It will be a major upset if Dan Lanning isn’t a finalist for the Broyles Award. He’s done a remarkable job this season directing one of the most dominant defenses of the last decade.
But what about Georgia’s other coordinator? I had high hopes when Todd Monken was hired, tempered by a concern over how much autonomy he would be granted by the man who brought him to Athens. I wouldn’t call 2020 a throwaway season in that regard, but it’s clear in hindsight that Monken was handicapped by the wreckage caused in the wake of COVID in both his quarterback room and in his ability to install his offense. It helped that Smart had enough respect for Monken’s ability to avoid micromanaging him.
This season should have generated its own set of issues, because of the injuries that have affected the Dawgs on the offensive side of the ball. Instead, Monken has serenely cruised on. Georgia finds itself twelfth nationally in scoring and a respectable, if not elite, 34th in offensive yards per play. (In Monken’s defense, some of that has to be chalked up to playing in a considerable amount of garbage time so far.) This has been accomplished with a starting quarterback who’s been in and out of the lineup, the team’s best receiver out all season, a banged up receiving corps and a starting right guard who also won’t play a single down in 2021.
It’s worked for a couple of reasons, one certainly being Stetson Bennett’s notable improvement under Monken’s tutelage. (It’s also worth taking note of the remarkable emergence of the three freshmen receivers. Georgia’s top four receivers right now consist of three freshmen and a sophomore.)
The other significant reason is Monken’s ability to shape an offense. His play design was impressive last season, even without a spring practice to install the offense. As we all saw then, he knows how to draw up formations that get receivers open.
Add to that this season’s takeaway ($$):
Georgia ranks fourth in the SEC in scoring offense, and that’s with injuries and the calling-off-the-dogs factor: Georgia’s score by quarters this season is 94-53-58-33.
Monken is living up to the idea that balance isn’t running and passing on the same drive. It’s being able to run or pass equally well and – all together now – taking what the defense gives you. Remember how it was pass-heavy for the UAB-South Carolina-Vanderbilt stretch, then run-heavy against Arkansas? Well against Auburn, it depended on the drive…
Taking what the defense gives you has been my holy grail for an offensive coordinator since I watched the early version of Mike Bobo repeatedly slam his head against the wall to maintain some sort of 50/50 run/pass equivalency, regardless of what was working at a given time. Speaking of which, the irony of watching Monken carve up Auburn’s defense with play action, culminating in the play of the game, while Bobo was reduced to letting Bo Nix play street ball in the hopes of generating some offense (sad to say, it did wind up generating Auburn’s only touchdown of the game) was rich, indeed.
Sure, it helps that Georgia has enough talent to overcome the injuries, but working in a bunch of newbies while not having as much consistency at the quarterback position as you’d like isn’t easy. Monken’s done good work. I hope he gets rewarded at crunch time with a bunch of those missing pieces getting back on the field.