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In two years in charge of the Southern Miss football program, Todd Monken has spearheaded an approach that has produced continual improvement for the Golden Eagles, forging the team on a path in leading them back to a familiar setting – winning seasons and bowl games.
When Monken was announced as the 20th head coach in Southern Miss history in December of 2012, his mission was charged to turn around a Golden Eagles’ team that went winless the year before he took over the reins.
In his first season at the helm of the Golden Eagles, Monken battled injuries and a tough schedule as he began the rebuilding process for the Southern Miss football team. During his first year, Monken directed the injury-prone team to a 1-11 mark. After dropping the first 11 contests of the year, the Monken led Golden Eagles trailed rival UAB 21-13 at halftime. Southern Miss rallied for a 62-27 victory over the Blazers. In the game, the Golden Eagles scored 49 second-half points, including a season-best 28 points in the third quarter to take control of the game and earn the victory.
Despite the results on the scoreboard, Monken’s first season saw several highlights from his first season.
Southern Miss’ senior Khyri Thornton was named second team All-Conference USA, while true freshman Tyre’oune Holmes and junior Emmanuel Johnson were both honorable mention selections. In addition, a trio of Golden Eagles appeared on the C-USA 2013 All-Freshman team – Holmes, Nick Mullens and Cameron Tom.
Thornton culminated his Golden Eagle career by being selected in the third round (85th overall) of the NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers, becoming the first player selected in the NFL Draft in the Monken era.
Off the field, Corey Acosta was named to the 2013 Conference USA Football All-Academic team for his efforts on the field and in the classroom as announced by the conference office.
In addition, football had 27 players recognized for their achievements in the classroom, including five student-athletes who earned Dean’s List honors. The Southern Miss football program was also recognized by the American Football Coaches Association for its academic achievement on the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision level as having a graduation rate of 75 percent or better.
In his second season, Monken improved the squad’s win total to three and the number could have been pushed higher had Mullens, the team’s starting quarterback, not gotten hurt in the first series of the Louisiana Tech game in late October.
Still, the Golden Eagles showed improvement as two players were honored as first-team All-Conference USA selections, including placekicker Corey Acosta and defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches. Wide receivers Casey Martin and Michael Thomas, along with offensive lineman Cameron Tom were honorable mention selections on the offensive side of the ball, while defensive lineman Dasman McCullum joined defensive backs Jacorius Cotton and Emmanuel Johnson represented the defense. In addition, true freshman defensive back Cornell Armstrong was named to the C-USA All-Freshman team.
Nunez-Roches also became the second Golden Eagle taken in the NFL Draft as he was chosen in the sixth round by the Kansas City Chiefs. Acosta and McCullum also signed free-agent contracts with the San Francisco Giants and Washington Redskins, respectively, heading into each organization’s training camp.
In addition, Acosta excelled off the playing field, earning a Wuerffel Trophy finalist spot and was named a Lou Groza Award semifinalist. In the classroom, he was named second team Academic All-American after also being tabbed Academic All-District and Academic All-Conference USA for the third time.
Monken came to Southern Miss after serving the previous two seasons as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Oklahoma State. It was his second stint at OSU, after serving as pass game coordinator and wide receivers coach there from 2002-04.
Under Monken during the 2012 season, the Cowboys – which had a true freshman starting quarterback to start the season and a redshirt freshman as the primary backup – ranked among the nation’s top 10 nationally in scoring offense (4th/44.7 ppg), total offense (5th/548.9 ypg) and passing offense (7th/333.4 ypg). OSU will play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Jan. 1.
OSU scored more than 50 points 10 times, broke the 60-point mark in five contests, the 70-point mark twice and the 80-point plateau once in just two years with Monken calling the plays.
Also during that span, the Cowboys set single-season records for points scored, touchdowns scored, first downs, pass attempts, pass completions, passing yards, completion percentage, touchdown passes, yards per play and third-down conversions in 2011, in addition to posting six of the top seven single-game passing marks in school history.
In 2011, Monken served as Brandon Weeden’s position coach, who set single-season school records for passes completed, passes attempted, passing yards, touchdown passes, completion percentage and total offense in 2011. Weeden, who was drafted as the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns, also set single-game school records for passing yards and total offense under Monken’s watch in 2011. On the national level, Weeden finished the 2011 season second in passing yards, third in total offense, fourth in touchdown passes and ninth in pass efficiency.
Monken’s offense produced the 2011 Biletnikoff Award winner in Justin Blackmon – a 2012 first round draft pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars (fifth overall) – in addition to a pair of All-Americans in Blackmon and offensive lineman Levy Adcock and the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year, Grant Garner.
Prior to returning to OSU for his second time, Monken spent four years as wide receivers coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League. He had been promoted to the role of Jaguars’ quarterback coach immediately before taking the offensive coordinator job at Oklahoma State. In his final year in Jacksonville, the Jaguar trio of Mike Thomas, Marcedes Lewis and Mike Sims-Walker combined to make 167 catches for 2,082 yards and 21 touchdowns with Lewis earning a spot in the Pro Bowl.
Monken also worked at LSU from 2005-06, where he developed several receivers including Skyler Green, Dwayne Bowe and Buster Davis. Bowe and Davis were selected in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft. Bowe combined with Davis and Early Doucet to form one of the nation’s premier receiving corps in 2006. The trio combined for 180 receptions, 2,598 yards and 24 TDs. Bowe finished his career with 154 catches for 2,403 yards, and his school-record 26 touchdowns ranked eighth in SEC history.
In his first stay at OSU, Monken spent three seasons (2002-04) as pass game coordinator/wide receivers coach. The Cowboys averaged more than 32 points per game during that time. In 2004, Monken tutored first-round pick Rashaun Woods, who was selected 31st overall by the San Francisco 49ers. Woods was a two-time All-America honoree and concluded his career with 293 receptions for 4,414 yards and 42 touchdowns.
He also helped engineer one of the nation’s best passing attacks in his two seasons (2000-01) at Louisiana Tech – one year as the running backs coach and the other as wide receivers coach. In 2001, Louisiana Tech ranked eighth in the nation in passing, averaging 313 yards through the air per game. A year earlier, Tech ranked seventh in the nation averaging 313 yards passing per game.
In addition, Monken spent seven seasons at Eastern Michigan (1993-99) including the last two as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He also spent time at Grand Valley State (1989-90) and Notre Dame (1991-92).
A native of Wheaton, Ill., Monken was a three-year letterwinner at quarterback for Knox College. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics (1989) and followed with a master’s degree in education leadership from Grand Valley State. He is a member of the Knox College Athletic Hall of Fame. Monken and his wife, Terri, have one son, Travis.
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