Todd Monken arrived at Georgia last January with a reputation for pulling the strings on explosive offenses during his coaching career and using some salty language on the practice field.
“Whoever’s in control of the mike is going to have to have the beep button handy,” former Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden, who played for Monken in 2011 when he was offensive coordinator with the Cowboys, said soon after his hire. “He’s very colorful. His language is fiery but so much fun to be around. … Every cuss word in the book is at his disposal that’s for sure.”
There was no beep button for Monken during his Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl media zoom session in advance of Friday's game against the UC Bearcats when he dropped a couple of PG-13 words.
When talking about how the very different offseason and its repercussions affected how he wanted to build his Bulldogs offense, he ended with: "At the end of the day no one gives a s-- . …We're in a get-it-done business.”
On the first-year UGA coordinator trying to get more touches for different playmakers on offense: "For a while there everyone was on my ass about not getting the ball to George (Pickens)."
There hasn’t been much to complain about with Monken and the Georgia offense since quarterback JT Daniels took over except perhaps for the timing. The Southern Cal transfer, returning from a torn ACL injury in 2019, made his Bulldog debut when Florida had already taken control of the SEC East race.
Practices have been closed to the media all year due to COVID-19 protocols so reporters never could see or hear Monken coaching up his players in person and he was last made available before the season.
What’s been on display is Georgia’s offense which was expected to feature Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman before he opted out in the preseason, Then had D’Wan Mathis start the opener, former walk-on Stetson Bennett follow to start the next five games before giving way to Daniels.
“It was hard at the beginning because we were building what we want to do offensively,” Monken said. “Without a spring, it's hard to put together what we want to do from different places I've been in the staff collectively. You're going through things but there's no guarantee. What we're doing today could have been completely different than what we were introducing in May. It just is.”
Georgia’s offense lost three-year starting quarterback Jake Fromm and three players drafted in the top 35 in this year’s NFL draft in offensive linemen Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson and running back D’Andre Swift.
There are no surefire offensive players expected to go that high in 2021 although Daniels would certainly be in the conversation if he chose to make the jump.
Georgia could return running backs Zamir White, James Cook and Kendall Milton along with top wideouts Pickens, Kearis Jackson, Jermaine Burton and tight end Darnell Washington. Receiver Dominick Blaylock will also be back from a second ACL injury.
“I think a lot of young guys have matured tremendously from George to Jermaine to big Warren (McClendon) on the line,” Daniels said.
It has translated into a more explosive offense.
Even with Daniels only playing in three of nine games, Georgia’s plays of 20 or more yards are up from 4.1 per game last season to 5.1 this season, according to CFBStats.com
The Bulldogs have 18 pass plays of 30 or more yards in nine games after having 19 in 14 games last season.
With Daniels as quarterback, Georgia averages 12.3 explosive plays on offense compared to 7.8 in the first six games this season. Monken measures those by 16 or more yards a pass and 12 or more a rush.
“When you put a healthy JT Daniels in the lineup at quarterback for Georgia, it’s a different football team,” former UCLA coach Jim Mora said on ESPN. “They add a dimension that they didn’t have and that’s a pure passer. This is an extremely talented player and we saw it late in the season. Who knows where they would be if they had him earlier but they didn’t and now we know where they are.”
Weeden sounded prophetic with this assessment last winter of Monken at Georgia.
“If Monken likes his quarterback and he’s got some weapons on the outside, I think the sky’s the limit,” he said. “With the athletic ability some of those guys have talent wise, it’s got the makings to be something pretty good.”
Monken certainly likes what Daniels is bringing to the position and the offense and Pickens’ playmaking ability on the other side of those Daniels downfield passes.
“I think we're only going to get better and get on the same page more and more during the offseason and 2021,” Monken said.
He said Pickens, finishing his second season, is still young and joins raw talent at the skill positions for next season. Daniels mentioned freshman wideout Arian Smith who was sidelined much of the season by injury and Burton who has 26 catches for 398 yards and 3 touchdowns.
“It's an exciting time, especially for me,” Monken said. “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. College football is different than NFL. There is a lot of differences that I think we'll continue to build off of and develop who we are as we keep moving forward.”