At least Monken is not a figure of contempt throughout the Georgia blogosphere. That passes for praise in his realm. That actually says a lot for his body of work since taking over at the start of 2020 for Coley – whose next job required little heavy lifting, coaching tight ends in College Station, Texas.
As the Bulldogs prepare for Friday’s national playoff semifinal, Monken is overseeing an offense that ranks seventh in the country in scoring, nearly 38 points per game. It’s like when Georgia receiver Kearis Jackson was asked Tuesday about his coordinator’s greatest impact: “Coach Monken’s biggest influence is being able to score points.” See, running an offense isn’t so complicated, really.
He has unlocked the potential in freshman Brock Bowers and the tight end position, indicating a sense of imagination in deploying Bowers that seemed sometimes lacking at Georgia. Of course, he’d have been a fool not to, given what he learned about Bowers, as Monken related in the best anecdote of his Orange Bowl press conference Tuesday.
He told of how Bowers was that rare player who when tracked by GPS for his speed at practice showed little difference between his slowest and fastest speed. Such players, he said, “Know one speed, and that’s working their rear end off every day.”
“We’d be running in the stadium,” he continued, talking about conditioning exercise. “We’d do it by position groups, and out of the jump – I wouldn’t have done it as a young player, I would have run with the pack – Brock Bowers would be 10 yards in front of every other guy. He was working at his own speed to be the best he could be, and that’s a rare quality to put yourself out there like he did.”
Under Smart’s watch, coordinators are allowed to meet with the media only at the start of the season and here at the back end. So, more tales like that go sadly untold.
Monken also has orchestrated a peaceful coexistence within a very crowded running back meeting room – Zamir White, James Cook and Kenny McIntosh the primary tag team in the backfield. He credits the players. “I get it, it’s about touching the ball, it’s about opportunities,” he said. “That’s the way it is with our skill players, there’s only one football, and our players have been selfless.”
So, yeah, all things considered, it has been a pretty good run so far for Monken at Georgia. And with his receiving corps benefitting from a couple of weeks off, his offense is about as healthy as possible this time of year and should be able to bring its best to bear against Michigan.
He’s someone who has walked the world to acquire his particular knowledge, who at 55 already has served at seven different college posts, and three others in the NFL. All kinds of reports were out there that Monken could be on the move again, his name floated for an opening at LSU for instance. Nothing came of that other than the impression that what this guy knows must have some real value on the open market (and Georgia pays him more than $1 million a year for it).
With the playoff, Monken is bound to come under even more intense scrutiny. On Tuesday, he let it be known that it was he, not Smart, responsible for starting quarterback Stetson Bennett over JT Daniels. It was he who stuck with Bennett in the SEC Championship game even as he suffered a couple of interceptions – one a pick-six – eschewing the guy on the sideline with the bigger arm. There would be no hiding behind the head coach on this most burning topic.
Monken’s proclamation Tuesday – “There’s no doubt in my mind we can win the national championship, and there’s no doubt in my mind we can win it with Stetson Bennett” – is bound to define these first two years of his Georgia existence. That is the limb he has chosen to climb out onto.
Below the gripers gather, not to catch him if it turns out badly, but to blame him for any fall.