No More Mr. Nice Guy

Despite the rain a month ago, a good C and W Day was had by all.

Some of the best sports journalism these days is not available to those of us who still purchase newspapers or read columns on the internet.

It’s produced electronically and shown via programs like ESPN’s excellent 30 for 30 series and the equally well-produced A Football Life by the NFL Network.

Other than the one on Bruce Arians, the best one was done on Bill Parcells and shown over the weekend. Parcells said his “coaching life” turned when, after winning only three games as a first-year head coach with the New York Giants, he made a conscious effort to go from being Mr. Nice Guy to being Mr. Hard Ass. Parcells felt that he was trying to be the player’s friend when he realized that to be their coach he could not be their friend.

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“Hard Ass” was the nickname Wayne Hardin’s players had for him at Temple. When Hardin was coach of the Owls, he was a tough taskmaster and never got too close to his players. Those players got to love coach Hardin for it, not while they played for him but years afterward when they realized what he was trying to accomplish.

“Everybody hated the guy when he was our coach,” one of his ex-players told me on Cherry and White Day. “Maybe hated is too strong a word, but nobody liked him. We all got to love him only years later when we realized what he was trying to do.”

This brings us to Geoff Collins.

The first-year Temple coach comes across as chummy-chummy with his players in almost every interaction with his players and that could be a recipe for failure. At least those are the outside perceptions fueled by the multiple images of Collins body-bumping his players during practice. Although, Andy Reid has done it with TO, no one remembers Bill Belichick, Vince Lombardi, Wayne Hardin or Bill Parcells doing anything similar.

The last time we checked, Reid hasn’t won anything of note.

Parcells had to learn it after a three-win season and that was the hard way.

Hardin never had to learn it because that’s the way he always was.

Another great head coach, Bill Belichick, adopted his coaching demeanor from watching Hardin as a kid and being in the same room with Parcells as an assistant.

Another recent coach who passed away, Mike Pettine Sr., the legendary coach at Central Bucks West, was a classic drill-instructor type whose players cursed him beneath their breath on the practice field but got to love him only years later when they talked about how critical those practices were to the championship trophies they got to hoist.

Hopefully, it will not take a three-win season for Collins to learn that lesson and his required summer reading will be the stories of Parcells, Belichick, Hardin and Pettine.

Or at least he should sit down and watch the Bill Parcells’ episode of “A Football Life” and carefully listen to everything The Tuna has to say.

Friday: Spread This

Outside Perceptions

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Notre Dame fans seemed shocked by the line.

Every once in a while, it’s a useful exercise to step outside the box and view what other people are seeing.

Perspective is important. A year ago at this time we were incredulous that a lot of people had written Temple off, saying “Temple will take a step back.” We outlined five reasons why 2016 was the step forward year, not the step back one, and cautioned those know-it-all outsiders to not be surprised.

Winning 10 games, plus the AAC title, was that step forward. At the same time, we also wrote in this spot that 2017 would be the “step back” year, but we wrote step, not steps. To me, this team is an 8-9-win team, not a 6-win team, but only time will tell.

One outsider has completely gone off the rails, though, picking the Owls as the 111th-ranked team in the Orlando Sentinel preseason polls.

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Not a very well-researched article. (Or even well-edited. In the first graph, she says the Owls are No. 111. In the second graph, it says “our ranking is 112.” Which is it?)

One-hundred-and-11th (or 12th) is not even six wins, but more like two or three. There was not a lot of thought process involved in that ranking.

Then there is this:

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Consider the above a baby step forward. “How many wins in a row will Notre Dame have IF it beats Temple?”

When this series was first announced seven years ago, the word IF would have been laughable but, after the inferior 2015 Owls (compared to the 2016 version) hung with the then No. 9-ranked Irish, it is best for ND fans to take this game more seriously than the 2016 Owls took their opener.  Last year’s Temple team beat Navy, 34-10. Navy beat last year’s Notre Dame team.

Plenty of variables for the 2017 Owls make this season harder to predict than the last two, but the defense should be as good or slightly better and the offense should be slightly worse. One is what kind of head coach Geoff Collins will be. You’ve got to assume he won’t be the stumbling bumbler Matt Rhule was his first two seasons. Also if  Anthony Russo can just duplicate the first season of P.J. Walker (20 touchdowns, eight interceptions), the Owls should be fine in that area, too. Having covered high school football in Philadelphia for much of the last 30 years, Russo is by far the best talent to come out of this city since Matt Ryan committed to Boston College.

