This time a year ago, Todd Monken was preparing for his first set of spring practices at Georgia. Jamie Newman was the projected starting quarterback for the Bulldogs. JT Daniels hadn’t even entered the transfer portal, much less backed his bags for Georgia.
Then the pandemic wiped everything out, Daniels transferred in, Newman opted out, D’Wan Mathis and Stetson Bennett started the first six games of the 2020 season before Daniels finished going 4-0 in the last four games of the season.
Monken’s first season at Georgia gave off big, “Other than that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln,” vibes. Yet be the end of it, there were reasons for optimism heading into the 2021 season.
“Just very impressed with how he sets everything up. He is very intelligent,” Georgia offensive line coach Matt Luke said of Monken. “It has been really good to get around that pro-style, and I have learned a lot with the short time that we have been together, and it is only going to get better moving forward, so that is what I am excited about.”
Related: Matt Luke explains Georgia offensive line shuffle, what lies ahead
Now Georgia’s players and Monken will get to spend a good bit more time together. The Bulldogs bring back their top seven pass catchers from the 2020 season, led by George Pickens. Daniels bypassed the NFL draft, while the Bulldogs return their top seven pass-catchers.
That’s before adding in that Georgia will also bring back running backs Zamir White and James Cook. Running backs coach Dell McGee linked their decisions back to when Nick Chubb and Sony Michel did so following the 2016 season.
Those legendary Georgia running backs both returned for the successful 2017 run where the running game flourished in year two under Kirby Smart.
Most importantly, Daniels also elected to spend another year in Athens after a choppy 2020. The Bulldogs are hoping that with the pieces in place, they can replicate what happened during the 2017 season in 2021.
“With the quarterback position, the continuity of the offense, that’s critical,” Smart said.” You want to be able to get some relationships built there. Continuity towards the end of the year began to improve, obviously offensively, we have a lot of a guys that are coming back but that doesn’t mean that you’re going to have success because they’re coming back.
Monken will get a real spring as will Daniels and the others, as Georgia is slated to begin spring practices on March 16. When that day finally rolls around, the Georgia offense will be in much better shape than it was a season ago.
Smart added that the continuity with staff and players has already put Georgia farther ahead than it was compared to this time last season. With an actual spring, it should allow Daniels, Monken and the rest of the offense to build off a promising 2020 conclusion.
Related: Kirby Smart previews Georgia football DNA, faster-paced pass drills, defensive challenges
In the final four games with Daniels at quarterback, Georgia averaged 36.7 points per game, 486 yards and 7.5 yards per play. In the first six games of the season, when Daniels was recovering from knee surgery, those numbers were 25.3 points per game, 382 yards per game and 5.45 yards per play.
The numbers with Daniels were an improvement for Georgia and a step in the right direction. But there are still more steps to go if Georgia is going to reach the levels that Alabama and LSU have in the previous two seasons.
In 2020, Alabama averaged 48.5 points per game, 541 yards per game and 7.81 yards per play on its way to winning a national title. When LSU did so the season before, its offense put up 48.4 points per game, 581 yards per game and 7.89 yards per play.
Those are the numbers Georgia must approach for the Bulldogs to achieve their national title aspirations. It should be noted though that both of those teams returned significant contributors at running back and wide receiver and brought back quarterbacks with starting experience.
The Bulldogs’ offense won’t look like 2020 Alabama or 2019 LSU on the first day of spring practice. It’s going to take time for all the pieces to come together.
When Monken spoke prior to Georgia’s win in the Peach Bowl he acknowledged that fact. But you could also sense the excitement for what the offense at Georgia could look like during the 2021 season.
“As we’re able to move forward, a guy like JT, who is certainly capable of distributing the ball, understanding where we want to go with the football,” Monken said in December.
“It’s an exciting time, especially for me. Hopefully, we’ll have a chance to have a legit off-season, be able to study what we did, what the difference is that we want to change as we move forward.”
Connor in Coverage: UGA offense under Todd Monken ‘is only going to get better moving forward’
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