Monken discusses offense ahead of 2021 season
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Monken discusses offense ahead of 2021 season

Todd Monken
Photo: Chamberlain Smith/UGA

ATHENS, Ga. – Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Todd Monken met with the media via Zoom Thursday afternoon and offered the following comments regarding fall camp and the upcoming 2021 season.

On the offensive line…

“We have (Justin) Shaffer that comes back as a returning starter and Jamaree (Salyer), then you’ve got Warren McClendon and a good number of talented young guys that are pushing them. In terms of the depth chart, it’s a work in progress. I do anticipate seeing a good number of guys working with the ones and the twos. You’re talking about the left side, we’re looking at Amarius (Mims) and Xavier Truss as well. On the wide right side, we’ve had Tate (Ratledge) over there along with Devin Willock, who is a talented young guy. Owen Condon, who has been here. The good news is we continue to practice and rotate them. I’m excited to get to Saturday to see where we’re at. You go all the way through spring and five weeks in pads, guys get to a point where they keep developing and you have a break. It’s really an interesting dynamic and then all of a sudden, you’ve got May, June and July that pops back up again. So, you’ve got to get back and work the physical part of it. It’s one thing for the mental, but there’s the physical part of it.”

On the difference that a year makes…

“We’re just so further ahead. Let’s just start with the staff. Being together for a year when we do game planning and guys make suggestions, we start talking through things. That way they get to know me a little bit better, it makes for a much easier working relationship in terms of those things. Then you go with the players and the terminology, that part missing spring and the fall and as I’ve said many times, the core of what you do football wise is the same in the NFL, walking, tackling, doing it better than they do it, but systematically the way you go attacking is a little different. That took time, obviously the quarterback situation adds to that. I feel like a year later I’m doing it better, that’s what you’re paid to do. Then last year with the staff, what you’re doing offensively in terms of how we’re coaching our players and honing in on who we want to be.”

On the unique talent at tight end…

“Without a doubt you’ve got (John) FitzPatrick who played a lot of football last year is probably, I wouldn’t say the most versatile, but in trust is the biggest word with ‘Fitz.’ You can put him at wide, you can put him in an ‘F’ tight end, you can flex him out, he’s going to be diligent in the way he approaches it and you can count on him. He’s a true Bulldog. You take Darnell Washington who got here last year and some of those things we saw later in the year we hadn’t seen earlier. We didn’t go live and when we did, we didn’t give him the ball to see that ability, I wouldn’t say down the field, but I’m talking about run-after-catch and some of those things. We knew he’d be able to cover people up and develop him that way, but he’s a unique player. I don’t know how else to describe him in terms of his size and athleticism. At 6’7, 280lbs, with ball skills and he can run. He is only going to get better. He’s only really scratched the surface. Then you’ve got Brock Bowers, who is an ‘F,’ you can hand the ball to him if you want to. In his high school film, he played some fullback, in terms of route running. He’s another guy that’s a really diligent worker, he’ll run himself into the ground with how hard he works, runs and competes. So, we’re really, really fortunate to have those three guys in the mix. Then you’ve got Ryland Goede and Brett Seither who are competing for playing time.  But, those three guys, that’s a pretty special room that we have with the ability to utilize them and their skillset.”

On finding a balance on offense…

“That’s a great question. You spend the off season, when the season ends, going through our cut ups and ask, ‘what can I do better? What can the players do better? Where can we put them in a better situation to have success?’ The majority of our players have a skillset, especially the skilled guys, that you can utilize something. We just have to figure out what that is and if we can get them into those positions. Then you spend the off season heading into spring and evaluating what people are doing. Trying to stay on the cutting edge of what people are doing offensively and utilizing our personnel, which I thought we did a good job of. At the end of the day, the teams who are really good on offense do the same things and do it better. They tweak some, but they constantly are looking for ways to improve, but they have a philosophy of what they do. So, you’re right, with having the film it’s up to us to mirror our plays so they can look the same but appear different to the defense and put them in run-pass conflicts with different ways. So, I’m excited about the direction we’re headed and what we carried over from last year.”

