March 10, 2013

Monken gets job he sought

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Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

Todd Monken wanted the job at Southern Miss. He wanted
it bad.

Following the departure of Larry Fedora to North Carolina and coming off of the program's 12-2 season of 2011, Monken was passed over for the head coaching position in favor of Ellis Johnson. Monken subsequently took over the post on Dec. 10 after Johnson was fired following the 0-12 campaign last season.

Monken said he always viewed Southern Miss as the ideal spot to cut his teeth as a head coach.

"There is no manual for this, but I have a belief that every job is hard," he said. "If you are at LSU and you don't win 10 games a year, the fans are pissed. If you are at a lesser school and don't breathe life into the program, it isn't any better for you. What I looked for was a program that doesn't have barriers to success.

"I wanted a place that was as committed to winning as I am, and I always saw that at Southern Miss. It is on us to do the right things now, but there is nothing about this place that limits where we can go."

Success had been all the fans of the program had known for the better part of two decades. The 2012 season brought the first losing record in 18 years. It was also the first time in the history of college football a team followed a 12-win season with a 12-loss season.

If Monken has his way, the results on the field will be the easiest thing to change.

"I will never look at our schedule and think that we can't beat every team on it," he said. "If we do certain things right in each game, we can win them all. With 18 of the last 19 seasons being winning seasons, the expectation here is easy: have another winning season.

"We should be bowl eligible again this year. That is the mark of successful programs, and that is the bottom line."

The 47-year-old coach has spent time at a wide array of programs during his career. He sandwiched stints at Grand Valley State and Eastern Michigan around a year at Notre Dame. He also was at Oklahoma State and LSU and in the NFL.

He has seen enough to know that a coach is only as good as the players he has on the field.

It is that foundation that makes Monken an avid believer in the power of recruiting.

"If you don't have good enough players to execute your scheme, you can only go so far," he said. "The X's and O's are meaningless if you don't have the right guys.

"At Southern Miss, we have to look around and figure out how to become Boise State, how to become Kansas State. These are programs that are winning at a very high level without national-level recruits. Half of recruiting is selling, and the other half is evaluation. Just because a kid wants to commit to you doesn't mean you want him on your team."

Monken chose nearly his entire class in 2013. With the season crumbling, there was not much momentum in recruiting and the program went from Aug. 6 until Dec. 17 without having a player pledge to it.

Southern Miss closed with 25 signees -- seven of them rated as three-star players -- of which 19 committed to Monken.

The rest of the roster is new to him. Learning what he needs is time consuming.

"For me, the football isn't hard and the recruiting isn't hard," he said. "Together there is a lot of it, though. As an assistant you aren't really deciding anything, and as a head coach you decide everything.

"Right now I have to decide what has an effect on winning and spend the majority of my time on that. Recruiting and developing talent, to me, is what has the greatest effect on winning, so that is what we are doing."

One of the things that Monken is in charge of is spring practice. Last week, he announced that the team would start drills on March 19 and conclude with the Black and Gold spring game on April 20.

The next month will give him time to make plans.

"We really need to see what we have so we can start moving forward," he said. "I need to know what I need to do and then decide where to go."

So far, Monken has been slow in extending offers, patiently waiting to see his team on the field. Southern Miss has issued 16 offers for the Class of 2014 -- a number that will grow greatly.

"I need to know what pitch they are buying about us," Monken said. "I need to know what I can sell, too.

"There are things here that have nothing to do with us. The tradition of success and how close to home the school is are things I cannot do anything about. When we get in on a kid, how much attention we pay to them, and if we have playing time to offer are things I need to make decisions on, and I need more information before we can attack this thing."

One thing is certain, once Monken gets his head around what he has and what he needs, there will be a press on players.

"All it takes to learn how important recruiting is," Monken said, "is to spend some time at a place without it and then look back at what you didn't have.

"We will be going after players because it is the players who make the difference."




 

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