Fly On The Wall

Maybe someday Pat Kraft will shed some light on what went on in the Collins’ interview.

As he usually does, 920 The Jersey’s Zach Gelb, a  Temple-Made sports talk radio host with a great future, asks the best questions at Temple press conferences.

During the introduction of Geoff Collins, Gelb asked Collins if he could guarantee Temple football recruits if he would be here four years from now when they graduated.  It was one of the few questions that Collins did not handle with the dexterity of an Ozzie Smith.

gelb

Zach Gelb

Collins let that question go off the back of his glove into left field when he said all he was interested in was the here and now and that’s what he would tell recruits.

To me, that was an E6 on one of the few hardball questions Collins had to field that day.

Although I appreciated the honesty, if I were Collins I would have lied (if indeed it was a lie) my ass off and told him, of course, if this place is good enough for the John Chaneys and the Wayne Hardins of the world, it is good enough for me. I plan to be here for the long haul and make Temple football a national power.

That would have served two purposes, assuaging a couple of very important groups: The current recruiting class and the players in the program already. The first group is being told by the bad guys—the other coaches seeking Temple commits—that Collins is here only short-term and would bail after the first overachieving season and the second group has been already burned by a head coach who said it would take the perfect job for him to leave Temple.

Baylor’s a nice job, but with impending sanctions, it is far from a perfect one and there are many objective people on the outside—not necessarily Temple ones—who feel that Rhule had a better chance of succeeding at Temple than he does with the pair of handcuffs he has to put on to get the job done in Waco.

That leaves the next big question.

If Gelb, or really anyone, gets a chance, he should find someone who was in the room with Collins when he was being interviewed by the Temple Board of Trustees and ask if the same question ever came up as a condition of him getting the job.  By now, Temple should be extremely sensitive to coaches like Steve Addazio—and to a much lesser extent Rhule and Al Golden—using it and moving on.

Oh, to be a fly in the wall hearing the answer to that question. I hope that question was asked in the vetting process, but there is also a chance that it was not.

Perhaps athletic director Dr. Pat Kraft is best equipped to supply the answer and we know the perfect guy to ask him.

Monday: Temple’s Montana to Rice

A Giant Proposition

highpoint

With all of those Cherry-clad Owl fans behind the team holding that championship symbol, definitely the high point of my 40 years as a Temple fan. The guy in the beige sports coat is …  Avery Williams, who played only in the first half of the Navy game.

The Peggy Lee song “Is That All There is?” reached No. 11 on the Pop hit charts in 1969 and that pretty much describes where the Temple football program is now.

Are there more “good old days to come” or were the best of days a month or so behind us?

Unless the Owls get into a Power 5 conference, and that is something that is not on any radar screen now, they pretty much reached the pinnacle of what they can do by winning the championship of the American Athletic Conference.

Any encore past that would be a Giant Proposition (although not to be confused with the New York Giants’ proposition to Temple that appears elsewhere in this post) and we all know how hard the Owls had to scratch and claw to reach that goal.

possible

Giants picked the best college team they could think of to challenge

The legacy of the 1979 team (top 20 finish) appears to be safe for the foreseeable future and even that team did not have the street cred of the 1934 team, which was so good a NFL team challenged it to a game to, in their words, “determine which version of football was better, college or pro.” The New York Giants could have chosen any school to challenge, but they chose Temple.

So, in these days, what the 2016 team did was truly remarkable.

They had to win seven games in a row with each game being an elimination game and that was a tough task, but they did it. The rules are so stacked against G5 teams that one of them will never win a national championship, so really the only thing that Temple football has not done since joining a FBS league is finish in the top 25 and make a NY6 bowl and win more than 10 games.

Those appear to be more realistic goals for the 2018 team, not the 2017 one. However talented the quarterback will be this season, and he will be, it is too much to expect him to do in his first year what a four-year starter did in his last.

This year, the goal simply has to be getting to a bowl game and winning it but the Owls have already done that (2011) so would that be a unique achievement? No. It looks like the team will take a slight step back next season, winning anywhere from 6-9 games. There have been Temple teams which have surprised before and this may be one of them.

