Never Forget

endlosing

This is what ending a 20-game losing streak looks like.

The phrase “Bowling Green Massacre” jolted me out of my seat a couple of weeks ago, probably not for the same reason it jolted the nation.

How could Kellyanne Conway, the President’s Media Director, know about a football massacre involving Bowling Green and Temple in the mid-2000s?

That’s the only Bowling Green massacre I knew about but it turned out that she was talking about something entirely different.

In a little over a decade, though, that’s how far Temple football has come. From not just one, but two, Bowling Green Massacres (70-7 and 70-16) in consecutive seasons to flirting with the Top 25 in the last two seasons.

For those of us who were there then and are here now, it would be wise to Never Forget.

patience

I  thought about that when I heard that Geoff Collins was heavy on the Daz-like slogans while giving a halftime pep talk to the assembled—it would be a stretch to call them a crowd—group at the UCF vs. Temple basketball game on Wednesday night.

So far, Collins has been light on the recruiting and heavy on the slogans in his two months on the job.

We won’t really know about him until after the first two games, but so far he comes up a little short in comparing him to the guy who avenged the Bowling Green Massacres.

Al Golden in a little over a month to work in his first year (December, 2005 was his hiring date), Golden signed 29 players including future NFL players like Junior Galette, Andre Neblett, Alex Joseph and Steve Manieri.  That was without the benefit of signing a single target of the former coach, Bobby Wallace, WHILE hiring a staff. There was a method to Golden’s madness, too, as he said it was his intent to recruit captains of winning high school teams so they could bring that same mindset to a poisoned well at 10th and Diamond. In that first class of 29, he signed 18 team captains and all had winning seasons in their final years. Ten of the captains won league championships.

Collins has catching up to do to get to that standard, but Golden did all this on the tail end of a 20-game losing streak and helped turn this thing around.

After two months, we really don’t know if Collins will be as good as Golden, Matt Rhule, Steve Addazio or better than all three or somewhere in between.

Right now, the start is not as good as the Golden one but maybe because the culture is in place  it does not need to be. All that matters is the finish.

We should know a lot more after the Notre Dame and Villanova games.

Sunday: Fake News

Temple’s Hairy Relationship

fullbacksnow

Nick Sharga is the only one not pointing fingers in this photo.

Every time someone posts a head shot of Temple football fullback Nick Sharga on social media, a comment or two will run below it like this:

“Sharga has got to do something about that hair.”

“Sharga needs a haircut.”

My response usually is two words:

“Who cares?”


Any defense that gets
pounded by Sharga inches
up the linebackers and
safeties closer to the
line of scrimmage and
becomes susceptible to
the play-action
passing game

As long as Temple has the best blocking fullback in the country—and a guy who proved more than capable the few times he had the ball in his hands—I don’t care if people think he has too much hair or is completely bald. To me, it’s always how you perform between the white lines. Everything else is superfluous.

That’s where head coach Geoff Collins comes into the story.

Collins’ added the responsibility of “coaching the fullbacks” to his duty as the CEO of the Temple football operation and this match between the follically challenged and the follically gifted should help turn the Lincoln Financial Field scoreboard into an adding machine this fall.

That’s because one of the chief concerns any Temple fans felt after the transfer of power between Matt Rhule and Collins would be that the new coach would mess around with a good thing and Sharga’s impact on the team the last two seasons has been a good thing. By coaching the fullbacks, Collins has to study film of what worked well in the past and he must have been as blown away by Sharga as was this South Florida cornerback.

 

In a recent interview with Chris Franklin, new offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude mentioned a lot of his ideas but did not mention Sharga by name. That might have been disconcerting if it were not for the fact that his boss coaches the fullbacks and will want the fullbacks to be featured in any offensive game plan.

“We ran an I-Formation at Temple because we had an NFL fullback,” was the way Matt Rhule answered a question at his first Baylor press conference.