At the end of the regular season the last two years, the Owls were ranked in the Top 25. One-hundred-and-eleven is just dumb, though. In the college football world of recruiting and redshirting, it is impossible to drop from the top 25 to the bottom 15 in just one season.

This team will compete for a third-straight spot in the AAC title game. Whether they can get there with eight wins, as opposed to nine, is a question too hard to answer right now.

Wednesday: Mr. Nice Guy

Friday: Spread This

Monday: 5 Reasons Why The Owls Will Contend 

Honesty Is The Best Policy

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With Temple football, the only thing “forever” is the fans, not the coaches or players.

When my mother was alive and I was in my more formative years, she used to repeat two phrases over and over to me which were not original, but at least profound.

“Honesty is the best policy.”

“If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.”

Temple first-year head coach Geoff Collins’ mom must have said the same thing when he was growing up because, in the six months or so he’s been on the job, he’s been both honest and nice. I haven’t heard him say a negative word about anyone and he’s seemed to avoid the proclamations of loyalty to Temple that got past coaches criticism for hypocrisy, let alone lack of honesty.

I guess Temple fans should be thankful for that much, but the questions about what impact this will have on recruiting have yet to be answered.

Maybe that’s what Collins was thinking back in December when he answered the best question of the introductory press conference this way:

“I’ll tell them I concentrate on the here and now.”

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In true Jeopardy fashion, we will now give you the  question was posed by Temple-made 920 The Jersey sports talk show host Zach Gelb.

“Can you honestly tell kids you are recruiting you will be here when they graduate?”

It has been part of the sidebar of this website to print what I determine to be the best quotes about the program on the sidebar and I have included two quotes from in the past from former Temple coaches.

One, was this one from Matt Rhule:

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That was last year after Rhule signed his second five-year contract.

Another was from Al Golden on the day he was hired. “I’m going to build a house of brick, not straw.”

While Rhule didn’t keep his promise of a year ago, Golden pretty much kept his made over a decade ago. Golden built the program the right way, recruiting a highly-rated (compared to league foes) class every year and making sure the program sustained itself by redshirting a large group of players in order to build depth down the line.

He left after five years, owing Temple nothing, making no promises he would be here for the long haul.

Rhule left the program in good shape, too, yet a lot of fans wished he had been more honest.

If you want honest, you’ve got him in Collins. While it might be nice for recruiting purposes for Collins to say he wants to be “The Guy” who wants to stay and build something more substantial than Golden or Rhule did, honesty certainly is the best policy.

His Mom should be proud.

Monday: Outside Perceptions about the 2017 Owls

After ND, Temple’s Non-Conference Games Lack Juice For Years

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It would be sweet if the Owls unveiled the traditional football brand at ND.

Attention Temple fans: It’s a long way from here to Oklahoma, and we mean in more ways than one.

In between now and the 2024 game in Norman, it’s slim pickings for Temple fans in terms of non-conference games.

There will be some attractive matchups against AAC foes, but those conference games can get monotonous at times.

As far as juice—a word invoked by head coach Geoff Collins a lot—there is the game at Notre Dame on September 3, and that’s really it.

Then, as far as non-conference games goes, there’s a lot of walking through the desert before getting to that other Oasis in 2024.

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There’s the taste of water in South Bend in September, and a lot of parched throats in between.

That is, unless games against Idaho, UMass, Bucknell and Buffalo whet your appetite.

(We didn’t think so.)

That adds to the meaning of the Notre Dame game and makes it the Owls’ Game of the Century, especially if they can pull it out and the Irish and Owls go on to have a decent season. (Hey, Army beat Temple in the opener and the Owls still went on to a decent season, so Notre Dame can do the same as well.)

The game is important for a couple of reasons. One, it’s Notre Dame and it’s on national TV. Two, Notre Dame is in talks with the ACC to become an all-sports member. If those talks lead to anything, the ACC might need a 16th team to balance two divisions and, should Temple win, it would focus the spotlight on the nation’s largest available media market.

That’s a lot of assumptions, but that doesn’t erase the fact that Temple has had big-time games in the not-so-recent past (Penn State the last two years and Notre Dame in 2015) and will go many years after this one before getting a non-conference foe as juicy as its next one.

So fill up your canteens in South Bend, Temple fans. It’s a long walk in the desert after that.

Friday: The Quotemeister General

Wandering Eyes

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Florida

Tennessee quarterback Sheriron Jones (13) works out prior to the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. (Photo by Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Geoff Collins, meet Kevin Newsome.

