Why Georgia’s immediate offensive future hinges on retaining coordinator Todd Monken
Themes and trends aren’t hard to pick up on, as that is kind of what defines them in the first place.
And there’s no doubt Georgia football has been trending up since Coach Kirby Smart hired Todd Monken to run his offense and oversee the Bulldogs’ quarterbacks following the 2019 season.
The amount of recent coaching movement in the NFL -- 10 open offensive coordinator positions -- and Monken’s unprecedented success at Georgia has led some to wonder if he will return to UGA.
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That’s why so many UGA fans are holding their collective breath where Monken is concerned and taking note each time he is pictured out on the road recruiting.
The 2022 Georgia offense had some sputtering -- most notably, a near upset at Missouri and an inability to throw the ball effectively at Kentucky -- but Smart made it clear on most every occasion the issues were more so with execution than scheme and planning.
The numbers still came out glowing for the 2022 Georgia offense:
• ranked fifth in the nation in third-down conversion rate (51.1)
• ranked sixth in the nation in completion percentage (68.3)
• ranked 15th in the nation in passing offense (295.8)
• ranked tied for fourth in the nation in scoring (41.1)
Monken’s offense was a step ahead of defenses each week, needing only proper checks and execution at the line of scrimmage -- which departing QB Stetson Bennett employed to the extent of being voted fourth in the Heisman Trophy race by a panel made up mostly of media members.
The proper checks and calls ensured advantageous run leverage and open receivers. As one former Monken quarterback once said, the genius of the offense is “there’s an answer on every play.”
That’s why next to Smart, there is not a more pivotal figure on the team that the Bulldogs need to retain to have the optimal chance for a run to three-peat as national champions
Monken’s schemes and play calling have produced the two highest-rated quarterbacks in program history in JT Daniels and Bennett, and there is no reason to believe there will be any drop off in offensive production in 2023.
Fact is, the Georgia offense might surge and light up the scoreboard even more with three capable quarterbacks once again engaged in a healthy quarterback competition
Monken is a big chunk of the reason -- if not all of it in some cases -- that the players have remained patient backups at UGA rather than transfer to other Power 5 schools where any one of them could play right away.
“Over my past two years being here, if I hadn’t been learning as much as I’ve been learning, then I would have already left,” 2022 third-teammer Brock Vandagriff said leading up to Georgia’s 65-7 win over TCU.
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“But under Coach Monken, just being in his system is invaluable. Every rep I get when I’m out there is invaluable, and Gunner (Stockton) and Carson (Beck) would say the same thing.”
Mind you, Vandagriff came to UGA a high-profile flip from Oklahoma, and in his second season with the Bulldogs, played just 11 snaps in 3 games.
At least a half-dozen notable Power 5 programs — of the Top 25 variety — would have gladly taken Vandagriff in as a transfer.
The same has held true for Carson Beck, whose de-commitment from Alabama a few years back led to Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young giving the Tide a second look.
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Beck had worked throughout the offseason and fall camp to earn the No. 2 job behind JT Daniels entering the 2021 season. Smart said at the Monday press conference the week of the UAB game that Beck was indeed still No. 2.
A bad Monday practice, however, led to Bennett getting the nod that Saturday and making the most of it with 5 touchdown passes.
Beck has been working in reserve ever since, reduced reps with the ones in practice, and last season 24-of-32 passing for 279 yards with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions in the 72 game snaps he was allowed.
Beck, like Vandagriff, emphasized the value Monken brings.
“I think the mental side is the biggest part,” Beck said. “Just understanding the mental side of football, which I think Coach Monken does a great job of teaching us in meetings and in the film room.”
Beck’s electric arm and prototypical size open up more possibilities for the Georgia offense, particularly with the Bulldogs re-stocking the receiver position to the extent Monken could get back to the multi-receiver sets he used with Daniels.
Beck is embracing the opportunity to compete, not needing the sort of position promises the staff doled out the past two seasons to Daniels and Bennett.
“Just going up against our defense every day, we have what I think is the best defense in the country,” Beck said. “You see all different types of looks, and you’re going against future draft picks.”
Gunner Stockton is a rising sophomore who is living out a dream playing for Georgia and being coached by Monken.
Seeing Bennett have success this past season has no doubt encouraged Stockton, who appears to be a bigger, stronger version of the 25-year-old former walk-on.
“To see how Stetson has played,” Stockton said, “I’m getting to learn a lot. I feel like that’s the biggest thing.”
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Georgia has an experienced coach at the ready if Monken should leave in the form of Mike Bobo, who is quite celebrated in his own right.
But the relationships the quarterbacks have built with Monken, in his offense, working under his demanding nature without the sort of personality issues others have had, make for a promising future.
Monken, likewise, made it clear how proud he is of the young quarterbacks he has been grooming and that could be enough to keep him at UGA even with promising NFL opportunities on the table.
Monken shared the value of the strong attitudes the young players in the Georgia quarterback room carried this season.
“Everybody wants to play, it’s hard to see down the road, all of us,” Monken said. “Lou Holtz said this to me when I was a GA …. everybody wants to be a chief before they’re a really good brave. There’s a lot to that.
“Everybody wants to be the chief before they have done everything else to be a brave. And he’s right. And those guys have done a great job of learning how to be great braves and putting themselves in a position to be the chief.”
Vandagriff, Beck and Stockton, are all in on Monken.
“Would you rather go somewhere and get thrown in the fire right away, and maybe not be as prepared you want, and maybe not have the guys around you as you would want? Or would you rather go to a place like Georgia and know you are going to get developed by one of the best play callers in the nation, one of the best offensive coordinators in the nation under Coach Monken,” Vandagriff said.
“Under Coach Monken, I feel I’m prepared and I’ve learned more than ever.”