Nothing opens up passing lanes for Temple’s wide receivers—among the top group of six in the country, according to Patenaude—than establishing the run first. Nothing establishes the run better than the tailback following Nick Sharga through the hole. Any defense that gets pounded by Sharga inches up the linebackers and safeties closer to the line of scrimmage and susceptible to the play-action passing game. Fake it into the belly of, say, Ryquell Armstead or  Jager Gardner, after a few 20-yard runs and Temple receivers will be running so free through the secondary that quarterback Anthony Russo will not know which one to choose.

At least that’s the plan.

Or should be.

Collins coaching the fullbacks takes that plan one step closer to fruition and that’s the kind of hairy proposition Temple fans can get excited about.

Friday: Never Forget

Sunday: Fake News

Learning From Wake Between Now and C&W Day

It was hard watching in person but even harder watching on TV but a necessary exercise.

In between riding as a passenger on a helicopter and making up catchy slogans to give to a newly minted graphics coordinator, hopefully new Temple football head coach Geoff Collins found time to break down some film in the E-O’s spacious viewing room.

Specifically, the film of the one Temple game in 2016 that Collins saw in person, the Military Bowl against Wake Forest, because, as horror films go, it’s right up there with Poltergeist as scary TV-watching.

NCAA Football: Military Bowl-Temple vs Wake Forest

                   Temple football must resolve not to let the season end like this again.

Over the last month or so, I eschewed some Temple basketball watching (ECU, for instance) to fast-forward past the commercials on my DVR and watch the Wake Forest game tape. The results pretty much confirmed what I saw with my own eyes: It was a poorly coached game from a poorly prepared staff that was too preoccupied with Baylor recruiting to devote their full time to the kids who needed them.

Eight days of missing defensive practices led to some gaping missed assignments (specifically the tight end) and those assignments probably would have been installed into the game plan by, say, the fourth missed practice. As a result, Owls found themselves down, 31-10, and that was too big a hole against any Power 5 team.

me

“I thought you had him?” “No, we never went over that in practice because only the offense practiced that day.”

Looking at the film, though, and the camera doesn’t lie when it showed the offensive line being beaten up by a pretty good Demon Deacon defense.  If Collins needs to work on anything this spring leading up to the Cherry and White game (which should at Horvath Field, but will be at the E-O), it’s instilling a toughness in the returning offensive line members.

In all fairness, that could be a talent problem and not something that can be solved in a couple of months. It also explained why Collins is going hard after Georgia Tech grad transfer Trey Klock to replace NFL first-round pick Dion Dawkins but the alarming physical beating of the Owls’ OL that night has to raise some eyebrows.

Ed Foley brought much of that upon himself by running to the right side on 14 of the 15 running plays, perhaps forgetting that he had a first-round NFL draft pick at LEFT tackle and perhaps the best blocking fullback in the country to overload one side.

Still, it was hard seeing the Owls’ line beat up, even if it was only on one side. They will need both sides this fall and that’s a fix that should begin now and probably the biggest learning curve the Owls between now and then.

If the Owls master this lesson, they won’t have to watch as another team celebrates the end of their season again.

Wednesday: Geoff Collins’ Best Job

Saturday: Fun With Graphics

baller

If anyone needs help to dress up his message, it’s Geoff Collins.

 

Four days ago Temple football made a little history by hiring college football’s first SWAG (Specialist With Advanced Graphics) and, if Geoff Collins’ handwritten slogans are any indicator, no one needs a SWAG more than Collins.

You can do a lot of fun things with graphics and no one is more perfect for that job than new coordinator Dave Gerson, who I have known since he was coming to Temple games as a pre-teen in the first year of the Al Golden Era. No one loves Temple football more than Dave and that love will translate into some fun times for Temple fans in the future. It even got a mention on ESPN. Until a five-star recruit has three hats on the table (Alabama, Ohio State and Temple) and puts on the Temple hat, it might be the last time Temple football gets mentioned on an ESPN crawl for anything but a score.

Golden was the first to realize that video was a good vehicle to promote the program and, in his first year, he hired a video coordinator named Fran Duffy (not to be confused with basketball coach Fran Dunphy). At the Owls’ first Golden football banquet, the coach introduced him this way: “Despite his age, he’s the best in the business.”

Golden must have been onto something because now Duffy is the Philadelphia Eagles’ video coordinator.

