get called. 

So we’re looking forward to the opportunity and the shot at it. And they’re going to get our best, I can promise you that. 

Q. How do you best quantify the improvements when you’re talking about Stetson, that he’s made from last year to right now being starting quarterback? 

COACH MONKEN: Obviously, second year in the system.  Being around us as a coaching staff, what we do offensively is big. And just playing. I think we forgot at times that he really hadn’t played a lot of football here. And I think being around the same players. 

I think the consistency that we’ve had at times that we’ve tried to get the ball to those guys have helped. But to me he’s matured in terms of understanding what we want to get done. And also just playing. There’s just the reps that you get in practice and then games that get into your memory bank, whether they’re scars or things you’ve solved or decision-making, I think all comes into that. 

And the longer you play — a guy like Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady or those guys or Ryan Fitzpatrick — some of the things they do now they didn’t do early on in their career.  That develops over time. And they continued to improve their game and their understanding of what we want done. 

Q. You were pretty emphatic of your support for Stetson last week when talking about JT. Stetson’s 

got 10 touchdowns in the last three games. I wondered if there was a point where, I don’t know what the word is, that you trusted him more to go downfield, to do more things, or is that overestimating it? 

COACH MONKEN: Oh, I don’t know. I mean, I think the hardest part is the way our season has gone. Our season, we’ve had a tremendous season, and for a number of those games we put ourselves in position to where we didn’t need the quarterback to make plays in the second half of games. So people could look at that and say, well, why didn’t you take the opportunity to continue to get more reps or get other quarterbacks opportunities. 

Not in my mind. My mind was to win that one game in particular and get off the field without injuries. And so that’s probably the hardest part when you try to look at 

throwing the ball down the field in terms of the opportunity.  Our defense played so well. 

And so I think that’s probably a little unfair that we didn’t trust him to throw it down the field. It was just a matter of opportunities, I think, is more than anything because the way the games went. 

Q. You talk about Georgia checking all the boxes in terms of resources and recruiting area and facilities and everything else. Were you aware they hadn’t won a title since 1980 when you got there? How much have you heard about it and what would it mean to end it? 

COACH MONKEN: I had not because I really, in a lot of ways, that didn’t factor into it because I knew what the place was like now. 

And I knew the success that they had and were awfully close in previous years to that. And that’s what you can ask, is just an opportunity to put yourself in the tournament or in position, I guess, the best way to put it. 

So I just knew that the opportunity to get really good players, a leading academic institution, Atlanta being right down the road, unbelievable support, and I think that’s where you want to be. 

Q. I wanted to ask about your time with the Buccaneers. I’m sure you learned something every stop you’ve been at. What about your time with the Bucs has helped you become a better coach at this level? 

COACH MONKEN: Well, first of all, I loved my time at Tampa, the three years I was there working for a close friend and mentor, Dirk Koetter, gave me an opportunity to come back to the NFL as an offensive coordinator. We still 

have a place down there. 

But the organization was first class, the Glazers treated me with unbelievable respect. The front office was tremendous. What I remember is unfortunately we just didn’t get it done; we didn’t win enough games. But really enjoyed the players. We had a great nucleus of players. 

I learned a lot in terms of how hard it is to win in the NFL.  And I shouldn’t say I learned that. I knew that anyways.  But it’s hard to win in the NFL. 

But the bottom line is we didn’t win enough games, but the relationships that I had with everybody as part of the organization and the coaches and the players was unbelievable. 

Q. Being a guy that grew up in the Midwest, what would it be like to coach this game in Indianapolis?  Will you have family coming from that part of the country? And being a play caller in the national championship game, does that excite you as a guy who has been doing that for a long time? 

COACH MONKEN: I don’t miss the cold. That part doesn’t excite me. Thank God the game is indoors, so that doesn’t factor in it. Sure, it’s always nice to see family come and see us play, but we obviously don’t control that. 

But I’m excited for the game. I’m excited for our players.  This is about our players and the opportunity that they have in front of them that they’ve earned. And they’ve earned this by the hard work they’ve put in starting at the end of last year. This is a year-long process. And our guys have been through it to get to this point and to have this opportunity. 