Or Jabo Lee.

Newsome, from Virginia, was one of the top recruits in the country before deciding on Penn State.

Lee, a running back from South Carolina, originally was offered by Tennessee, then made his way to Temple.

Both were highly recruited players who went elsewhere before transferring to Temple. Both made minimal contributions with the Owls’ football program. Actually, the only thing Newsome played at Temple was the piano, even though he was once listed as No. 2 on the Penn State quarterback depth chart.

Pick this Kevin Newsome classic up at the 1:15 time stamp.

The lesson learned there is just because the big-time programs recruit you and you can’t make it there, that doesn’t mean you can automatically assume you are going to make it at Temple.

A refresher course on these lessons is order because it appears that this new staff has had wandering eyes on at least two occasions, both involve bringing in a quarterback.

One, back in January, was a JUCO quarterback from Lackawanna CC, David Pindell, who eventually committed to UConn.

The newest quarterback to surface on the internet as having interest in Temple is another Tennessee transfer, Sheriron Jones.

I didn’t have a real good feeling about Pindell and I certainly don’t about Jones. First off, Jones left Tennessee twice, once heading out to Colorado before coming back to Tennessee. That usually means a measure of entitlement and that doesn’t quite jive with the Temple TUFF mentality that is already in place here. Also, the other schools on Jones’ list are Cal Poly, Tennessee State and North Alabama. It’s not like Temple is in competition for his services with Memphis and Houston. Highly paid coaching staffs have taken a look at his film and said no thanks.

Temple should probably do the same.

Got to wonder, though, if the Owls’ coaching staff isn’t completely sold on the quarterbacks they already have based on those two examples. I think such concerns are unfounded.

Having seen Anthony Russo through his entire high school career, I believe he will eventually win the job and eventually break all of P.J. Walker’s records. That is based upon having seen both Walker and Russo against high school competition and Russo is much farther advanced that P.J. was against that level.

P.J. was more than adequate from the jump, even though he played on a two-win team his first year, and, if Russo is out there, Temple should be more than OK at the position in 2017. Hell, if Logan Marchi beats him out fair and square, Temple should still be OK. Todd Centeio is waiting in the wings and he might have even more down-the-line upside than those two. That should be determined on the practice field at the E-O and not promised to a four-star transfer.

The only big-time transfer who ever worked out at Temple was Montel Harris, but Harris was a proven college football superstar at Boston College before arriving at 10th and Diamond. His 351-yard, 5-touchdown, game in a 63-32 win at Army (2012) may never be duplicated here again.

These other guys are looking at Temple as a place they think they can play. If they can’t make it there, they probably can’t make it here.

Unless, of course, Jones can play the piano.

Wednesday: An Oasis In The Desert

Friday: The Quotemeister General

The True Legends

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Three TU legends: Sheldon Morris, Willard Cooper and Anthony Gordon (Bruce’s players).

In a recent Sports Illustrated article, Geoff Collins gives a well-deserved shout-out to a true Temple football legend, administrative assistant Nadia Harvin.

Nadia’s office has pre-dated the E-O and she goes way back to Bruce Arians, even though she must’ve made a deal with the devil (like Dorian Gray) because she doesn’t look a day over 26. She survived coaching changes through Jerry Berndt, Ron Dickerson, Bobby Wallace, Al Golden and Matt Rhule.

That’s saying something since new coaches like to bring in their own people.

 

Her hubby, Allen, was

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Steve Conjar (left), Wayne Hardin’s greatest linebacker

a great running back for the University of Cincinnati but we will forgive him for that because he’s been Temple all (or most) of the way since.

(I pointed out to Allen on Cherry and White Day that Temple holds a significant lead in the all-time series against Cincinnati and he said, “Not when I was there.”  I will have to look that up but I will take him at his word.)

Still, Collins would do well to sit down with Nadia and discuss the term legends from what I’ve been hearing from Temple guys who played back in the day.

Collins throws the term “legends” around like Frisbees, including recent guys like P.J. Walker, Haason Reddick, Tyler Matakevich but, to me, the “true” Temple legends are the guys (and girls, like Nadia) who have withstood the test of time like Steve Conjar and Paul Palmer.

When Matt Rhule took the head coaching job at Temple, I shot off an email congratulating him for getting the job.

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More of coach Hardin’s guys, including Phil Prohaska and Mark Bresani (Cherry and White rear).

Matt immediately emailed back and asked for my phone number. What followed was a cordial 35-minute phone call, where he picked my brain for names of guys who played at Temple, specifically back when he played at Penn State. He wanted to welcome them back into the fold.

