Hope springs eternal as the Illini search for a new coach. My personal favorite among the list of coaches is Army head coach Jeff Monken, who has amassed an 86-54 career record as the head coach at (1) Georgia Southern, 2010-13 with multiple appearances in the FCS semifinals and a win at Florida in 2013; and (2) Army, where he has guided the previously futile Black Nights to a 3-0 bowl record, four wins in the last five games against bitter rival Navy, and two Commander-in-Chief Trophies in 2017 and 2018 (Army’s first such trophy since 1996).
If you are still not convinced, here are more reason why the hiring Monken is a no-brainer:
He’s a Central Illinois native (and will not use the Illini as a stepping stone).
At this point, it is widely known that Monken hails from Central Illinois. He was born in Peoria with footballs at his crib.
At a young age, his family moved to the Chicagoland Exurb of Joliet where his father was the coach at Joliet East and Joliet Central. In line with his Illinois roots, Monken attended Millikin University. Monken was also the head coach at Morton High in Cicero, before serving as offensive line coach at Concordia University.
So, Monken knows Illinois and he will understand what it takes to make the most out of the talent in the state of Illinois. Although youth football in Illinois seems to be in decline, maximizing the talent in this state is essential for any coach that wants to successfully lead the Illini.
The other benefit of hiring a native with football roots in the state is that he will likely not see the Illini as a stepping stone to a bigger job. This could help Illini football achieve the long-term consistency it desperately desired.
He will put together a great coaching staff.
A head coach is only as good as his assistants. Monken’s first Defensive Coordinator hire at Georgia Southern was Brent Pry, who at the time, was a little known position coach at Memphis. Pry is now the Defensive Coordinator at Penn State.
Monken’s first Defensive Coordinator at Army was Jay Bateman, an innovative defensive mind who mastered the 3-3-5 scheme which is all the rage now in college football with the advent of spread passing offenses. Bateman is now the co-DC for Mack Brown at North Carolina. It is widely rumored that Bateman would join Monken whenever Monken lands a Power Five job.
He runs a system that is unique and will make opponents dread their trip to Champaign.
Monken is a disciple of Paul Johnson, the father of the modern triple-option offense. Johnson showed us that this style of offense can still be run successfully at a P5 program at Georgia Tech. The drawback of the triple lies in the fact that it puts a recruiting ceiling on top offense prospects.
However, the triple could provide the Illini a much needed floor above six wins. Keep in mind that the Illini have bottomed out once or twice a decade since the 1970s and the floor has been a bottomless pit. Before the Illini can dream of competing for Big Ten championships, they have to set a floor and the triple option offense will do just that.
The triple will also make conference rivals dread their trip to Champaign. Salty post-game comments from Pat Fitzgerald about the Illini’s triple-option blocking schemes will be a welcome change to Fitzgerald talking about how much he likes and admires Lovie Smith.
Monken knows how to recruit under difficult circumstances.
The Illini have a two fold problem in recruiting: (1) Youth football and high school football in the State of Illinois is suffering due to declining interest and population loss and the situation could be worst post-pandemic; and (2) Illinois has stringent academic requirements. Monken is the best coaching candidate to address both issues.
As mentioned earlier, Monken is a native of Illinois and will know how to maximize the talent that is available instate. In addition, Army has very unique and stringent requirements for recruiting.
To Monken, recruiting in Champaign will feel more like recruiting at an SEC school compared to recruiting at Army where you have to find recruits who both meet strict academic requirements and are capable of high level careers in the Military Industrial Complex.
Do the right thing Josh Whitman!!! Bring home our Native Son!!!