ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart has no shortage of candidates for the vacancy on his staff, but one name that continues to circulate is Todd Monken.
It would be the sort of hire that would quickly gain attention and make a statement about UGA’s commitment to the pass game.
ESPN’s Mark Schalbach reported earlier this week that Monken was a name worth keeping an eye on.
Smart has likely talked to several potential candidates. The Bulldogs’ fifth-year head coach is nothing if not thorough in his coaching searches.
Monken was part of Freddie Kitchens’ Cleveland Browns’ staff last season.
Kitchens, a former Alabama quarterback, handled playcalling duties for a team that finished 19th in the NFL in passing with Baker Mayfield under center.
Monken called plays for the No.1 passing game in the NFL at Tampa Bay the year before.
The 2018 Bucs averaged 320.3 yards through the air with quarterbacks Jameis Winton and Ryan Fitzpatrick combining to complete 65.3-percent of their passes.
Monken’s Tampa Bay offense set records for total yards, passing yards and passing touchdowns. He had interviews for the Jets and Packers head coach vacancies, according to Cleveland.com.
But it is Monken’s success at the collegiate level that could translate.
Monken coached future first-round NFL draft picks JaMarcus Russell at LSU, and Brandon Weeden at Oklahoma State.
Both Russell and Weeden ranked in the Top 10 nationally in passing efficiency under Monken’s direction. That’s a statistic consistent with Smart’s model for offensive success.
Smart has preached balance, wanting a run game he can rely on, but also efficiency and explosive plays via the air.
Smart’s Bulldogs bring back nine of 11 starters off a championship level defense that led the nation in fewest points per game allowed (12.60).
The offense, however, is reloading.
Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman has been added at quarterback to replace departed junior Jake Fromm.
Georgia’s passing game ranked 72nd in the nation last season with 223 yards per game. The unit was strapped by the loss of the top five receivers from the season before and a rash of injuries at the position.
Smart referred to it as a “merry-go-round” receiver rotation, citing the challenge to establish any sort of consistency with different personnel on the field each week.
Quincy Avery, Newman’s QB trainer, shared that Newman has been told he’ll be coming to an offense that throw the ball downfield “outside the hashes.” And, while Newman has the ability to run, that will not be the focal point of the offense.
James Coley was named the offensive coordinator last January, replacing Jm Chaney who left Georgia to become Tennessee’s offensive coordinator.
Coley maintained quarterback coaching duties in addition to taking over the playcalling duties.
Monken has made it clear in the past that playcalling duties are important to him, so that would seem to be a potential tripping point.
The Bulldogs also added former Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke to the staff to coach the offensive line in place of departed line coach Sam Pittman.
The Georgia offense appeared to have a modified personality in the Sugar Bowl, passing on a pair of third-and-1 calls, and running the ball outside more often.
It’s hard to project how and where Monken would fit in the offensive meeting room if he ends up the choice.
But Smart is a “process” type of coach who doesn’t need all the answers up front and has proven willing to let things play out over the long offseason.
At the very least, Monken is the sort of hire that would turn heads.
Smart has not provided any sort of timeline to fill the staff vacancy.