Todd Monken: Nick Mullens 'Made Me a Better Coach' at Southern Miss

Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken spoke to the media on Friday during Week 12.

(On facing 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens, who Monken coach at Southern Mississippi)

“It’s not really strange in the fact that it was actually more strange when I left and came here in 2016 and watching him play and not being there with all those players – that’s a little bit difficult when you leave. All those guys you recruited and then they’re playing and you’re not there with them – that’s part of it. As I’ve said to anybody that’s asked me about Nick, is he’s everything you want in a player and in a quarterback. He’s elite in a lot of areas that are hard to find when it comes to his toughness, mental toughness, his preparation, how much he enjoys playing football and his personality where guys are going to gravitate towards him. He rarely puts himself out there with his actions. He’s not a flashy guy, he’s not someone that’s going to say the wrong thing – he’s just going to work his rear end off. That’s going to carry over to his teammates and I couldn’t be more thrilled for him. He loves playing football and we wouldn’t have done the things we did at Southern Miss without him. He’s made me a better coach.”

(On if quarterback Jameis Winston has been taking a different approach to practice)

“I don’t know if taking a different approach. I thought he worked as hard as he always works. I don’t think that changed. Without getting the reps it’s hard to say if he improved because with the scout team and they’re running cards. You’ll see some throws and you’ll see some really good things. I do think he kept a great attitude and accepted where he was at that point. Not accepting that it’s the end-all but it’s where we’re at right here – like we all do at times. We’re not happy where we’re at in terms of our record, but we accept it at this point and we continue to work to try and get four. That’s what you do. That’s the cards you’ve been dealt at this point. You don’t try and look back other than to fix some of the things you need to have fixed and then you move forward and move on to the 49ers.”

(On if running back Peyton Barber is getting better at creating explosive plays)

“I don’t know if getting better is probably the word. I think he’s always had that knack. We saw it last year when we were trying to get the run game going. Peyton has a way of turning five-yard-runs into seven or eight-yard runs, two-yard runs into – he just has that. He’s a powerful explosive – you rarely see him run out-of-bounds. I think he’s been given more opportunities. I think the biggest thing is opportunities. That happens with all skill players. Is a player given the opportunity, the receiver given the opportunity to make a play? Is a running back given the opportunities to make plays and showcase his ability? That’s happened the last few weeks. There were other times – we played Atlanta – where it did, it’s been inconsistent, but we’ve tried to be more consistent in the run game and I think that’s helped us.”