On Arik Gilbert adapting to wide receiver…

“I think he has adapted well. He’s a special talent because he’s in the Brock Bowers mode, he’s athletic enough to play receiver, but big enough to do some things on the interior. He’s a size matchup. He’s a run after catch guy. He loves to play the game. We’re excited that he’s a part of our program.”

On Warren Ericson’s injury…

“I appreciate the question, but all of those questions are going to have to go to coach Smart, in terms of injuries.”

On the backup quarterback position…

“Well, we’re working through that right now. We left spring with Carson (Beck) as our number two quarterback, but we’re working through that now. You know with Brock (Vandergriff) it’s hard to assess a freshman player that comes in, in the Spring and we put a lot on those guys, and so right away they’re not able to really show their ability because they are processing so much. It slows down their feet. Slows down some of those things, but it has been tremendous there. Obviously, Stetson (Bennett), and Stetson has greatly improved. So, we’re still in the process of evaluating that, and the next two scrimmages will have a lot to say with that in terms of how we end up going in the first game. I’ve been pleased with all four of them, and especially the other guys, Stetson, to be commended because it hasn’t been easy. You go from being a starter to, hey you’re competing with other guys for just the backup spot or the third spot, but he’s worked awfully hard. He’s really intelligent, and he has improved a ton. We are fired up about the group.”

On explosive run plays…

“Well first off, we have an excellent group of running backs. All five can play here. Dell (McGee) does a great job of keeping those guys fresh. They’ve been pretty selfless in terms of understanding that it benefits them to not have the wear and tear on them. Obviously, we have to become more explosive in the run game. I think we were consistent for the most part. Obviously, we had a couple games there against Mississippi State and the bowl game where we didn’t nearly run it as well as you would like to be able to control the game. You can’t control the game if you can’t run it. We have to do a better job of getting the ball on the perimeter because there is more space out there that will help us. Formationally, there are some things that we can do differently. You know there were some games, the Kentucky game we ran the ball well, but that was more in terms of five, six, seven yards here, but we have to be more explosive in the run game and we have to do it without a dual threat quarterback. That will add to that as well. You know at times you may not get the QB draw or scramble run, or the zone read, but that is no excuse. We have good enough running backs. We definitely have to be more explosive.”

On JT Daniels’ growth…

“His biggest growth…I might have a couple. It is different when you come into the season as a starter. I think he is more comfortable with our players. I think the second part is that he is just very comfortable with the offense and his ability to change things at the line of scrimmage and be able to do things as a player that is controlled which he likes to be involved in. He just has a greater command which is normal, I mean it is normal that he came in and had an injury and we were repping a lot of guys and he didn’t play till the end. As we keep evolving offensively, he really appears to be in control of what we want done.”

On comparing COVID this year to last year…

“Not a chance that it is the same, no chance in hell it is the same as last year. I mean just because of no spring, the pandemic, not really knowing and maybe at this point we don’t really know what with Delta variant, but back then we didn’t have a vaccine, we didn’t have what we think are some ways to curve this, we didn’t know if we were going to play. As a team and as a society we were going through some social injustice and unrest- we had a lot of things that were thrown our way, not just the pandemic. I thought that our players did a great job of handling it all. It is hard enough to win without distractions so…Everyone went through it; we are not the only ones. I really like where our team is at now and how they are working.”

On the wide receiver group and other players to look out for…

“Well, Jermaine Burton returns as a starter, you got Kearis Jackson as a guy that is coming back, Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint is coming off an injury, those are the three guys that are coming back that have probably played the most football. AD (Adonai) Mitchell, we think is going to be a tremendous player here. You know Arian Smith has a unique skill set that can really run, he is developing other aspects of his game, he is really quick and twitchy. So, he is not somebody who is a straight run track guy- but he is developing his traits and there are days where you see flashes. I think Justin Robinson has improved dramatically. I think Jaylen Johnson is going to add to add to that group. Ladd McConkey has made some plays. So, you lose one guy, and it is what it is, the other guys get a chance to step up and that is why you recruit players that have talent. You are moving guys around and we are just trying to find the best combination of guys-which including, you’re talking about Arik (Gilbert), and the tight ends, and we have the running backs you know. We can’t forget that we’ve got some really talented guys to get potentially multiple backs on the field at once.”

