LSU’s Brian Kelly goes way back with Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken

thirty three years ago Brian Kelly and Death Monken were on the same coaching staff at Division II Grand Valley State. Both coaches’ careers have seen many highlights since their stints with the Lakers, and on Saturday their paths will cross in one of college football’s biggest games.

Monken’s Georgia offense will do its best to gain the upper hand over Kelly’s LSU roster when the Bulldogs and Tigers go head-to-head in the SEC championship game at 4:00 p.m. ET. The showdown serves as a reunion of sorts between the two coaches, as Kelly was Grand Valley State’s defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator from 1989-1990 when Monken was a research assistant just beginning his coaching career.

Kelly commended Monken on Sunday for all he has accomplished since the two first worked together long ago.

“Wherever he went, he was successful. He’s got a great offensive spirit,” Kelly said. “He comes from a family that was into football – the whole family. He just knows the game, whether he was in college as a head coach in southern Mississippi or worked in the NFL. He knows the game. He has a good relationship with his players. Excellent play caller.”

Monken’s time at Grand Valley State proved to be a launchpad for a stellar coaching career.

Monken followed Grand Valley State head coach Tom Beck to Notre Dame — where Beck served as offensive coordinator — after the 1990 season, where Kelly became head coach of the Lakers.

Monken rose through the ranks with stints at Eastern Michigan and Louisiana Tech before landing as Oklahoma State’s passing game coordinator in 2002 and succeeding head coach Les Miles at LSU in 2005. Monken spent the next four years with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars before returning to Oklahoma State, where he was the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator from 2011-2012.

Monken landed his only position as head coach at Southern Miss in 2013. He revitalized the Golden Eagles program, helping the team jump from 1 win in his debut season to 3 in Year 2, followed by a 9-5 breakthrough in the 2015 season. Monken returned to the NFL after that season and spent the next three seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cleveland Browns.

Monken came to Georgia ahead of the 2020 season and has had significant success with the Bulldogs, including this season.

Despite losing five starters in last year’s attack, the Bulldogs have thrived in 2022 under Monken’s leadership.

In 12 games, Georgia is averaging 38.3 points per game (good for 12th nationally) and 285.8 yards per game (13th nationally). quarterback Stetson Bennett compiled a strong season, completing 67.2% of his attempts for 3,151 yards with 16 touchdowns and 6 interceptions while also having 7 scores. The Bulldogs’ tight end combination Brock Bowers and Darell Washington have been true stars this season, and they’ve combined for 71 receptions for 1,048 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Most importantly for Georgia, the team is 12-0, heading to the SEC championship game, and finishing No. 1 in the College Football Playoff Rankings, AP Poll, and Coaches Poll.

Georgia’s success has resulted in Monken being a semi-finalist in the Broyles Award, given each year to the top assistant coach in the country.

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart outlined what he believes made Monken so successful in his job.

“He uses the talents of the players that he has. He does a really good job of blending the run game and pass game together by using different tempos. He’s doing a good job calling the game aggressive and messing things up,” Smart said Sunday. “I think when you talk to the defensive coordinators who go against him, he’s really good at merging the running and passing game together, the play-action part of it.”

On Saturday, Monken will try to get the upper hand on an LSU defense that played well in Kelly’s debut season. The Tigers, led by a defense coordinator Matt house33rd nationally in scoring defense (21.5 points per game) and 35th in total defense (347.7 yards per game).

While Monken trained alongside the likes of Kelly in Allendale, Michigan, Kelly joked that Monken was successful despite the likes of the LSU head coach.

“I don’t know if anything about him was wearing off by the time I was with him in Grand Valley. I think despite the time we’ve been together, he got over it all,” Kelly said, laughing.