November 3, 2009

Monken clears the air

For Georgia Tech Slot Backs and Special Teams coach Jeff Monken, the 2009 season has been a rollercoaster of triumphs and heartbreak. Monken's top A-back, Anthony Allen is having an outstanding season and the other A-backs have played extremely well this year, but the Jackets are near the bottom of the league in almost every special teams category this season especially kick coverage. Jacketsonline caught up with Monken to talk about the kicking problems, the talent at A-back and where Orwin Smith fits into the Jackets plans.

What are you looking to do to fix the kick coverage because it seems like both the kicking and the coverage have been problems at different times?

"It has been a combination of the two. We got really gun shy. Last year we kicked and I went back and looked at it because I have been losing sleep over it, we kicked four kicks out of bounds last year and we kicked three balls out of bounds this year in the first four games. So we move the ball and start kicking in some different places, so that Blair was not forced to kick it to one place all the time and hopefully that will keep him from kicking the ball out of bounds, which we have not done. We have not kicked it well or deep at times. There have been times when he kicks it decent and we don't do a good job of covering it."

What is different this year compared to last season?

"It is frustrating. We were better than average at covering kicks last year and this year we are dead last in the league. We are not coaching it any differently and we have the same kicker. It is frustrating and we got to do a much better job of coaching the guys and getting the right people in position to make a play. It is my fault and I will take the blame for it, not having the right people in personnel wise or getting them in the right position. Not being detailed enough and them not understanding what we want. I am not sure what it is, but it is clearly not all their fault. It is my fault too. Coach Johnson has had conversations with the whole staff about the kickoff coverage specifically and exactly what he wants. We are going to try to get the right guys in there in positions to make plays and put a greater emphasis on it and see if we can get better."

You have tried some different combinations and used faster guys in recent weeks. Is there a lack of talent in this area on the team?

"We have tried and you want to have guys who can run, but you need guys to lay the hammer down when there is a wedge or they are getting double teamed. They need to fight through those and the little guys are not as good at that. I think we really have to look at where we place our guys and what teams are trying to do against us that particular week and come up with a scheme that will help us cover the kick better."

On the other side of the ball, Roddy Jones finally had a big game. How nice was it to see him finally get a chance to score and make some big plays after spending a lot of the year blocking for Anthony Allen?

"We noticed the same thing that he always ended up on the block side. It is not by design that way, but he lines up on the right side and Anthony lines up on the left side and for whatever reason the play got checked that way or called that way. If we were on the hash, the ball went one direction and he went the other so he was not in there. If he was playing every single snap he would have more touches, but we are also playing Embry Peeples and Marcus Wright more. Some of those guys are getting touches Roddy would normally be getting and Anthony would be getting. It is a credit to him because he keeps playing and he never complains about getting the ball. He just wants to win. Roddy Jones is one of the most tremendous people I have ever been around. He has a great personality and is a great team player who cares and wants to win. That is his number one concern, not how many times he gets the ball. He would rather win and never touch the ball, than touch the ball 40 times and lose. He does not care about that and I believe that. If you are a team guy, you do not care about those things. You want to win first. In the same regard, everybody gets excited when they get an opportunity to touch the ball and you are a skill player on offense and be able to score touchdowns. That is fun, I am glad for him, and he deserves that. He ran the ball hard on Saturday night and did a nice job."

Do you have any regrets about playing Orwin Smith this year since he is pretty much just working on special teams? Did you think he would have a bigger impact on the offensive side of the ball going into the season?

"He has mostly been a special team's guy playing on the punt and kick teams as well as kickoff coverage. We do not have any regrets. We would regret looking back if we wished we had found a place to play him because he can help us. He is a good player and he is going to be an outstanding player. It is very difficult as a freshman to play anywhere on the field and really get an in depth and great understanding of what you are trying to accomplish and all the little detailed coaching points. When you play week after week and things change, we put wrinkles in or change the way we block something, people line up in different defenses and we say, if this guys is lined up here and not here, it changes your count or who you are going to block or it changes where you insert on a certain play for a block, it is tough for a freshman. He understands the big picture that the play is going this direction and I am the pitch back or I am the blocking back. He does not always know who do I block or where do I go. If this is tagged onto this play, it changes what I do. I think the freshmen get a little bogged down mentally as freshmen. It is easier in some places to play at some positions. That is why you do not see a lot of freshmen playing. Jaybo Shaw was a real exception because he was able to come in, play as a true freshman last year, get significant snaps, and do a good job. That is hard particularly at that position.

We have always in this offense had a freshman or two that played. I have always had a slot guy who has been able to help us. Even at Navy when I think back about those guys, there and how productive Reggie Campbell was. He hardly played at all as a freshman. He was one of our best players by the time he was a senior. I think Orwin will be the same. We do not have any regrets and we will be able to use him down the stretch here. We used him more on Saturday night and we will be able to use him more down the stretch at A-back."

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