'Group of Five' countdown, No. 4: Jeff Monken, Army
The biggest misconception held by some surrounding college football is that it's the schmoozers who make the best recruiters.
It's those blessed with the best ability to project talent who make the best recruiters. They can study high school players, make educated guesses as to how their bodies will change and how their minds will fit playing certain positions in that school's system.
Bill Snyder's Kansas State teas consistently are better in games than in annual recruiting rankings and the same goes for Gary Patterson's TCU squads.
At the moment, Kansas stands last in line in recruiting players from the Big 12 geographic footprint and that has everything to do with the school's losing tradition, especially in recent years.
Kansas has resorted to recruiting an excessive number of players from junior colleges to try to compensate. Long-term, another avenue is available. If Kansas were to hire a coach who runs a triple-option offense, it could recruit athletes who might not draw the interest of other Big 12 schools but would fit the system. For example, smaller, faster, quicker quarterbacks who are nothing special as throwers would fit. Smaller, quicker, gritty offensive linemen with brains well-suited to quickly processing technical assignments with precision who don't have the frames to excel at pass-blocking also might thrive in a flexbone offense.
Moving almost entirely away from the pass would be a bold move and a fascinating one to watch unfold.
No. 4 — Jeff Monken, Army
Age: 51 Record at school: 24-26 Overall record: 62-42 Impressive win: vs. No. 25 Navy, 21-17, Dec. 10, 2016
Why he's on the list: Monken, cousin of Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator, Todd Monken, has spent his entire career in college football and has done what was thought to be nearly impossible. He has turned Army into a a player on the national scene.
The standings heading into 2017 of the previous 20 commander-in-chief’s trophies, awarded annually to the winner of the triangular series among the three service academies: Air Force 10, Navy 10, Army 0. Navy took a 14-game winning streak into the 2016 Army-Navy game.
Enter Jeff Monken, a former Paul Johnson assistant who did great things for four seasons as head coach at Georgia Southern.
Entering his fifth season at West Point, Monken has defeated Navy two games in a row and last season won Army’s first commander-in-chief’s trophy since 1996. Monken is 2-0 in bowl games at Army.
Such dramatic turnarounds are oh-so-rare in college football, but Monken has managed to execute it in part by getting his team to execute the triple-option to perfection.
Army averaged fewer than 2.9 victories in the 14 seasons leading up to Monken’s hiring and had just one winning season during that time. His records: 4-8, 2-10, 8-5, 10-3.
He took Georgia Southern to the FCS semifinals in each of his three seasons at the school.
The idea that it takes a downtrodden program five years to show progress simply isn’t accurate, and Monken is proof of that.
So was Paul Johnson at Navy, which had three winning seasons in 19 years upon Johnson’s arrival. Johnson went 2-10 his first season and then rattled off five winning seasons before giving way to understudy Ken Niumatalolo, who has nine winning records in 10 seasons.
Still, power-five programs are reluctant to take the leap to triple-option offenses.
Proof that the offense translates to competing against tougher competition: In Monken’s final game at Georgia Southern, the Eagles defeated Florida, 26-20, on Nov. 23, 2013.
Monken completely commits to the run, which helps the defense stay fresh, thanks to the long drives. Army led the nation last season with 4,710 rushing yards and ranked second to Florida Atlantic (52) with 50 rushing touchdowns.
The Cadets finished last in the nation in completion percentage (30.8), touchdown passes (two), pass attempts (65) and passing yards per game (27.8) during a 10-3 season.
You’ll never guess what position Monken, a native of Peoria, Ill., played at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill.: wide receiver.