WATCH: Former LSU star shares insights into playing in Todd Monken pass scheme
ATHENS — ESPN analyst Jacob Hester can appreciate how the Georgia football offense plans to transition to a more wide-open approach better than anyone.
Hester was at LSU when the Tigers made the same sort of transition after Nick Saban left and current Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken became the team’s pass game coordinator working with then-OC Jimbo Fisher.
“It was a system that was friendly to everybody,” said Hester, who as a running back led the Bayou Bengals in rushing and receiving in 2006 when the team led the SEC in total offense.
“ We were an innovative offense. We were fullback and 21 (two backs, one tight end, two receivers) personnel. but we also opened it up.”
Indeed, Monken is best known for his “Air Raid” principles and helping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers set a franchise record for passing yardage in 2018, but he has done it many different ways at many different places.
Georgia is still sorting things out in fall camp, having not had the benefit of spring football and been limited to mostly Zoom player meetings during the offseason.
But the full pads have only recently (Monday) gone on. The most important scrimmages of the preseason are coming up the next two Saturdays leading up to the Sept. 26 season-opening game at Arkansas.
Hester said Georgia’s hopes of winning a national championship will have much to do with how effective Monken’s offensive can be in his first season calling plays under Kirby Smart.
“I think the defense is going be one of the best in the country,” Hester said. “The personnel coming back sets up nicely. It all comes back to the offense.
“I like the fact they have multiple quarterbacks pushing for that job. You don’t want one guy thinking ‘this is my job,’ just rolling out of bed. I think it’s good JT Daniels got that waiver … at some point, he’s pushing for that job.”
Hester, who still lives in the Baton Rouge area and hosts an LSU-themed show in addition to his work for ESPN, shared how LSU found its groove with multiple weapons last season.
It was good insight considering Smart is looking for Georgia to do much of the same, in terms of spreading things out and using more tempo.
“Think about LSU last year: You snap the ball to Joe Burrow, he’s the number one overall pick, and if it’s an RPO he’s possibly faking it to Clyde Edwards-Elaire, who is a first-round pick,” Hester said,
“And then he might throw it to Justin Jefferson who is a first-round pick, and then they had the Biletnikoff Award winner, Ja’Marr Chase who was another option, so if you are in this system you have to have guys step up.”
Hester said he believes Georgia will go with a running back-by committee approach, but must answer questions in the receiving corps.
“At receiver, it’s who can step up and be that number two receiver beside George Pickens,” Hester said. “When you look at the LSU offense, and we make that comparison because they are similar in wanting to make that one year change, from what you were to what you want to be, so who’s going to be that second receive?
“You’ve got to figure out who’s going to be Option 2, Option 3 and Option 4 in an offense that’s trying to spread the football around,” he said. “Run the RPOs, because you can’t just be a one trick pony .You can’t run the RPOs and have only one guy you count on.”
The LSU offense of 2006, with JaMarcus Russell completing 67.8 percent of his passes, used many different weapons.
“Coach Monken was really good about telling JaMarcus to get it down to your running backs, get it to your tight end,” Hester said. “He utilized every weapon and didn’t just worry about it being two receivers out there in their routes.
“You don’t have to be a world beater on every single play. You’re going to have some route combinations you feel good about, but also the back and the tight end, those can be weapons.”
Georgia football preseason