What will UGA football’s offense look like under Todd Monken?

Marc Weiszer
 |  mweiszer@onlineathens.com

If UGA’s football season gets underway as scheduled on Sept. 26, Kirby Smart will be going up against the coach he brought to Athens who built a mammoth offensive line considered among the best in the nation during his time.

Sam Pittman signaled he’s not content to just ground and pound as Arkansas’ head coach.

“I don’t think you can just turn around down after down and hand the ball off to the tailback and say, ‘Hey, let’s go, sic ‘em,”’ Pittman, the former Bulldogs offensive line coach, said last December at his introductory press conference. “You might be able to do it in the third and fourth quarter. What we want is we want to be versatile. I love the RPO game. I like the quarterback read game. I like 11—which is one tight end and three wideouts. I like to throw the flash screens that is into the RPO system.”

Arkansas will see the UGA debut of coordinator Todd Monken. He was brought in to improve an offense that under James Coley last season and Jim Chaney the three seasons before that tried to take advantage of a roster that had future early round NFL draft picks at running back in Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and D’Andre Swift and offensive linemen Andrew Thomas, Isaiah Wilson and Isaiah Wynn.

Producing those talented backs has Georgia proud to stake a claim as ‘RBU,’ but coach Kirby Smart nearly bristled on the eve of preseason camp when it was suggested that Monken might be asked to “put his fingerprints on the Georgia way so to speak?”

Smart wondered what that meant? “Running the ball a lot, I guess,” a reporter told him. “Play-action maybe.”

“Running the ball a lot? OK,” Smart said. “I believe in doing what you have to do to win. So I’m going to let you define it how you feel comfortable defining it and then I’m going to define it with the way that gives us the best chance of success. We want to get the best football players we can on the field. We want to be able to score points. We think it takes that to win games and that’s never been any issue with me. I’ve never gotten on an offensive coordinator’s headphones and said ‘Please run the ball right here. Please run the ball right here.’ That’s never been the case. Unfortunately, I think some people might believe that but that’s not my goal. It’s to score points. I’ve never said ‘please don’t score more points, please don’t score.” I’ve never done that.”

In the press release announcing Monken’s hire last January, Smart didn’t mention the word passing at all. He did refer to Monken’s history “of establishing explosive offenses at each and every stop in his impressive career,” that includes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL, Oklahoma State and Southern Miss in the college game.

Monken’s offense in Tampa led the NFL in passing yards in 2018 and at Oklahoma State ranked second in in 2011 and eighth in 2012.

Georgia ranked 72nd in the nation in passing yards each of the last two seasons after ranking 105th in 2017 and 97th in 2016. The Bulldogs led the SEC in rushing on its way to the national title game in 2017 and again in 2018.

So what will Georgia’s offense look like under Monken with high-profile transfer quarterbacks Jamie Newman from Wake Forest and JT Daniels from Southern Cal in the fold?

“Right now, that might be the biggest mystery in the SEC,” former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy said on ESPN’s College Football Live. “What is this new offense going to look like under Coach Monken? And we really don’t know? Is it going to be more Air Raid? If it is, that might suit the skill set that J.T. Daniels has—underneath, very accurate with the football, not a huge arm, but very accurate and a good decision maker. But if it’s a system in which they really want the quarterback to use his legs and mobility, then that suits Jamie Newman who is an excellent pocket passer but is 6-foot-4, big and very athletic on top of it all.”

David Pollack, the former Georgia All-American defensive end who also was on air, has seen enough of the Bulldogs to dismiss Monken overhauling the offense.

“Do you think Kirby Smart’s going to run an Air Raid?” Pollack said.

“I think it’s a possibility,” McElroy said. “Air Raid principles.”

“Nooo!! Nooo!!” Pollack screamed.

Pollack did say that Georgia could be joining the “new age” in the sport with Newman running the zone read and having the ability to pull the ball and run with success.

Offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer is playing for his third offensive coordinator in as many years at Georgia.

“Coach Monken, he’s a great guy,” Salyer said. “He makes it simple for us, and we just try to go out there and execute it the best we can every day.”

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