Feb. 13, 2008
The fourth in a series of interviews with the new members of the Georgia Tech football coaching staff. This week’s Q&A is Jeff Monken, coach of the slot backs and the special teams coordinator. The questions were asked by the Voice of the Yellow Jackets, Wes Durham:
Click “Video” to watch Wes Durham’s interview with Jeff Monken.
Q: The Monken family has a long history of coaching football. How many people in your family have coached football?
A: We are lovers not fighters. There have been 12 of us who either currently or at some point have been coaches — high school or college coaches. It is a great resource for all of us who coach and my dad was my high school coach. My brother was a high school coach for some time. Most of us now are the sons of the five Monken brothers that were high school coaches, head high school coaches at the same time.
Q: That must make for some fun holidays?
A: It does; a lot of arguments but it is good and fun to be able to have family that you can share stories with, that are similar with similar problems and successes and failures. They are all great coaches and a tremendous resource for me and we are for each other.
Q: Jeff, we have had a lot of interesting conversations and visited with various people and staff talking about bringing the option offense to Georgia Tech. Slot backs, I think everyone understands, are the guys on the edge of the offensive line. Equate that to what a layperson might know a slot back as. It might be a receiver, running back, it could be anything.
A: A little bit of both. I guess it is called a hybrid position. We would ideally like to get a guy that is multifaceted in what he can do. He can be a receiver because we will ask those guys to line up in space and be what people get into four or five wide receivers sets. They would be not the outside but the next receiver in from the outside. As well as being a tailback, where they are catching the pitch, a lot of what they will be asked to do is on the perimeter, not a lot of carries in the tackle box, which fits for the kind of guy we are going to recruit and the kind of guy that is going to play the offense. That is the neat thing. You’ve got six skill guys in the game at all times and they all have different job descriptions. They all need to have different talents different strengths. But those guys who play slots, we will ask them to do a lot of different things and one of the most important things they have to do is block. So, they are going to have to be physical and tough. So you really get a combination of guys with talents who play that position.
Q:The change from the Naval Academy… when you come to Georgia Tech, a lot of the principals all stay in place. I know Coach Johnson listed some of the things that you guys have to recruit to the Academy, some of the same principals that you have to recruit to here. But at the same time you can go get — and no disrespect to those guys, they are great players and great people — but you can go get a little better athlete I would suspect?
A: No question and we are excited about that. I don’t think recruiting changes, it’s the same kind of effort and work ethic that typically pays off for you. If you work hard at it and you are able to develop relationships and you work at building relationships with coaches and players, you can have success recruiting. There are similarities in terms of academic requirements — and we know there are some limitations but that is not all bad. Because a lot of times when you have to recruit a more elite student in terms of a student-athlete, often times you get a more quality person. I think it frustrates people a lot of times because at a place like Navy we certainly did not have as good a talent as most of the people we played, but we won more games than we lost. I am sure it was frustrating to the people we played because they had better players, but as Coach Johnson has always said, it’s not better players that win, it’s the best team that wins. So we will identify and find the guys that fit our system the best and we are confident we will find success.
Q: Let’s spend a moment on special teams that will be another piece of your watch. You come here at a time where Tech will lose its national punter of the year and its best kicker. Unfortunately, the cupboard is not full, but at the same time a little exciting because you bring a very effective scheme here. Navy was extremely proficient in kick returns. You guys were very good in punt coverage and things like that as well.
A: I think that special teams have more to do with attitude than it is anything. We’ll have athletes to be able to succeed on special teams. Certainly they did a good job (here last year). Coach (Charles) Kelly did an outstanding job with special teams here. Coach Johnson’s philosophy is different from a lot of people’s philosophy on special teams. Though I am the coordinator, I won’t handle every special team and I won’t coach every special team player. I will probably oversee only one of the four major special teams being punt, punt return, kickoff, and kickoff return and we will have a different coach overseeing each special team. It spreads out the responsibility and it also gives everybody on the staff a sense of ownership in special teams. And I think it emphasizes to the players, which I think is most important, that special teams are important. When you kick the ball or you receive a punt, when you kickoff or you receive a kickoff, there is 40 or 50 yards of field position being changed hands on one play. So, those are obvious important plays and emphasize to the players that those are important and we want all of them to be involved. And we want them to place importance on those plays. We are going to have the entire staff involved, so there will be a different staff member that will oversee the different special teams and then the other members of the staff will be the coaching staff on each one of those teams. On the punt team we may have seven or eight coaches coaching the punt team. For the kickoff team we might five or six guys coaching, so there are lots of eyes on the players. They are getting coached just as they would on an offensive, defensive staff and hopefully that will contribute to the success on special teams as it has for us in the past.
That also enhances the players’ role of importance. He might be a third team guy, but he knows that if he is on special teams, he’s getting just the same amount of attention as a starting guy gets.
A: There is, and Coach (Johnson) places a great deal of emphasis on special teams. He places a great deal on it in practice. He makes a big deal out of it Mondays when we meet with the team. That is the first thing that we cover. The entire football team watches the special teams tape together and hears the corrections and the praises from the good plays and really encourages those guys who are not starters on the offense and defense that they can be a huge contributor to the football team and our success by making plays on the special teams. So, a lot of guys that you don’t hear their name on the offensive or defensive snap, hopefully those are going to be the guys who are going to pin their ears back and play with a tremendous amount of effort on special teams’ plays and try to make contributions to our football team.