So it is in that spirit that we’re going to step away from the heavier topics like recruiting and coaching carousels and revolving doors and the viable long-term future of Temple football and provide some fun with graphics. So far, Gerson has just scratched the surface with some spruced-up slogans Collins thinks about at 3 in the morning and a couple of videos but the possibilities with images are endless.

In this case, images, the separated at birth ones.

Collins looks a little like Tony Soprano. There is even a parody twitter account dedicated to the resemblance.

collinstwitter

Former Owls’ linebacker Tyler Matakevich singer Ed Sheeran look like brothers (dirty red).

redsmall

Frequent Owl photographer Zamani Feelings and District Attorney Seth Williams have never been seen in the same room and that’s probably a good thing.

together

If you have any more Temple-football related resemblances, be it a current or past player or coach looking like someone else in the public sphere, post them in the comment section below.

Monday: Back to Serious Business

Mulligans and Aliens

americansked

Temple should have capitalized on having this to recruit a decent class this season.

A friend who is an amateur astronomer posted a photo of some far-off galaxy on Facebook and apologized for the quality of the photo due to atmospheric conditions.


A Virginia Tech model,
where you make a bowl
every year and reach
up and win a title
here and there, should
be a realistic
expectation for Temple
at the G5 level

My response was that someone from that galaxy probably posted a photo of the Milky Way with the same apology on, say, Cleon Facebook.

In other words, we’re not alone.

It’s a lesson Temple football fans would be wise to understand today, a couple of weeks after Signing Day. The prevalent feeling on the major Owl message board (Shawn Pastor’s OwlsDaily) is that we’re giving new head coach Geoff Collins a Mulligan on this class, but the next class better be good.

The lesson should have been don’t look back because the other beings in this football universe might be gaining on you.

That’s where the other guy comes in because new coach Charlie Strong did not need a Mulligan to haul in a significantly better class for USF and former Temple head coaches Al Golden, Steve Addazio and Matt Rhule did not need a Mulligan in their first transition classes. Despite working about a month, the classes that Golden, Addazio and Rhule brought in their first time were ranked significantly higher than Collins’ first class.

In between preparing for a medical procedure I should have done 10 years ago but had been putting off, I found a little bit of time to look at those classes.

The Charlie Strong class was easy to find. The other classes were much harder to quantify against this one. (You really only know four years from now but you can compare them against how they were ranked at the time.)  According to Scout.com, Strong’s USF transition class this season was ranked No. 95th with seven three stars. In roughly the same time frame to recruit, Collins had Temple was 127th with only three three-stars. In the same conference, both teams with a new head coach, a significant gap in results.

Strong did not have a championship trophy to carry around on a helicopter, either. It’s fair to compare the two classes. Because we have evidence to work with given roughly the same circumstances, Collins should have done better. You can talk all you want about how it is the “Temple Way” to recruit two stars and coach them up to four stars but if you get three stars, your mathematical chances of coaching them up to four- and five-stars improve. Temple should be OK next year, but the impact of this class won’t be felt until three or four years down the road and that is how a foundation is laid for sustainable success, not just one “up” season followed by a “down” season. At Temple, the goal should not be “up and down” seasons like so many other schools seem to have. A Virginia Tech model, where you make a bowl every year and reach up and win a title here and there, should be a realistic expectation for Temple at the G5 level.

An AAC trophy should have meant a better haul than the 2017 class Collins was able to bring to 10th and Diamond and long-term is where the impact will be felt. Without helicopters or AAC trophies, Temple coaches have done better with roughly a month to recruit.

transition

 

While it might have been tough to expect Collins to do a whole lot with this class, the evidence is there in black and white that he should have done better. In college football, getting to the top is tough but staying there is tougher so capitalizing on a championship season when you can with recruiting should have been prioritized.

There are a lot of football teams in this universe and, if you slip up one year, they could be passing you in two or three. There are no Mulligans when you are not alone.

Saturday: Fun With Graphics

The Schedule: You Never Know

amcosked

Getting Stony Brook on someone else’s schedule is a plus.

