One-on-One With Todd Monken

Oklahoma State begins spring football practice Monday, and that is when new offensive coordinator Todd Monken gets to take his powerful and explosive offense out for a spin. Monken returns to Oklahoma State, where he had coached previously under Les Miles, after stops at Notre Dame, LSU, and most recently NFL with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars where he had just been promoted to quarterback coach.

Monken comes from a coaching family and was a quarterback in college at Know College in Illinois. Having had some two weeks on the job to prepare for all this, Monken appeared on Sportstalk with Robert Allen and Friends on Triple Play Sports Radio and here is part of that conversation.

RA: In the past six years you were at LSU with Les Miles for two years and then four years with the Jacksonville Jaguars. How much has Stillwater changed and does it feel different to you being back??
Monken: Well, Stillwater feels the same, but the facilities have changed a bunch, Robert. The money that was pumped into the end zone facility was fantastic. It is, obviously, easy to recruit to and I think our players understand that.

RA: You were actually here to work out wide receiver Emanuel Tolbert from SMU, who met you up here, so you had seen a lot of this.
Monken: It is neat and you know when I was here last time my office was in Gallagher-Iba on the first floor overlooking the stadium and I thought that was neat. But compared to the offices now it is really nice what we have and overlooking the stadium from the west end zone. I was here with my wife and son and we got to stay with Mike, and I was working out a receiver at SMU and I saw then that it had certainly changed.

RA: You have been in the NFL and from my past experience many coaches consider going to the NFL getting a doctorate in football coaching. How much did coaching in the NFL do for Todd Monken?
Monken: The higher you get in the profession and when you get to the NFL level, obviously, it helps you. It does, in terms of recognition and in working every day on football. When I went to LSU, I thought that was the best move at the time. When I went to the NFL, I thought that was the best move at the time, and now that I have moved to Oklahoma State, I feel this is the best move at the time. The NFL is a different animal because you are dealing with different types of people that you are coaching. They are different ages, some have families. You include the money issue that they have to deal with. Here everybody is on the same money, they all get a scholarship and they are all on the same meal plan. It is exactly the same, and in the NFL everybody makes different. You have a guy in his third year and in comes a rookie that is making more money from day one than the guy that is playing and that can lead to animosity. The money issue is really what you have to deal with. The thing is you spend every day on football and if you spend every day at one thing then you get better at your trade. I think that part of it, and being around the best players in the world and you learn from them. I just think the more you do anything then the better you get at it.

RA: You've had a whirlwind the last three weeks. There have been meetings with coaches on offense, meetings with Brandon Weeden because of his knowledge of the offense, and lots of studying. Are you happy with where you are going into spring?
Monken: Well, no, I'm not happy because it has just been two weeks. We wish we had more time but we don't. What you do is you work your rear end off to not only learn what they had done but to learn the players better, analyze what you like and dislike, and then kind of move forward with it. It's not broke here. You've got good players, we're going to score points, we're going to be exciting to watch, and that has been exciting and fun. It has been a little overwhelming in a couple of weeks to be getting ready to go on Monday and be inducted into a new system. To be honest, it is all semantics, whether it is run game or pass game, what you are doing, it is just learning the nuances of it. That is exciting and rarely do you get to take over a job and change your course. What we did at Jacksonville isn't anywhere near what we do here. Now that doesn't mean the way you teach a certain route or a run play, isn't the details of what you do and how you teach it to your team, how you go about it formation-wise and schematics is not the same. That is exciting. You just feel like you are rushed into it. The players won't feel that way and the coaches that have been here don't feel that way, but myself and some of the new coaches will feel that way which is rushed.

RA: You joked about this process being a little like picking up a controller and playing Madden NFL Football. But I get the feeling that as you get comfortable in this and begin calling the offense it won't feel that way, there will be a Todd Monken feel to this.
Monken: Anybody's offense you can take and put it on the board and if you brought 10 people in they would all call it differently, how they dial it up and how they go about setting things up. I was being silly about the Madden, but my point is right now it is just a bunch of plays on a board as you are picking things out and finding out what did the players like, what were the reasons why the offense was successful, and what can you tweak and have the offense remain successful. As you move forward I have to call it. If there is something that they did and we don't feel comfortable with it then we have to tweak it or it's not ours. Otherwise you always have an out, this really wasn't my system or it's not something we believed in. Bull, now it's ours. Just like what Dana (Holgorsen) did, what Dana ran was not exactly what Mike Leach did. He made it his own. He evolved. You take a base structure and what the players did well and you make it your own because it has to be yours. You have to take ownership in what you do. Not change it dramatically, but tweak it a little bit and make it ours.

OSU fan: What will I see differently from last year that will have your stamp on it?
Monken:> I don't think initially that you will see much. It will be very similar to the way we approach the no huddle, the way we attack defenses. I think being here only two weeks and heading into our third week we've got to go into it with what the players know. There will be tweaks into some route adjustments, but to the common eye you probably wouldn't notice it.

RA: You have probably never dealt with a 27-year-old quarterback. There are not many of those kind of guys around.
Monken: That's a great point. Someone asked what I though of his football IQ, Brandon Weeden. I said we are all knowledgeable of what we have been around. In terms of the system that they ran last year his ability to run the offense is tremendous. His ability to relay that to me, obviously, is not anything that he is going to have to run at the next level. One thing is being older he is more mature in the point of letting his guard down and saying what he believes, and then when he doesn't understand then asking. I think that is one thing as you grow older and mature you get better with. Younger players don't want to ask a silly question and don't want to be called out and they won't actually tell you how they feel. You want players to be honest with you and if they don't get it, ask you. You want them to tell you what they believe in. You can correct things when someone communicates. Don't cover things up. Work your rear off and if you don't understand something then ask.

RA: You've watch the players the last few weeks and you must be getting a feel for these guys. What do you think?
Monken: I think the one thing that you see and we don't get to watch them doing football things, but we get to see them compete and show enthusiasm with their teammates. Those are the things we get to see, their body language, athletic ability and how they like to compete. It is really a good group of guys. I have been really impressed. A great group of guys that seem to enjoy each other, enjoy coming to the stadium, enjoy coming to work and doing those things. That is the start, getting guys that really like to play football and like being around other people.

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