Coordinator Todd Monken sees ‘explosive’ potential in Georgia offense

Todd Monken has coordinated offenses at a bunch of different places over a lot of years. But it’s still that 2011 season at Oklahoma State that everybody talks about.

The Cowboys took “explosivity” to a new level that year. Utilizing what came to be known as the “Air Raid” offense, the Cowboys averaged 546 yards and 48.7 points per game.

The nickname was justified as Oklahoma State averaged 387 yards passing per game.

But lost in that lore is this fact: Running back Joseph Randle gained 1,216 yards rushing and scored 26 touchdowns that season. The run game still was – and still is -- very much part of the Monken’s offensive philosophy.

Monken, who Kirby Smart hired as Georgia’s offensive coordinator in January, explained his basic strategy Tuesday.

“How do you get explosive plays? Well, first off, your ability to run the football,” Monken said during a digital conference call with reporters. “Putting the defense in run-pass conflicts is the No. 1 way to gain explosives, either hitting open space in the intermediate levels or over the top. The next part is getting really good skill players into space, skill players that can make people miss. At every level, that’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”

More recently, Monken was the Cleveland Browns’ offensive coordinator. There, he joined forces with former Georgia running back Nick Chubb. Chubb rushed for 1,494 yards, second-most in the NFL.

“Obviously, he had a tremendous year,” Monken said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get him the rushing title. At the end of the year, Derrick Henry ended up with the title. But Nick is a tremendous player, tremendous person and obviously he was an important part of us offensively last year.”

Monken said he defines an “explosive play” as a run of 12 or more yards and a pass of 16 or more yards. He believes that an offense should produce an explosive on at least one of every eight plays, or about 10 per game.

Monken said he believes Georgia has all the parts necessary for producing such an offense. That’s what he was hired to do for the Bulldogs, who were far from explosive last season. Georgia averaged only 30.8 points per game and just 7.5 yards per pass last year.

It’s just a matter of figuring to whom to get the ball.

“It’s a really, really good group,” Monken said. “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 continue to develop.”

Monken has called that 2011 season at Oklahoma State one of his more enjoyable in coaching. But the big offensive numbers and cascade of explosive plays is not what he remembers most.

It’s still the Cowboys’ one defeat, on the road at Iowa State, that overshadows his memories from that season. Ultimately, it kept them out of the national championship game. Oklahoma State finished 12-1 with No. 3 final ranking after beating Stanford in Fiesta Bowl.

“There were a lot of really good things that year, but when you talk about that year, I remember a very disappointing loss at Iowa State,” Monken said. “That’s still hard to go very far beyond 10 years later.”

Monken, his voice raspy from a week of barking orders during Georgia’s preseason camp, spent a half-hour answering questions during a Tuesday’s lunchtime call. Here is some of what Monken shared:

Kirby Smart’s expectations …

“Scoring points and not turning it over. I know that’s really simple, but … when we spoke about his vision of the offense, it was certainly what every coach wants. It’s taking advantage of your personnel and the players that you can recruit here at the University of Georgia and doing a great job of utilizing those people and putting them in the best position to be successful. As coaches, we’re paid to maximize our players’ measurable skill sets. That’s probably first and foremost. The talent that we get here, 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 ball. Be explosive and don’t turn the ball over. It’s a pretty simple game.

The QB competition …

I really like our guys. We have a good number at that position, starting from a couple of transfers and some young players on the roster. So, it’s been fun to be in that room. They’re all different because of their personalities, but they all want to be good players. There’s never an issue in terms of them understanding what you’re trying to accomplish offensively. … Right now it’s an open competition. We’re looking at all the players because they all have talent. We’re looking forward to getting to scrimmage this Saturday and seeing where we’re at.

Most important factors in evaluating quarterbacks …

First of all, accuracy is No. 1. If you’re going to throw the football, you’ve got to be accurate with the football. Mental toughness, that’s up there. That’s got to be a big part of it. How they handle (things). Quarterbacks are as 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. Those guys have to handle the ups and downs of the position. So mental toughness part of it and the ability to sustain through the ups and downs of playing the position and the media scrutiny. Then the ability to move and extend plays. The game has become that so much more. … The ability to escape and make players. Those are probably the top three.

Observations about transfer quarterbacks J.T. Daniels and Jamie Newman …

The one thing about Jamie is that he is a better thrower than everybody thinks. Everybody talks about his athleticism, but he’s a better thrower than people think. And I think J.T. is a better athlete (than people think). Obviously, there’s still work to do on both of those guys.

Impressions of quarterbacks 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.”

Offensive line philosophy …

“We’ve 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 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.”

Assessing Georgia’s running backs …

“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 offseason, 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. (Freshman) Daijun (Edwards), as well. I think those five guys are an impressive group.”

Assessing Georgia’s wide receivers ...

“Again, a group of talented guys that have really 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 the guys we’re counting on, with George (Pickens) and some of the incoming freshmen. Some of the older guys still have work to do as development players. They need reps. Guys like Matt Landers, D-Rob (Demetris Robertson) from a developmental standpoint, Tommy Bush. Those are some of our older guys I think will push for playing time. Kearis Jackson has been a relative surprise in terms of his consistency and the way he’s played and developed. But, again, 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 set. That’s what coaching is. Utilizing what they bring to the table.”