Watching some of the recent episodes of Saturday Night Live, I miss some of the old characters like the ones played by the late John Belushi and Gilda Radner. (It’s still pretty good and Melissa McCarthy hit a home run with her skit on Donald Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer, but most of the skits are dribblers to second base, pop ups or strike outs.)

That’s not what it was like in the old days when Radner and Belushi were hitting home runs and guys like Chevy Chase, Dan Akroyd and Billy Murray were routinely hitting doubles off the wall.

I thought about Gilda while thumbing down the recent release of the Temple 2017 schedule.

americansked

I would like another one of these bad boys, but it’s going to be tough.

One of her catch phrases was: “You never know.”

Look at the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2006 season. Before that year even started, fans on every talk radio show penciled in the team as losing three December games, at the Redskins, at the Giants and at the Cowboys in consecutive weeks and the doom and gloom got worse when Donovan McNabb was lost for the season with a broken leg before those three games. His backup, Jeff Garcia, came in and beat the Skins (21-19), Giants (36-22) and Cowboys (24-7) to win the NFC East.

You never know.

This time a year ago, many Temple fans (not me) were saying that the losses of players like Tyler Matakevich, Matt Ioannidis, Robby Anderson and Tavon Young meant Temple would take a step back from a 10-4 season of 2015.

templesked

I looked at a still-loaded roster and argued otherwise, that this was the “step forward” year and not the step back one. Since this year’s 10-4 included a championship, I was right.

You never know if I will be as right about this one but here it goes. I hope not to be as right about this season but I already knew about the teams Temple would play in 2017 and have always said this would be the “step back” year and not the step forward one.

It’s only a step, though. Owl fans can relax because we’re not falling into the mine shaft. Most Owl fans do not know how good Anthony Russo is. Having seen pretty much his entire high school career, I do and this how I will describe his upcoming Temple time: He won’t be as impressive as P.J. Walker was in his first season, but he will make you forget Walker in seasons two through four. (He’s not as elusive as Walker, but let’s not kid ourselves. P.J. was no Fran Tarkenton, Bobby Douglas or even Russell Wilson in the important skill of eluding pass rushers.)

So I stand by that prediction that it will be a slight step back, not a huge one.

I thought before Matt Rhule left that it would be a positive year for him to go 7-5 with a bowl win in 2017 and I think that is the measuring stick for new head coach Geoff Collins. If he goes 7-5, he’s just as good a coach as Rhule but I think there is a good chance he could go 8-4 or better. Listen, no one expects him to go 10-4 again and, if he does, Ed Foley is probably coaching Temple’s third-straight bowl loss.

The expectation here is eight wins and a bowl win and that’s in the “step-back” year because 2018 figures to be even better.

There is plenty of talent left on this team, even if you do not expect them to beat Notre Dame, Tulsa, Navy or South Florida. I’m not buying Houston. Wasn’t Temple the champion in the same league Houston could not win last  year? Didn’t Houston struggle on the road against teams like SMU, UConn and Navy in the last two years? Did not Temple win at all three of those places? I rest my case. Ryquell Armstead running behind the lead blocking of Nick Sharga with the explosive receivers Temple has is a good way to start. The defense should be outstanding once again. Any line that has Jacob Martin and Sharif Finch as the ends, and Karamo Dioubate, Michael Dogbe, Greg Webb and Freddy Booth-Lloyd in the middle with a secondary of Champ Chandler, Mike Jones, Delvon Randall and Artrel Foster will bring Mayhem.

The way Temple seasons have worked recently, though, is that they always have beaten someone you penciled them in for a loss before the season (i.e., Vanderbilt, 2014; Penn State 2015 and South Florida 2016) and always lost to someone you never expected them to lose to in the same season. Can we break that cycle this year?

I think so. Just hold serve.

If Collins holds serve, he will be our guy and probably hang around to coach the bowl win.

However, as Emily Latella would say: “You never know” but, gun to my head, I would pick eight over six or even seven and I will stand by that number.

(No posts Sunday or Tuesday due to minor surgery but God-willing will return Thursday)

Press Conference Translations

alexholley

Fool us once, shame on you.

Fool us twice, shame on me.

Fool us three times, and we never get fooled again.

