Question and Answer with Jeff Monken
Jeff Monken the 45 year old head football coach at Georgia Southern University has the Eagles on the right track back to IAA dominance. Monken took over the struggling Georgia Southern football program and did two things. The first was to bring back the spread option attack that was the heart of the six National Championship years at GSU. The second was to get The Eagles back into the playoffs. This was the first return of of the eagles to the playoffs since 2005. Monken’s squad also defeated 5 ranked opponents on their way to a 10-5 in Jeff’s inaugural season.
In 2011 the quest to the National title continued with Georgia Southern University’s second straight trip to the IAA playoffs. The Eagles finished the year with a 11-3 mark. One of those losses came from the Division IA BCS National Champions Alabama. In that loss Monken’s spread option attack creased the Crimson Tide defense for over 300 yards rushing. The Eagles had more yards rushing against Nick Saban’s defense than any team on the ‘Bama’s schedule. Late in the second half Georgia Southern trailed by only ten.
Monken learned the offense from option guru Paul Johnson at Hawaii, Georgia Southern, Navy and Georgia Tech. Success followed everywhere the option went. The Paul Johnson Spread Option Offense was the basis of the turnaround at all of those schools. Then Jeff did it a second time at Georgia Southern as the Head Coach.
Tony: Who were the three biggest influences in your career?
Jeff: First my Dad, Mike Monken, who was a high school coach at Joliet High School just outside of Chicago. Then my Grandmother Louise and my Mom, Nancy were both big influences on me.
Tony: How was the transition of going from a position coach to a head coach like?
Jeff: It was very tough. I was Paul Johnson’s assistant for 13 years but he was always the offensive coordinator. He knew the offense better than anyone so he was the offensive coordinator. I learned from Paul that this offense was a great equalizer. The only time we had better players than our opponents was when we were hear when Paul was the head coach. But at Navy or Georgia Tech we always were the underdogs as far as talent.
Tony: What were some of the differences between being an assistant and a head coach?
Jeff: The main thing was the sense of responsibility for the whole program. Every aspect of the program is in your hands and your responsibility. The buck stops here. The second thing is that as an assistant it’s easy to make a lot of suggestions but as a head coach it’s up to you to make the tough decisions. The other thing is all the side stuff. Everyone wants your attention: marketing, fund raising and even keeping track of Twitter and social media.
Tony: What is your option philosophy? All option coaches differ a little in their approach even though we believe in the option. What’s your philosophy?
Jeff: Option football has a place in football. It’s a pure form of football. We take an elementary approach; we are going to try and score as much as we can. We want to make every possession count and score on a high percentage on those possessions. We are working on getting more speed in the offense so we can break more big plays like we did when Paul Johnson was the head coach and we won the National Championship. When you have the best players on the field and run an option attack it’s really explosive. We would have one or two play drives. Our average scoring drive was under two minutes.
Tony: So you’re not really interested in controlling the clock like Navy or the underdog option teams?
Jeff: A team like Navy has to control the clock. They almost beat south Carolina by controlling the clock and limiting possessions but we are not overly concerned.
Tony: What do you see as some of the new trends in offensive football and in particular, the option attack.
Jeff: More diversity in formations. This past season we were in the shotgun 30% of the time and it really helped us. The Shot Gun is easier to protect the passer, so you can get more diversity in your plays. The other advantage of the Shot Gun is that it negates very good two techniques.
Tony: How do people try and defend you? Is there a specific front or stunt that you are seeing a lot?
Jeff: Everyone has a philosophy of how to stop the triple option and our particular style of triple option but there is no common defense that we are seeing a lot of.
Tony: What about the future of Georgia Southern Football?
Jeff: The first thing is we have to bring in and develop great players. We lost 22 seniors from last year’s tem including our quarterback. So we have to get guys ready to play. The second thing is we have to play relentlessly. We want to really go out and play hard all the time. If we can do that we will win a lot of games.
Tony: Thanks for your time and I’m looking forward to Georgia Southern having another great year.