Getting into a NY6 bowl and winning it is really the best the Owls can do at this point and probably should be the goal every year, realistic or not.  There is also something to be said for having a winning program every year and that is something most of the other 126 FBS programs cannot say.

Until then, or such time as the Philadelphia Eagles become the opposing team in the Cherry and White vs. Green Day Game, hoisting that AAC title trophy will always be considered the good old days.

Saturday: Fly On The Wall

Monday: The Next Jerry Rice?

Patenaude’s Pudding

 

With apologies to Bill Cosby, the proof about anyone is in the pudding and we’re not talking Jello here.

Not what they say, but what they do, and, for that, any Temple fan has got to love new offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude.

patenaudebox

The first words out of Patenaude’s mouth in the above interview with the always prepared Morgyn Seigfried were this: “Well, right out of the gate, we’re going right back to the things that have been great here, Temple TUFF, being physical, coming down hill, running the ball, play-action.”

That’s the “what they say” part; we’ll get to the “what they do part” a little later.

If those were the first words out of his mouth in an interview with me, my next two words would have been: “You’re hired.”

According to no less an authority than departed head coach Matt Rhule, the Owls have an NFL fullback, Nick Sharga, and, as long as they have him, they might as well use his unique talents to open up the run game for both the tailbacks and, maybe at least 3-4 times a game, for himself. Establishing the run brings the linebackers and the safeties up closer to the line of scrimmage and makes them suckers for the play-action pass. New quarterback Anthony Russo is going to need that extra second or two play action gives him next year because main quarterback protection, left tackle Dion Dawkins, is off to some lucky team as an NFL first-rounder. Deftly fake it into the belly of, say, Ryquell Armstead, after Armstead rips open a patented (or, in this case, Patenauded) 20-yard run, and Russo will have Temple receivers running so free through the secondary he will not know which one to pick out.

You don’t fix what isn’t broken and, to his credit, Patenaude recognizes that the system Matt Rhule has run from an offensive perspective was never broken. Two tight ends, a fullback, smash-mouth football, play-action, is ingrained in the Temple TUFF mentality and sets the Owls apart from every other team in the AAC. It also helps them eat clock and keep the defense fresh and, if you check the scores the last two years you have noticed that Temple is the only team that plays defense on a consistent basis in the AAC.

The real tasty part of the Patenaude Pudding, though, is the results. At Coastal Carolina, the Grenadier offense under him had virtually the same number of yards and touchdowns running as it did passing. When an offense does that, it is like a shell game where the defense doesn’t know what shell the ball is under or who to tackle.

That’s the best kind of desert and it will be served to Temple fans this fall in tasty helpings. If it works, get ready for some delicious offensive numbers this fall.

Thursday: Eye Of The Needle

Saturday: Fly On The Wall

Helicopter Recruiting

Did not like the way this chopper took off. Ed Foley must have been flying.

Helicopter Parenting is a term that has been around for a while and it means a parent or parents who take an excessive interest in the lives of their children, almost to an unhealthy level.

helicopterparent

Geoff Collins thanks God he landed safe and sound.

A much more recent phrase is Helicopter Recruiting, and that has an entirely different connotation. What might be unhealthy parenting usually translates into healthy recruiting and recruits almost universally love to be recruited that way.

Plus, it enables a coach to get to a lot of places on the same day.

Count new Temple football head coach Geoff Collins as a devotee of Helicopter Recruiting, something old coach Matt Rhule did not particularly like.

The first coach from the area who did this was Greg Schiano at Rutgers eight years ago and it produced some outstanding recruiting classes for the Scarlet Knights.

Right now, Temple fans will settle for Collins holding serve with most of Rhule’s 16 committed recruits and that apparently is the plan. If Collins can poach a couple of Power 5 recruits, something that Rhule and Al Golden seemed to do toward Signing Day, that can only be considered a bonus.