That’s where the relationship now stands between many (not all) Temple fans and new head coach Geoff Collins and very little of it is the poor guy’s fault. In fact, it might be the way the fan base accepts the revolving aspect of every subsequent coach who walks through the Edberg-Olson door.

In various ways, Al Golden, Steve Addazio and Matt Rhule pledged fidelity to the Cherry and White only to exit stage left at the very first opportunity to jump to a Power 5 program. The last coach said it would take a perfect job for him to leave Temple and he left for a job that is far from perfect. Golden left for a school, Miami, that he knew was about to be hit with sanctions. Addazio left for a Boston College team that went winless in the two major sports (football and men’s basketball) in the ACC last year. That’s pretty hard to do.

Meanwhile, Temple wasn’t a bad job in comparison. The Owls won a pair of AAC East title and an overall title under Rhule, and beat a Big 10 school, an ACC school and a SEC school in prior five years.

What Coach Collins Really Said …. Translations
“It’s been a busy month-and-a-half since I last saw you guys.” “Between press conferences, my ex-buddy Matt Rhule stole two of my recruits.”
“It doesn’t matter what the outside people say about the number of stars we have. We play. We’re tough. We’re going to work. I think that’s a pretty special edge to have.” “I’m going to have to do what Matt did. Coach the two stars up to four stars. It’ll be a little different from Florida, where I could coach a four-star up to a five-star so we’ll see what happens.”
“We went into Florida, we went into Georgia and in the future, those are going to be targets for us but in this day and age, especially in the culture that’s in Philadelphia, we make sure we surround this area and supplement people from Florida and Georgia and other places.” “Matt got Harrison Hand and Rob Saulin to decommit from Temple to go to Baylor and I tried to get a couple of the kids I was recruiting for the Gators to do the same, but it didn’t work out.”
“The way the recruiting weekends have been set up, the staff has done an amazing job … they dove in and whatever needed to be done, they did it.” “I wish the basketball team would have had a packed house for one of those weekends so we had a little more juice in the building.”
“It’s nice to walk around this great town and get noticed. To get noticed in Philadelphia, it’s mind-blowing.” “I like South Philly macaroni.”

So excuse some Temple fans for looking for clues about how the new guy will handle the Elephant in the Room. There have been two tests of Collins so far and he has not passed them. In the press conference, he stumbled over a question from Zach Gelb about promising current recruits he would be here when they graduate by saying he tells them only to be concerned about the present.

Keeping all of the Rhule recruits and bringing in a good core group of three-star recruits who would be key contributors three years down the line would have been another sign that Collins was planning to stay for a while, but this class screams short-term solutions and not long-term ones. Plugging immediate holes, like cornerback, but not addressing long-term needs for accomplished linemen on both sides of the ball could be interpreted as the moves of a guy who plans to be here one or two years at most and bolt like Usain.

This is a dangerous development for at least a couple of reasons. One, at least Rhule followed the “Golden Rule” of Al that he was here to build a “foundation of brick, not of straw.” Even though we all knew Golden was looking to get out, he didn’t cut corners. He built the program by recruiting what he called a “full team” every year, 25 guys (11 offense, 11 defense, a couple of specialists) and then redshirting the guys who needed the year in the weight room. Addazio departed from that plan by burning redshirts and also recruiting for immediate needs (i.e, Montel Harris to replace Bernard Pierce).

The second, and probably more important, residue of this is that this forces Temple to keep hiring new head coaches every couple of years. If Collins is the “home run” Rhule says he is, the next guy after him might not be. No one can expect Pat Kraft to make a great hire every time. Charlie Theokas hired Jerry Berndt and Ron Dickerson and Dave O’Brien hired Bobby Wallace. The recent run of Golden-Daz-Rhule has been decent, but the percentages don’t look good if you look at the big picture.

Even Babe Ruth didn’t hit home runs every time he came to the plate. The next guy is just as likely to pop out as he is to slam one over the fence. One day Temple is going to have to find a way to remove that revolving door from the E-0 and make it a vault.

Or at least one of the good ones is going to decide his Acres of Diamonds is right here.

Friday: The Schedule