And it’s everything that we do it for, everybody has this initial goal going into it. And our guys have worked incredibly hard to get to this point and have trusted in the message that we’ve sent and they’ve carried that out for the most part throughout the year. So I’m excited to see them play. 

This doesn’t come around very often, this opportunity to win a championship. So I think our guys are excited.  We’ve started off the week the right way and we’ll see. 

Q. On Brock Bowers, how do you approach Alabama playing the second time now and trying to stay a step ahead of them presumably with them trying to stop him after the impact he had in the first game? 

COACH MONKEN: Oh, I don’t know. I mean, we’d be guessing. We’d be guessing at certain things they would 

do to stop a particular player. We’ve got film from the last few years of them playing some really really good players.  You go back to playing LSU a couple years ago with the receivers they had and Joe Burrow, and they did a couple of things to kind of change that up a little bit but the reality is they’re good because they do what thy do. 

Sure, do they understand an opponent’s really good players and what you want to do schematically? Of course. But they knew that going into the last game.  Obviously he had a number of catches, but they knew that going into the last game. 

So we don’t anticipate a heck of a lot different. But maybe just in terms of where he’s located or different calls based on formation sets and what we do to get him the ball. But 

outside of that, to think that they’re going to line up two guys over him and double team him would be a stretch. 

Q. Obviously we see you operating the 10,000-foot view from the press box. But on the sidelines we see JT engaging Stetson and we hear Kirby talking about the quarterback room. I think you mentioned it. How important is that and as far as the in-game adjustments for those quarterbacks to communicate? 

COACH MONKEN: I think any communication can be positive or negative depending on how it’s presented and what you’re telling a player. It can be a positive or negative for me; it can be a positive or negative from any interaction you give a quarterback, from a confidence standpoint, an awareness standpoint, from what you’re expecting to see or what you’ve seen. 

All of that is a plus. I think JT will do a great job in a very tough situation of embracing that part of it and doing everything he can to help Stetson and us in game prep and being ready should the opportunity arise. And Stetson has done the same even when he wasn’t playing. 

So, I do think those guys staying involved in the game and the information that we give them is critically important throughout the game. 

Q. From your years in the NFL and major college football, where would you rank Will Anderson’s ability to wreak havoc on opposing offenses and (indiscernible) preparation? 

COACH MONKEN: Well, you certainly want to know where he is. It’s not just from pass-rush standpoint. He does a really good job, if you get into the zone read game, where he tries to hit you at the junction point and try to disrupt from the open side. 

So — and he plays with relentless effort. I think he has a tremendous skill set. They do a good job moving him around and he plays with relentless effort. Those are all good signs of a player that you’ve always got to be aware of where he’s at and the matchups that you have. And like any team, they’re no different, just like with him, just like last week, you gotta be careful about getting yourself in a drop-back passing game at any time and putting yourself at risk. 

Q. I know you don’t care much about what outsiders say, but a lot of people were talking about your defense being historically good before the Alabama game. What have you got to do to kind of cement its reputation the second time around? 

COACH LANNING: Just play the brand of football we’re able to play. Our guys take a tremendous amount of pride in the way we work and the work we’ve put into this season. But it doesn’t take anything exceptional or extraordinary, just do what we know how to do. 

Q. You dealt with this some at the Orange Bowl, but obviously the no sacks against Alabama last time, and a lot of the narrative was that Georgia didn’t try to pressure the quarterback that much. But I certainly don’t look at it as educated as you do, but it looked like you guys were trying to do some stuff to get to him and just couldn’t get to him. How important is it to get pressure on Bryce Young this time? And what about just the whole factor of it’s just a month later; do you do a lot of different things or do you try to do the same things better? 

COACH LANNING: Ultimately we want to create pressure.  We want to be able to get after Bryce. As far as how to do it, I don’t want to give away our secrets yet, but wait until the game to figure that out. We want to generate pressure. 

