ATHENS — Todd Monken is very aware of the perceptions that exist about Georgia football at the moment. He knows they use the tight ends a lot, sometimes to the detriment of the wide receiver position. That people think Kirby Smart wants him to slow down the Georgia offense and run the dang ball. That there are questions about Stetson Bennett’s limitations as a quarterback.
He understands where all of those come from. He just happens to reject most of them.
“I think people think that I don’t like to throw it,” Monken said. “I’m paid to score, I’m not paid to win. I’m paid to add as part of that, but to score. But I’m also paid to be responsible for winning. Again there is a big part of that where they think that Kirby (Smart) dictates what we do on offense. No, he dictates that we play smart. That we be explosive and we utilize our personnel. Do everything in our power to win games for the University of Georgia.”
Georgia scored plenty last season, ranking in the top 10 in the country in points per game at 38.6. The Bulldogs also had one of the most efficient offenses in the country, ranking in the top 10 in yards per play as well.
Most of the key pieces from that offense return this year. Georgia battled through so many injuries last season — JT Daniels, George Pickens, Jamaree Salyer, Darnell Washington all missed multiple games — that in some aspects it actually set them up for what they might be this year.
Bennett returns as the starter, ready to once again answer any and all questions. For the first time in his long Georgia career, he went through the offseason as the unquestioned starter. So much so that there was not a question asked about back-up Carson Beck on Thursday.
“I think he is doing a much better job of in between his reps of carrying the message that we talk about and to make sure we are on the same page,” Monken said of Bennett “I think that is the biggest thing. It is not him talking to receivers in terms of how we would do it. It is that we are all on the same page, carrying the message from our meeting room to on the field. That’s a sign of leadership — going over ‘how did you see it?’ ‘well, this is how I saw it, this is how we talk about, let’s get it right.’
Georgia has to replace two NFL running backs in James Cook and Zamir White. It should have the talent to do that with Kenny McIntosh and Kendall Milton. Not to mention Daijun Edwards, Branson Robinson and Andrew Paul.
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While many want to see Georgia air it out all the time, Monken also stressed the importance of running the ball, especially in key situations. Consider the best passing game of the Monken era came against Mississippi State when Georgia threw for 401 yards. Georgia only scored 31 points and won that game by a touchdown as the Bulldogs finished with a whopping eight rushing yards.
“I think the biggest thing is are you able to, when you’re not having success at one or the other, you’re not just one-dimensional,” Monken said. “You’re not just a run team, where we get behind and have trouble throwing it, or a passing team when you have to run it. But it’s out there, it’s part of it. You have to do whatever you need to do to win the game. To be explosive and not turn it over.”
The wide receiver and tight end positions were perhaps where Monken gave his most interesting answer. He was asked about Georgia toying with a four tight end look this season, putting the like Brock Bowers, Arik Gilbert, Darnell Washington and either Brett Seither or Oscar Delp onto the field.
Monken quickly explained the dangers of doing that.
“Well, if you run it too often, you get every wideout in the portal,” Monekn quipped.
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He later went into the outlook of the wide receiver position. This is a coach who has worked with great receivers throughout his career at both the NFL and college levels.
Injuries dictated what the Bulldogs were able to do at the position last year, with AD Mitchell and Ladd McConkey being the only options available in every game. This year, the Bulldogs seem to be in a better spot, especially as they get back the likes of Dominick Blaylock, Arian Smith and others.
“At the end of the day, you figuring out the puzzle is probably the No. 1 thing we are paid to do is, and no one really cares who you have,” Monken said. “We do have more options at receiver probably at some spots, but at the end of the day whether it is using our backs, using our tight ends, using our receivers — it is what you are paid to do. Figure out a way to score and not turn it over.”
Monken is paid very handsomely to score points for Georgia. The offensive coordinator received a raise this offseason that will pay him more than $2 million annually, making him the highest-paid offensive coach in the sport.
With all that Georgia lost off of last year’s defense, there is a narrative that the offense will have to pick up the defense early in the year. Much like many think was the case last year, only in reverse.
But outside of the Clemson game, which Monken joked about, that perception wasn’t based in reality.
The Bulldogs had a great offense last year. Monken expects to have that again this season, regardless of where the defense is at or if Georgia is going to have a 1,000-yard receiver.
“The idea is for us, and it’s frustrating for our players, is to score as much as we can, be explosive, and utilize the skill sets we have,” Monken said. “We get in the red zone and score touchdowns regardless if we throw or run it.”
Todd Monken pushes back against the idea the Georgia football offense must carry the defense: ‘I’m paid to score’
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