Really, Collins cannot be fairly judged by this recruiting class. We hear he’s a great recruiter, but that will be determined by his next class, not his first. One recruit we can talk about is Florida quarterback Todd Centeio because he already is enrolled at Temple and in the luxurious Morgan Hall. He’s a three-star and undoubtedly will give the other quarterbacks a run for their money.

Todd Centeio already is enrolled at Temple.

We usually do not like to talk about specific recruits in this space because of two reasons. One, these guys have not signed their names on the dotted lines yet and, two, the NCAA has specific rules against contacting recruits and we adhere to them.

If such news breaks our way, we’ll report it but, for now, we will leave the Helicopter recruiting to a good pilot named Geoff Collins.

Tuesday: The Patenaude Effect

God And The Power 5

baylor

Amazing how $7 million can make someone (not me) a fan of another team so quickly.

When Matt Rhule took over the head coaching job at Baylor, one of the reasons he gave was that he was called to accept the position because of his faith.

That kind of stunned the people who knew him at Temple over nearly the last 10 years because no one had ever heard him mention his “faith” or “God” in a public statement in any of his press conferences at the Edberg-Olson Football Complex.

Many had just written off the comment as “playing to the audience.” That said, in his first press conference at Temple University, was his statement of “wanting Bill (Bradshaw) to allow me to sign a 15-year contract” also playing to the crowd?

Probably.

Still, I could see God listening to all of this and giving the Dikembe Motoembo “no” waving finger to Rhule on both counts.

That begs the question. How come God has never called for one of these big-time coaches to come help a lesser school than a Power 5 one?

You know, the same God who might agree with the Pope on this:

impossible

To me, God is the Being who says to go help the weaker become stronger.

In college football, that means telling the big-time coach to go help the G5 team, not the P5 team.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.

The photo of Matt Rhule cheering for the Baylor basketball team does not sit well with me, not because I wish him ill but because it represents the perfect illustration of power and money over weakness and poverty.

It is amazing how $7 million dollars makes one a fan of another team so quickly.

I would like to think that if I was offered $7 million tomorrow to be a fan of, say, Alabama and reject my fandom of Temple that I would say no and I am fairly confident no amount of money could make me reject  the team I love.

God must love the Power 5 over the Group of 5. I’m still waiting (hell, praying) for the first photo of Nick Saban or Dabo Sweeney saying at a press conference that they have been called to a school like Temple or Navy because God called  them to go there.

Because God gave me common sense, I will not hold my breath but I would love to, err, God-willing live long enough to see that day.

Sunday: Recruiting Thoughts

New DC Johnson Has Been Here Before

taver

The last time Taver Johnson attended a Temple game the crowd was 1/15th this large.

The last time Temple fans saw Taver Johnson in action as a defensive coordinator, the Owls’ program was in the gutter and in desperate need of intervention.

Probably none of them remember him.

Then, Johnson was the DC at Miami (Ohio) and there was an announced crowd of 11,257 (“missing about 9,000 no-shows”  according to an AP story on the game) in the stands at Lincoln Financial Field but, in reality, you could count the crowd in about 20 minutes and probably come up with one third of that number. Outside, before the game, there were five fans tailgating in the rain in Lot K waiting for the game to begin right up to a half-hour before kickoff.

johnson

Taver Johnson’s last stop was Purdue.

Five, as in the number that comes after four and before six, and the day will go down in Temple football infamy, Oct. 29, 2005. The entire lot was empty except for those five fans.

In all fairness, in those days there was a larger group of Temple tailgaters a couple of lots over at the Jethro Lot but those five in two cars were all that showed in Lot K that  rainy day.

The gloomy rain was a fitting backdrop for a program that hit rock bottom with only two directions apparent: Up or out. The talk of tailgate that day was speculating on the miracle man  who could save the program because then coach Bobby Wallace had already announced he was not coming back at the end of the year, nudged out by the administration. Rick Neuheisel’s name came up, as did Frank Solich’s. Al Golden was an unknown at the time to any of the five Temple fans left.