And certainly there’s a lot of different ways you can do that.  And he’s really good at avoiding the rush. And they did unique things to protect him. We have to attack it a little bit differently, but how we do that, there’s a lot of different ways we can do it. 

Q. When you’ve been at a fair amount of different places, small-school guy as far as football yourself.  

When you’re at Alabama for a year and now at Georgia, it’s going to sound silly, how much do you notice how much better the players are, but when you see, when you get to a place like Georgia and you’ve been at other places, what’s that moment of like, oh, my, this looks different from some of the other places I’ve been? Obviously you know that going in, but when you actually see it and are part of it, does it sort of hit you in a way that’s a little different when you get there? 

COACH LANNING: Yeah, I mean there’s a big difference.  There’s a big difference. Ultimately I think one of the biggest things that’s different, especially in our league and playing against a team like Alabama, is in the trenches, up front with the defensive line and offensive line, the speed on the field. 

It’s all relative because every football field is 100 yards, right? But the size and the speed is a tremendous difference. 

Q. Nolan Smith was on here earlier and shared how emotional he got losing to Alabama in the SEC Championship game. Is that the player you know that pours a lot into what he does? And at the outside linebacker position, kind of a second question, what are you leaving behind when you go to Oregon, the guys coming up that can take the next step? 

COACH LANNING: Nolan is an emotional guy, but that’s one of his greatest strengths. He takes so much pride in what. He does cares so much. That’s one of the things that’s made us unique this year is how many guys on our defense and our team that care. And obviously you want people on your team that care. 

I’m excited about what that room will look like going forward. Probably not for the first game next year, but they’ve got some good guys in there — Chaz Chambliss, Nolan has a great opportunity to make a decision on what he wants to do going forward. MJ Sherman, and obviously there’s some young talent that’s getting brought in there as well. 

Rob Beal has a decision to make as well. So some of 

these guys have tough decisions to make. I know that’s not their focus right now. And we signed some young talent in that room also. So it will be a good room. 

Q. How do you go about preparing for Alabama’s wide receivers, the younger guys who don’t have a lot of film on them? And how do you adjust your defense when John Metchie was injured in that last game? 

COACH LANNING: They have talent at wideout, even loading Metchie, those other guys have come in, have shown they’re obviously really capable and successful players. But it does change your plan. You’ll have to do 

some things differently. 

I know we brought a lot of speed over from the offense at times. We’re able to use guys during certain periods to extend the field and push it down the field. And we’re getting a really good look from our look team because we’re able to use those guys. 

So, ultimately it doesn’t change everything you do when they have different people plug in and playing, but there’s an awareness on where certain guys line up and what they do when they line up there. 

Q. Nakobe Dean told me you were the first-ever coach to see him when he was in high school and you were at Memphis. He said you told him you just wanted to put eyes on him, probably not gonna get you here but might get you down the road. What do you remember from that first meeting with Nakobe? 

COACH LANNING: Ultimately, I was at Memphis at the time when I first learned about Nakobe Dean. He had a great head coach Brad Boyette, who I was a big fan of.  That was my area, recruiting Mississippi when I was at 

Memphis. Got to go down there see him. 

Everybody talked about what kind of player he was. That was evident on his film. He played the star position, outside linebacker as a freshman. Played really early. But what was impressive was all the things off the field for Nakobe. His academic standing, the leader he was in his community. This guy did homework nonstop. When you talked to him recruiting, he’d be, hey, coach, I appreciate it, but I’ve got to get off the phone. I’ve got to get back to homework. 

And it’s just his work ethic. He’s a great example the way you do anything is the way you do everything. Nakobe really lives by that standard — the same way he gives off the field, the same way he is in the classroom is the same way he’s on the field. 

I have a lot of fond memories of going, of recruiting Nakobe. And now having him as a player. And I was excited to get to Georgia where we had a chance to get him. 

Q. You don’t have to worry about going against Brock Bowers for another nine months anyway. But as a defensive coordinator, when a team has a tight end as good as Brock Bowers, what does that do to your mindset and to your scheme heading into that game? 

