Capitals

Southern Miss hires Todd Monken as head coach

201212110859323612036-p2.jpeg

Southern Miss hires Todd Monken as head coach

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) Southern Mississippi raided Oklahoma State for a football coach five years ago.

It worked so well, the Golden Eagles are trying it again.

Southern Miss introduced Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken as its new football coach Tuesday, confident that the 46-year-old can return the Golden Eagles to their winning ways after the worst season in school history.

``You want high expectations,'' Monken said. ``You want to be at a place where winning is expected. And this is one of those places. This is a new era of Southern Miss football. You've had that history and tradition - hit what I call a one-year speed bump - but I'm looking with great confidence to the future and not looking back.''

Monken comes to the Golden Eagles after two successful seasons leading the Cowboys' high-scoring offense, which is averaging nearly 45 points this season. He will not coach with Oklahoma State at the Heart of Dallas bowl on Jan. 1, instead starting his job in Hattiesburg immediately.

There's plenty of work to be done.

Monken replaces Ellis Johnson, who was fired Nov. 27 after going 0-12 in one disappointing season. The shocking freefall came one year after a 12-win season that included a Conference USA championship, No. 19 national ranking and Hawaii Bowl victory.

Monken was confident the Golden Eagles could return to those winning ways soon. He met with the team Tuesday and said the ``only disappointment is they get to go home.''

``(The players) didn't forget how to win, how to work or how to compete,'' Monken said. ``They're ready to work.''

Monken's arrival has to seem like a flashback for Southern Miss fans, who watched five years ago as Larry Fedora was introduced following the 2007 season. The brash Oklahoma State offensive coordinator finished with a 34-19 record over four years - including a 12-2 mark in 2011 - at Southern Miss before leaving to become North Carolina's coach.

Monken said it was an honor to be compared with Fedora, then turned to humor to illustrate similarities and differences.

``We both like visors,'' Monken deadpanned. ``But he's got longer, darker hair than me and uses a little more gel.''

Southern Miss athletic director Jeff Hammond said Monken has a four-year contract, but declined to disclose financial terms. Hammond did say the deal would be similar to Johnson's, which paid about $750,000 annually.

Johnson - whose defensive-minded pedigree always seemed a poor fit with the Golden Eagles - is owed a $2.1 million buyout over the next three seasons. That's a further drain for an athletic program already trying to work its way out of about $1 million in debt.

The hire is crucial for Hammond, who is nearing the end of a 1-year contract. He called Monken's arrival ``a return to toughness.''

Monken spent four seasons as the receivers coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars before coming to Oklahoma State in 2011. He's also been an assistant at LSU, Louisiana Tech and Eastern Michigan. He said one of the pulls of the Southern Miss job is a knowledge of the recruiting area, and that there are plenty of talented players in a five- or six-hour radius around Hattiesburg.

Now he'll have to persuade recruits to come to a program that was the only one in the Football Bowl Subdivision without a win last season.

But the program has won lots of games in its recent history. Before Johnson's one-year debacle, the Golden Eagles had a streak of 18 straight winning seasons and 10 straight bowl appearances.

Southern Miss feels Monken can take them back to those days, and his pass-happy offense is a big reason.

The Cowboys averaged 44.7 points (4th nationally), 548.9 total yards (5th) and 333.4 passing yards (7th) this season after topping the 50-point mark six times in 2011.

He accomplished those gaudy numbers in 2011 with quarterback Brandon Weeden, who was a first-round pick by the Cleveland Browns, but managed the same success while rotating three inexperienced quarterbacks this season.

Monken is the latest in a line of successful offensive coordinators under Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, which includes Fedora and West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen.

``He kept our offense going at a high level and we are very grateful for what he did for our program,'' Gundy said in a statement. ``... Todd comes from a football family. He's grown up around it his entire life and is very driven. His energy, passion and football knowledge will make him a tremendous asset to Southern Miss football.''

-----

Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP

Quick Links

Braden Holtby saved his best performance of the season for when the Caps needed it most

Braden Holtby saved his best performance of the season for when the Caps needed it most

Braden Holtby has been largely overshadowed in the headlines of the Eastern Conference Final by Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

After two games, Vasilevskiy was one of the bigger storylines for how poorly he played in giving up 10 goals in just five periods. The next three games after that, the storyline changed to how well he was suddenly playing and how he had helped the Lightning steal two wins in Washington and take a 3-2 series lead after Game 5.

Holtby was not mentioned much. His play was not the reason the Caps went up 2-0 or the reason they went down 3-2.

But if the Caps hoped to force a Game 7, they needed him to at least be a reason why they won Game 6.

Holtby responded in a big way. With his team facing elimination, Holtby registered his first shutout of both the regular season and the playoffs.

"It's a perfect time," Devante Smith-Pelly said after the game. "He's been great all year. Obviously an up-and-down year for him personally, but the way he's bounced back, he's been amazing all throughout the playoffs."

Holtby is now just the seventh goalie in NHL history to record his first shutout of the season in a game in which his team faced elimination.