On Monken’s relationship with JT Daniels…

“Well, I think with any relationship it takes time. I think as much as anything over time you get to know each other and how to get someone to be their best as a player or as a human being. So it just takes time for him to understand what we want to do offensively, what we need him to do with the team in terms of leading, in terms of being a coach on the field. I think the biggest thing is that it’s developed through time. And then obviously having success, that relationship is tied to success. I mean we are tied together, let’s not kid ourselves. That relationship the more success we have the more fun it is, the less success we have it is not that much fun. The better he gets, the better I do it, the better the relationship is and that is everywhere I’ve ever been.”

On the mental strength of JT Daniels…

“I refer back to ‘time.’ I think it is hard to just jump in there. He really was not here in the summer. He was not the starter. He was taking reps. He was not fully healthy yet. I do think that is much easier when you become the starter. You are in front of them all of the time. You are the one gathering guys to throw. That is a big part of it. Gathering guys to watch film. Gathering guys to go out to California. You do not do that when you are one of five. That is probably, as much as anything, it is hard to do that when you are not the guy that stands in front of them. I think that has evolved over time in his position on this team.”

On spreading the ball around to skill players…

“Well, the thing is, I do not solve it. The defense solves that. I do not control where it goes. Now, we can move guys around and give them opportunities and touches. I have been around skill guys my whole life, that is who I coach. When you install plays and go over the game plan, your real skill guys look at the plays and say, ‘Where am I going to get my opportunities?’. I enjoy that. I hope that we still have guys that are selfish. I really do. What skill guy would you not want to be selfish and touch the ball to showcase their skill set. They do have to understand that my ultimate job is to score as many points as we can and not turn it over and win the game. I would love for every guy to touch it a bunch. I want you to be selfish, but I cannot worry about that in our game planning. I have to do what I think is best for our team that gives us the best chance to win. Yet, I get it. I really do. I think it stinks, but that is the way it is. That has never changed. What has changed is that people throw it more. The game is more open, so you give yourself a chance to get other guys the ball, but, at the end of the day, the biggest thing is developing your skill set. If you develop your skill set, and you put on film what they want to see, Tre’ McKitty, he did not have double digit catches, and the son of a gun went in the third round. At the end of the day, I want you to touch it. I want you to score touchdowns. I want you to be a big part of it but let us focus on developing your skill set that is going to translate to the next level while doing everything in our power to create the best version of an offense that we can for the University of Georgia.”

On preparing for Clemson’s defense…

“First of all, they have a tremendous coaching staff. Brent Venables is one of the best in the country. When I was at Oklahoma State, we went against him there when he was at Oklahoma. They do a tremendous job of creating some conflict and some issues with you offensively. They have done a really good job recruiting. They have some real good glue guys that are tough, outstanding football players, and they return a good number of players. With that being said, we go up against a pretty good defense every day ourselves, so it is not as if we do not have good players going up against us. It may not be the same schematically. They are going to pose some problems, just like we will for them, because we do not do it exactly the same. They will have gone up against good personnel. We would have gone up against food personnel. The reality is, 8 of the last 14 years I have been in the NFL, every week you are going up against good personnel, and you better strap it up and get ready to go. They have good players, and we have good players, so let’s go. I am fired up to see where we are. That is why you come to Georgia, to play games like this. That is why you come here, to play really good people. Let us figure out where we are and how far we have come offensively.”

On the leadership of Zamir White and James Cook…

“Neither of them are vocal, at least not around me. Maybe that is just because I am 55, and they do not feel like they have anything to say to me. The reality is, they are not vocal players, but, those two dudes, they work their rear ends off. If you would ever have a chance to come watch our workouts in the offseason, those two guys go against each other. They challenge each other, and the whole running back room does. Jermaine Burton showed it the other day when we were doing some gassers. All he did was go over and run with James just to be with James, because it forced him to challenge himself against the best players in the room to find out where you are at. That is not easy. It is much easier to pick out someone that you can beat every time or someone that you look better than. Ultimately, those guys do it every single day. I rarely walk out on the field and see those two guys without a smile on their face or without an unbelievable disposition of loving football and their teammates and the University of Georgia. It is so much fun being around those two guys. I am excited to see them play this year as much as I was last year.”

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