COACH LANNING: Brock’s a headache for the other team. I’m glad he’s on our team. In a lot of ways Brock is like having another wideout out there on the field, obviously. He’s extremely talented, does a great job catching the ball in tough situations. 

I think he’s developed a great amount of trust with Stetson and in the offense. And he’s really done — Coach Monken has done a great job moving him around and using him in 

a lot of unique ways. You definitely have to treat him different. You can’t treat him like your standard tight end. 

Q. We hear a lot about Kirby Smart and his ultimate competitive side. Any memories you have of him, anything behind the scenes that you can tell us what he’s like in practices or in games? 

COACH LANNING: It doesn’t matter what it is for Coach Smart. I love his passion. And I’ve also said that I think your players take on the energy that you put out as a coach. And Coach Smart has tremendous passion, whether it be team run on a Tuesday in practice, or if it’s Saturday out there on game day, he brings it every single day. There’s never been a day I walked off the field, well, Coach really wasn’t really out there. No, that’s never happened. 

And you see the same thing around his family. Whether he’s playing basketball with his son or whatever it is, the guy just likes to win. And that resonates through our program. 

And he prepares to win. It’s not something where you roll the ball out think you’re going to show up. He’s willing to do the work it takes to be successful. So I think he realizes that when you compete it’s not just you compete on game day. You have to compete in the way you practice. You have to compete in the way you prepare, the way you analyze data and results. 

And you see that constantly from Coach Smart. It’s something certainly I’ve learned being here, but he wears it on his sleeve every day and I appreciate that. 

Q. Going back to Nakobe Dean for a second. We’ve seen him recognized for what he’s been able to do on the field this year. And it seems like every Saturday or Friday, for that matter, that he’s playing he shows up.  What have you seen in the evolution of him as a player throughout this season? 

COACH LANNING: I think he’s attacked a lot of things that we thought he could get better at. Coach Schumann does a phenomenal job with that linebacker room, not just Nakobe but Channing and Quay Walker. These guys have played at a high level all year. 

Nakobe has improved in his coverage ability in my mind.  He’s really taken pride in being an explosive blitzer. And he’s created a lot of havoc plays with that, the way he’s played. The physicality that he plays with, this guy tackles in practice and he works really hard to practice to be a good tackler. I think that’s something he’s improved on and you seen. 

But he’s just a lot more efficient overall with his movements. And that comes with reps — the more you play the more successful you’re going to be. And I think you see that with him. 

Q. Is there a position group that traditionally shows more leadership than others? And who are some of the best leaders you’ve had in your career on that side of the ball? 

COACH LANNING: That’s a good question. Ultimately, I don’t. I don’t think there’s one. Leaders — a lot of times you can say you want to identify them as a coach. But the reality is it’s the players who identify them. It’s who they follow. It’s who they see do it each week, each day. 

I’ve been here before where we were really led by guys in the back end like J.R. Reed. It’s been every position group that I’ve been around. We had it, last year I think, we had a little more leadership there at the corner position. Right now you’d say really, we have leaders there on the defensive front with linebackers and the D line. 

But every year it’s a different group and the reality is the players follow the guys that lead. And I’ve been fortunate enough to be around a lot of good ones. This team has as good as any that I’ve ever been around. 

I think Coach Smart mentioned it earlier this season, but it’s the first time I’ve ever been a part of a team where we came off after a big win and our players in the locker room talking about what do we have to do better literally right after the game. Call the entire team up and I think that’s unique. That’s certainly special. 

Q. Not to relitigate the pass rush strategy too much, but it seems like you all had a choice of do what maybe what other teams have done against Alabama to success earlier or kind of stick with what had worked for you all the first 12 games. Is that too simplistic a way to sum it up or is that close to what you saw it as? 

COACH LANNING: I don’t know. I think we watched film pretty close and tried to see what’s successful against a team. And I think they had good answers and played better than we played that day. 

I think we’re always pretty multiple and have a variety of ways that we can attack teams. I think we’ve carried that into every game. 