Holtby, however, was not concerned with the stats or the shutout.

"The only reason it’s good is we won," Holtby said of his shutout performance. "Aside from that, it’s just good for [the media], I guess you can write about it. But for us it’s just that W."

Vasilevskiy made a number of jaw-dropping saves, especially in the first period, but Holtby matched him save for save as both teams battled for the first goal. With the score knotted at zero, Holtby made a toe save on Anthony Cirelli on a 2-on-1 opportunity to keep the Lightning off the board. He really upped his game in the third period as Tampa Bay made a late push to tie it. He turned aside 10 shots that frame including a nifty snag on Nikita Kucherov and a glorious glove save on Ondrej Palat.

Holtby's performance ensured the Caps would live to fight another day...for now.

As the series shifts back to Tampa Bay, Washington will again be facing elimination. This time, however, so will their opponents.

Anything can happen in a Game 7. In a winner-take-all game, it may come down to who has the better goalie on Wednesday and Holtby seems to be picking a good time to up his game.

"Braden has been the backbone of our hockey club," Barry Trotz said. "You can’t go anywhere without goaltending and he’s been solid. ... Braden is a true pro, he works on his game, he finds ways to make a difference and he does."

MORE CAPITALS STORIES:

Quick Links

Need to Know: Redskins player one-liners, defense

swearinger_vs_az_usat.png
USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: Redskins player one-liners, defense

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, May 22, 66 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins player one-liners, defense

A few weeks ago, I did an early projection of the Redskins’ 53-man roster on offense and defense. As the team gets ready for OTAs here is a comment on each player expected to make the team on defense; the offense was up yesterday

Defensive line

—Even though he played just 159 snaps last year before getting injured, the experience that Jonathan Allen gained in the offseason and training camp last year will help him get off to a strong start this season. 

—​Daron Payne will improve as the season goes on but he should be of some help stopping the run, the team’s most glaring weakness, right off the bat. 

—​Matt Ioannidis could play his way into an early contract extension a year from now, something nobody saw coming a year ago. 

—Last year Anthony Lanier played a little over half a season’s worth of snaps and got 5.0 sacks so I’ll put his over/under for this year at 7.5. 

—I think many fans see “Redskins veteran free agent D-lineman” and associate “bust” but Stacy McGee played pretty well last year. 

—Will Tim Settle be in at nose tackle for the first snap in Week 1?

—The coaches would like to be able to keep Ziggy Hood on the roster, but injuries and other issues could make him a victim of the roster numbers game. 

Inside linebackers

—​Zach Brown struggled a bit before injuries forced him out of the last three games, but he still finished in the top 10 in the NFL in tackles. 

—The team re-signing Mason Foster in late January was a low-key but potentially very impactful move. 

—After getting cut and then returning in November last year, Zach Vigil probably will be employed with the Redskins for all of the 2018 season. 

—It will be interesting to see how much the Redskins try to get out of converted safety Josh Harvey-Clemons as a nickel linebacker this year. 

—The Redskins moved up in the sixth round to draft Shaun Dion Hamilton, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he has a regular role on defense before the season is out. 

Outside linebackers

—All Preston Smith needs to do to hit it big in free agency is add a few sacks to his 2017 total and get a few more takeaways. 

—​Ryan Kerrigan already got paid, he’s a few more good years away from making the Redskins Ring of Fame. 

—I predict that Ryan Anderson gets his first NFL sack in Week 2 against the Colts. 

—You usually think of outside linebackers rotating in when it’s the nickel defense, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Pernell McPhee be a regular in short-yardage situations. 

Cornerbacks

—I think Josh Norman will the dancing in the end zone at some point this season; he is long overdue to get a pick six (or a pick of any sort for that matter).

—The first time I noticed Quinton Dunbar playing cornerback was when he lined up against Odell Beckham in 2015. 

—The success of the Redskins’ decisions to trade Kendall Fuller and to let Bashaud Breeland leave as a free agent will hinge mostly on how well Fabian Moreau plays in his second year in the NFL.

—Realistically, the Redskins can hope to get 10 or 12 good games out of Orlando Scandrick

—And because Scandrick is unlikely to be healthy for 16 games, the ability of Josh Holsey to step in when needed will be critical. 

—If the Redskins can get a few good punt returns and 75 snaps at nickel corner from Greg Stroman he will be worth the seventh-round pick they used to draft him. 

Safeties

—With a year in the defense under his belt, D.J. Swearinger is a candidate to make his first Pro Bowl. 

—After Jay Gruden compared him to Jordan Reed, there is a lot of pressure on Montae Nicholson to stay on the field and perform well when he is out there. 

—Even though he started eight games last year I think the coaches view Deshazor Everett as more of a special teams guy and situational defender than a safety they want playing 70 snaps a game. 

—​Troy Apke has a lot to learn and it remains to be seen if he can go from being a fast guy to being a fast NFL football player.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

Tandler on Twitter

Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 21
—Training camp starts (7/26) 66
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 80

The Redskins last played a game 142 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 110 days. 

In case you missed it