- Feature Story
- George Becnel
- June 26, 2018 - 6:58pm
THIBODAUX - Each year, more than 1,000 young football players take part in the Manning Passing Academy held on the Nicholls campus.
For the most part, the players are all new faces from year to year. What has perhaps gone unnoticed by many observers is that many of the coaches take part in the camp year after year.
Few have been around more than Frank Monica. The St. Charles Catholic football coach has been almost a yearly fixture at the event. He was at the first Manning Passing Academy in 1995 when it was held at Tulane when Monica was a Green Wave assistant. Except for a few years when he was coaching American Legion baseball in the summer, Monica has coached at the camp for almost all the past 23 years.
“From my standpoint, the reason I keep going back is the relationships I have with some of the other coaches and players,” said Monica.
Compared to Monica, another River Parish coach – Dwain Jenkins is a relative newcomer. Still, the Lutcher coach just completed his fifth year as an instructor at the Manning Passing Academy.
“It’s just a great experience to spend time with some of the small college quarterback coaches they have there and some of the quarterback coaches that do private training and the college guys that are there, it’s a great experience for coaches to learn just as much as it is for the players,” said Jenkins.
The structure of the MPA calls for the players to be divided up into multiple groups. Eight groups are assigned to one field. The players rotate from one station to another, learning various aspects of the passing game from high school and college coaches, along with many of the top collegiate quarterbacks in the country.
The MPA allows for players to gain valuable insights into the passing game to bring back to their respective high schools. Likewise, many of the high school coaches pick up tips they may choose to use in their programs.
“I really think it’s just some of the drill work that you pick up. The Mannings do a great job of staffing that camp with a lot of different quarterback coaches from around the country. There is always a new wrinkle in a drill here or there,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins’ task at the recently-concluded camp centered mostly on the deep ball.
“This year, I got to work deep balls and touch passes in the individual (group workouts). When you get to group period, it rotates around a little bit. You get to work with running backs sometimes and sometimes tight ends and receivers and you work specific routes and screens with those guys. In other group periods, you get to work zone read, you get to work RPOs run-pass option), you get to work reads with different passing concepts,” the Lutcher coach explained.
Areas of coaching responsibilities can change from year to year, Jenkins said.
“In the past, I’ve worked option, some run game and some footwork stuff. Last year, I think I worked primarily three-step drop from gun and from under center,” pointed out Jenkins,
Monica worked with quarterbacks to improve their sprint-out skills.
“I was teaching the movement routes of the quarterbacks – the stance, hand position on the ball, the rotation of the sprint-out part of the ball and teaching the upper torso and the release and then the play-action part of it,” said Monica.
Like the young quarterbacks, the high school coaches can get a kick out of working alongside some of today’s top collegiate quarterbacks.
“Jalen Hurts (of Alabama - it was the second year in a row he was on my field and Jake Fromm of Georgia. We got to be pretty good friends with that rotation. You were there for eight practices with them. That makes it kind of special when you meet these people from all over the country and some of these guys will be in the NFL in just a year or two,” said Monica.
The veteran prep coach said the instructors constantly advise that they are offering help – not that their method if necessarily the best way.
“All we try to do is give them information and we tell them that “whatever your high school coach says trumps anything we say here because the high school guy is the guy you have to play for. We’re just trying to give you a different method or give you just a little more information to make you better,’” Monica said.
The 2018 version of the Manning Passing Academy may not have boasted as many name players as some years but those who did take part took their tasks to heart, according the Jenkins.
“I thought this year that the college guys that worked the camp maybe didn’t have the big headliners like they had last year. Last year they had four guys that worked the camp that went in the first round of the NFL draft. Maybe this year there were a few more guys that were maybe unknown but those college kids that came in and worked the camp really did a great job interacting with the kids and working on the field. On my field, Cole Kelley, the quarterback at Arkansas, was working the field, as was Daniel Jones from Duke and Trace McSorley from Penn State,” said Jenkins.
It’s that sort of experience that has allowed the Manning Passing Academy to endure and has prep coaches such as Jenkins and Monica returning year after year.
“I plan to go back until I can’t go anymore. It all depends on my health,” said Monica, who turns 70 in a few months.