To go back and look at that game, we tried to attack in a lot of different ways and they were more successful than us.  You’re going to have answers, and they had better answers that day than we did. But we’ll build off of that. 

Q. Wanted to ask about Travon Walker and the defensive end position. It doesn’t seem to lend itself to the same sort of sack numbers. I know everybody kind of plays their spot. But could you share the importance and responsibility of that end position in Georgia’s scheme? And if you could elaborate on just Travon and what’s made him so special? 

COACH LANNING: I mean, ultimately I think one of the things that makes our defense special is they’re willing to accept whatever role it is for that game for us to be successful. And Travon is a great example of that. 

That being said, what makes Travon special is his athleticism. He’s got special talent. He’s very unique. I think we’ve all mentioned several times that he was a high school basketball player and really successful. 

But his ability to move. I think you saw in that last Michigan game, he’s starting to play with another brand of physicality as well, and that’s starting to show up. And that ultimately, to me, was one of the pieces of his game he can improve on. And he’s done a great job of that, embracing that challenge to the physical of point of attack. 

But he’s got speed. He’s got the ability to drop in coverage, he’s got the ability to rush the passer. And I think that production comes with that over time. 

I’ll say this most team knows where he’s at. And there’s probably something to be said about that as well. 

Q. With this being your last game at Georgia, what are you going to miss about coaching at this place? And specifically with this defensive group, what are you going to miss about coaching them? 

COACH LANNING: Ultimately, for me, coaching is about relationships. And I love these players like I love my family. They’ve just been so good to me. I wouldn’t be near the coach I’ve been or had the success I’ve had in this profession if it wasn’t for these players. So I’ll miss that a lot. I’m going to miss the coaching staff. There’s a great bond on our staff. 

I really enjoy the guys I get to work with every day. I don’t feel like I go to work; I feel like I’m going to do something I love each day, which is a pleasure. But to me the people, ultimately I’ll miss the people. 

Certainly excited about new adventures and really excited about the group of men and caliber of men that we have on our staff and the players. 

These players are great kids and super talented. So excited about that situation, but you’ll always miss the people you work with and the people who helped get you where you’re at now. 

Q. I know you can’t move the Atlanta Metro area to Eugene. But what can you bring with you from your time at Georgia, philosophy, strategy, maybe apparatus, that you can rebuild at your Oregon as far as recruiting, as far as recruiting is concerned? 

COACH LANNING: One of the big benefits of Oregon is it’s a national brand. We can go anywhere in the nation and be able to sign players. But I think you can just bring that relentless pursuit that we operate with day in, day out here and the organization behind it. We can bring the mentality of how we play football to a certain level. 

I’ve been fortunate to have high-quality experience in my team here, whether it be at Georgia or Memphis or Alabama or some of the other places I’ve been able to visit and coach. So taking all that out there I think will be really important. The biggest thing is just learning from that experience. Not any situation is the exact same. But recruiting ultimately, at the end of the day, comes down to work. And it’s going to take work to get great players at Oregon. And we have the ability to get great players there and great players should want to come there. 

Q. It seems like in the past few years few people have been able to solve Alabama. LSU and Clemson had their chances to get one over Alabama. But does it feel like there’s almost this accumulated pressure on 

Georgia given how many swings this team has had against Alabama in consequential games, and also just the added pressure, it’s happening again in a national championship, and there’s that whole 41 years thing hanging over your head too? 

COACH LANNING: None of that is hanging over our head.  At the end of the day, we want to go perform to the best of our ability. We want to execute at a really high level. But ultimately it’s not about them. It’s about us. We want to go play our best game. If we play our best game, we feel confident that we can win that game. 

That being said, they’re a really good team and they deserve all the credit in the world for everything they’ve done over time. But so are we. So we expect a good game. We expect a tough challenge, but there’s no more pressure outside the room than the pressure we put on ourselves to perform at a high level. I know that. I know how much our players care, how much our coaches care.  We have a great plan, and we need to go out and execute, and I think we can do that. 





share content