After spending all of his career as a football coordinator or position coach, Todd Monken never seemed to get the recognition he deserved for the successes of his former teams. After 22 years of dissecting defenses on film and developing young talent, Monken will finally have the opportunity to call all the shots.
University President, Rodney Bennett, hired Monken on Dec. 11, 2012 to replace former head football coach Ellis Johnson following a dismal 2012-2013 season.
“It’s an honor and a privilege today to be the head football coach at Southern Miss,” Monken said at his introductory press conference. “You want high expectations; you want to be in a place where winning is expected, and this is one of those places.”
The winless Golden Eagles are in need of change, and Monken believes he can provide that.
“I could see it in their eyes; they didn’t forget how to win, how to work and how to compete and they’re eager to turn the page,” Monken said. “We just have to change the mindset a little bit.”
After inheriting a Golden Eagles offense that posted only 168.3 yards passing per game and 19.7 points scored per game, the first-year head coach will need to focus on offense.
Like former head coach Larry Fedora, Monken previously coached at Oklahoma State University. In 2011, his tenure as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach led to a record-setting season.
The Cowboys set single-season records for points scored, touchdowns scored, first downs, pass completions, pass attempts, touchdown passes, completion percentage, yards per play and third-down conversions. OSU also led the Big 12 conference and ranked second in the country in scoring and passing offense and third in total offense.
Two days into camp, Monken realized he had a difficult situation with the team’s quarterback. Following a recent media event, the new coach could only describe the quarterback duel as “inconsistent.”
Luckily, Monken knows how to develop a quarterback.
As a quarterback coach in 2011, Monken guided OSU’s starting quarterback Brandon Weeden to single-season school records for passing yards, passes completed, completion percentage and touchdown passes. Weeden also posted single-game school records for passing yards and total offense. Weeden was drafted in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns.
Weeden would not be the only draftee of OSU’s 2012 class. Wide receiver Justin Blackmon was also selected in the first round. The Jacksonville Jaguars picked Blackmon following his stellar season under Monken’s coordination. In 2011, Blackmon caught 121 passes for 1,522 yards and 18 touchdowns, only 30 fewer catches than the entire Eagles receiving corps in 2012.
“We have enough talent there,” Monken said after being questioned about his young receiving corps. “We have really good coaches and really good players; we just got to coach them up.”
The young group of receivers will benefit from Monken’s experience at both the collegiate and professional level of coaching wide receivers.
As an NFL wide-receivers coach with the Jaguars, Monken coached the trio of Mike Thomas, Mercedes Lewis and Mike Sims-Walker. Lewis earned a Pro-Bowl selection in 2010.
Monken will also work with his coaching staff in developing a consistent defense to balance the team. The first-year coach believes practice will be key to this season’s success.
“Put the pressure on them in practice. That’s what we try to do every day,” Monken said. “If they can ignore us getting after them every day, they’ve got to be able to ignore fans when they’re screaming at them or when they’re in a hostile environment.”
“That’s what absence of fear is,” he said.
With games against Arkansas, Boise St. and Nebraska making up three of the first four games of 2013, that statement will be put to the test early.
Monken has wanted this opportunity for a long time. With his new visions of offense and inheriting a selection of talent at defense and special teams, the first-year head coach will have the chance to revive Southern Miss football and create a team capable of returning to the pinnacle of Conference USA once again.