I know. I was one of them. The other four shall remain nameless, but they have all witnessed a rebirth in the program and the tailgate atmosphere that is truly remarkable. The Owls were able to start crawling out of the gutter a  couple of months later when a Virginia assistant coach named Al Golden, also a DC, was named head coach.

Johnson’s defense was impressive in a 41-14 win over the Owls, but so was every other defense that played against the Owls that year. That was the ninth loss in an 0-11 season on the way to 20-straight losses.

Now Johnson is back and will roam the sidelines in the same capacity this year as DC of the Owls. Ironically, same sideline, too, because the “home” side for Temple was the other side of the Linc in those days.

It seems like a good hire for new head coach Geoff Collins. In that year of 2005, Johnson presided over a Miami defense that spearheaded a 7-4 record. In addition to “holding” Temple to two touchdowns, his defense limited Cincinnati to 16 points, Buffalo to 13 and Ohio to 10.

That was Johnson’s only experience as a FBS defensive coordinator.  His most recent experience was Purdue defensive backs’ coach the last two years and that was the same Purdue team that gave up 63 points to Penn State. Still, he brings a mostly P5 coaching set to Temple and that has to be a plus because he will go on the recruiting trail looking for a P5 skill set. He was at Arkansas (linebackers and cornerbacks) in 2012 and 2013 and coached the cornerbacks at Ohio State from 2007-2012.

He even served as interim head coach of the Razorbacks.

When he finally roams the sidelines, he will see a whole other side of Temple, both on the field and in the stands, that he saw the first time and the impression should be a favorable one. We can only hope those fans have a favorable impression of the work Johnson does in their view, but we won’t know for sure until about midway through the 2017 season.

Friday: God and The Power 5

Cherry and White Bowls Matter

NCAA Football: Military Bowl-Temple vs Wake Forest

These are the disturbing images Owls have seen walking off the field the last two seasons.

rockets

The next time someone tells you a bowl game is a meaningless post-season exhibition game, tell them the story of the last two Temple football seasons.

Each time, the Owls flushed down the toilet the priceless ring of a Top 25 finish by losing to underdogs.

That meant that Vegas had faith in the Owls—1.5 favorites over Toledo and 12.5 favorites over Wake Forest—but that circumstances prevented the Owls from winning and appearing in the Top 25 for two straight seasons. Vegas is usually right, so something went terribly wrong for the Owls at the end of the last two seasons.

If that weren’t enough in and of itself (it is), consider this: Top 25 voters the next year, for the most part, are lazy journalists who just list the teams who were from the Top 25 the year before. Those teams have a built-in advantage over the rest of the other 102 FBS teams because, once in that Top 25 club, you have to play your way out. It is much harder to play your way in from the outside.

That’s the way college football works.

Had the Owls, No. 24 in the CFB poll, beat Wake Forest, they would have likely risen above fellow state school Pittsburgh, the No. 23 team, that lost to Northwestern in the Pinstripe Bowl. Had they beaten Wake Forest coming off a win over Toledo the year prior, they would have established themselves as a more permanent Top 25 presence and that perception in a pro town like Philadelphia would have been invaluable.

We now know why that did not happen. The Owls went heavy on the fun and sun in Boca two bowls ago and, this year, the entire defensive staff missed eight practices leading up to the bowl game.

A Temple program that hemorrhages coaches out the door of the E-O is doomed to this fate, unless new coach Geoff Collins sticks around for a few years. He almost certainly is assured to be here through a bowl game next year and this is where the Owls must make their move for 2018, by establishing themselves in the Top 25 with a bowl win and setting themselves up for upward mobility a year after that.

The Owls should be in a bowl next season and, once there, the entire Temple community from the Board of Trustees to the football element must realize how valuable it is to win this time. That should be the “unfinished business” Collins makes sure is transacted next year under, hopefully, a new and more original slogan.

 

Wednesday: Waiting For A Puff of Gray Smoke

Friday: God And The Power 5

Sunday: Threading The Needle