When I casually mentioned that former head coach Bruce Arians was still close to his players and that I had Bruce’s personal cell phone number, Matt asked me for it. Since one of the players was the guy who gave it to me, I told Matt that I had to ask his permission.

I did, player said yes, and Matt thanked the player and his teammates by saying that the program wanted to welcome them. Matt got the lowdown from Bruce, then Matt developed a tight relationship with coach Wayne Hardin where he got to know the players of that era.  Rhule went the extra mile, really few miles, to embrace those guys and make sure his players honored those who came before them.

There has been a slight difference, though, in the Collins’ approach and it definitely needs to be tweaked. While Collins did stop by at the Cherry and White tailgates of the older guys, I don’t get the vibe that he knows the older alums like he does the younger ones.

Neither do many of those guys.

While he knows all of the recent guys, he really has not reached out in the same way to some of the other guys.

“He acts,” one of them said to me, “like nothing happened at Temple football before Al Golden. This program did great things before Golden, like Heisman Trophy runnerups and finishing in the Top 20. With all due respect, none of the recent guys came close to that.”

That needs to change.

On a recent day devoted to high school coaches, Collins was introduced to a very special guy and was given his name.

“Coach, where do you coach?” Collins asked.

“Over at Haddon Heights in New Jersey,” the man said.

“It’s great seeing you. Thanks for coming.”

The man walked away, shaking his head.

That man, unbeknownst to Collins, was in my humble opinion the greatest player in Temple football history and a guy who should have won the 1986 Heisman Trophy.

His name was, and is, Paul Palmer. To me, that was a little like Nick Saban arriving at Alabama, meeting Joe Namath, and asking him which high school he coaches.

That introduction needs to be redone and guys like Conjar and Palmer deserve their place at the top of the Temple legend list and placed in front of a row of the more recent guys. These guys played at Temple through a lot of thick days remained loyal through a lot of thin ones afterward. For that, they deserve special thanks from the program, specifically its current CEO.

A phone call to Matt Rhule would set him on the proper path, as would a talk with Nadia.

Monday: Wandering Eye

Defensive Guessing Game

You know what they say about assumptions or assuming, but in the long stretch between the end of the Cherry and White game and kickoff at Notre Dame, assuming can be a fun exercise.

We’ll assume this for now:

Notre Dame will see some Mayhem on September 3d when its offense approaches the line of scrimmage.

That’s because we can be relatively confident in the personnel that will line up on the defensive side of the ball.

Here is our fun list of starters for now, subject to change, mostly due to injury and coaching decisions and assuming a 5-2-4 defensive alignment:

DE-Sharif Finch, Jacob Martin

DT-Karamo Dioubate, Michael Dogbe 

NT-Freddy Booth-Lloyd

LB-Shaun Bradley, Jared Folks

CB—Mike Jones, Artel Foster

FS-Sean Chandler

SS-Delvon Randall

There are, of course, a lot of good defenders not listed there who are, what head coach Geoff Collins calls “above the line” and starters in his mind, even if they don’t line up on the first play of the first series. This is a two-deep defense when you consider guys like Greg Webb are available on the line and Benny Walls, Linwood Crump and Derrick Thomas in the secondary.

Your 2017 starters at DE?

There may be others we haven’t heard about because guys like Keith Kirkwood have spent some time as a pass rusher. If he’s anywhere near as good in that capacity as Romond Deloatch was the Owls will have something.

Right now, though, that group is pretty impressive.

At one end, the Owls will have a playmaker in Finch who started a game against Rutgers way back in 2013. He made in my mind the key play in the win over Penn State in 2015 as well. At the other end, you have a single-digit tough guy in Martin, who also had a sack against Penn State (who didn’t?).

At one of the DTs, you will have a guy in Dogbe who really came into his own at the end of last season as a starter and Dioubate, a guy who received a phone call from none other than Nick Saban the day he decided to keep his Temple commitment. He was too good to redshirt last season.

At one corner, Nate Hairston, a fifth-round NFL draft pick, will be replaced by a guy in Jones, who was projected by Mike Mayock as being “the steal of the 2017 late rounds” if he had declared this year. Jones declared for Temple, not the NFL, and probably will be a third round pick or better in the 2018 draft if he just duplicates the kind of success with the Owls that he had with North Carolina Central. If he succeeds it, watch out.

With Mayhem, and these guys creating it, anything is possible.

Friday: The True Legends

Monday: Wandering Eye