Perception Versus Reality

touchdown-jesus

Father forgive them, for they know not what they say.

Very few things surprise me these days, but I will have to admit I was surprised by this post that appeared on OwlsDaily.com by a Notre Dame fan who has been trolling that site all summer:

ndfan

That Notre Dame fan could not be more wrong.

“Both defensive end starters?”

Hmm.

Jacob Martin, one of the replacements, has a single digit for a reason. His teammates consider him one of the nine toughest players on the team and they have for the past two years. The other defensive end, Sharif Finch was a starter for the THREE previous years before being injured a  year ago and was the key defensive playmaker in a 2015 win over Penn State. He is also one of the nine toughest players on the team as voted by his 105 teammates.

Funny, I looked very hard for that qualifier in the Notre Dame fan’s post but could not find it.

He just assumes that because Temple lost two DE starters, it will have a dropoff in that area. Sorry to disabuse him of the notion, but it is not happening.

The same can be said for his other incorrect assumptions regarding the rest of the interior defensive line. Freddy Booth-Lloyd was not a starter at nose tackle/DT but certainly logged as much time as the starter, Averee Robinson. Michael Dogbe and Greg Webb were starters, as well as Karamo Dioubate. This line might be better than last year’s group.


In another post, the same
Notre Dame guy says,
“the more I read about
this game the more convinced
I am that it will get ugly early.”

In another post, the same Notre Dame guy says, “the more I read about this game the more convinced I am that it will get ugly early.”

There are no such assumptions from the Temple side, even though the Owls entered the last two bowl games ranked in the Top 25. The only expectation that the Owls bring  is that they will be ready for a street fight and really that’s the only way to approach this one. Respect everyone, fear no one.

What the linebackers lack in experience, they more than make up for in talent. Linebacker coach Andrew Thacker said the two units are so talented, he might run in two sets of starters. We all know the secondary is the strongpoint of the defense. Even the ND fan will admit that.

Of course, the quarterback situation is a bit of a concern but the same could be said for Notre Dame’s starter, Wimbush. Nice QB, with a high pedigree, but the Owls have a guy in Anthony Russo, who was recruited by LSU, and, if he’s beaten out, they will have more than a capable replacement for P.J. Walker.

If perception versus reality is an indicator of how things will go on 9/2/17, I like the Owls’ chances. I really like from a psychological standpoint how this game is shaping up for the Owls. There are a lot of guys who think this game will get ugly on their side and a lot of guys on our side who will be ready to go to war.

As someone whose image is plastered in one Notre Dame end zone once said, “Father Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Or, in this case, say.

Monday: The Final Scrimmage

Collins Rings In New Year

mobile

They could have held this party in a phone booth 20 years ago.

As careers go, I’m so glad I got into the writing end of the media than the photographic one.

Exhibit A was the annual Season Ticket Holder Party at the Pavilion.

Pointing my cell phone as steady as I could at head coach Geoff Collins, I recorded this statement:

“People asked me tonight since I was from the SEC, that this was probably not as good as the SEC. Let me tell you this was better than anything in the SEC.”

I tried to download the video to post here only to get this message:

“Can’t attach file over 25 MB.”

It’s all Greek to me.

myring

My keepsake (I know, terrible photo)

Oh well. Taking the video seemed like a good idea at the time because Collins can hold the interest of a crowd maybe even better than his predecessor, Matt Rhule.

Collins, as always, seemed pretty sincere. Maybe they don’t have season-ticket-holder parties in the SEC but Temple’s season ticket-holder party went from a small-time deal in the Bobby Wallace days to filling every inch of an indoor football field with fans last night.

I finally got to meet the man last night and I was very impressed with him.

I told him how much I thought Nick Sharga needed to be involved in the offense this year, particularly with his blocking, and Collins agreed and one-upped me by saying that Nick not only blocks but gets in a healthy share of carries every practice. To me, you can talk about the quarterback all you want but if Sharga isn’t back there to be the last line of defense against a blitzing linebacker, the quarterback is probably going to end up on his back side. Before Sharga got here, that was pretty much the fate of P.J. Walker his first two years on the job. Rhule’s spread offense was a disaster because every time Walker went empty backfield, opposing coaches routinely blitzed one more player than the Owls could block and Walker had to run for his life.

Hopefully, Collins won’t make the same mistake by exposing an inexperienced quarterback to limited pocket protections.

We talked about coach Hardin and Collins said he was thrilled the coach made it to the Saturday practice before he passed, but I dared not ask him who the starting quarterback would be. Collins made clear before the first of two scrimmages that he would not decide who the quarterback would be until the second scrimmage and we’re just not there yet. I’m sure others asked the question, though.

I told him jokingly they could have held the season-ticket party in a phone booth in the 1980s and he laughed and said he was aware the program has come a long way. (Heck, he was the Albright College defensive coordinator in nearby Reading in the 1980s so he probably knew the Temple fan landscape in those days well.)

Speaking of ringing in the New Year, the season ticket holders were given a terrific keepsake in a quality championship ring.

I told Scott Walcoff, the associate AD, that whoever came up with that idea is a genius. Scott gave all the credit to his boss, Pat Kraft. Walcoff said that fans who still want the ring should keep an eye out because the university will make it available on a limited basis and it still might be available for those who purchase season tickets between now and the Villanova game. This is a quality item, far better than the kind of thing you might find in a cracker jack box. To borrow a phrase from Abraham Lincoln, “it is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.” The fans who have been through more thin than thick but remained true to the program are champions in my mind.

Believe me, it’s worth it, but don’t take the accompanying photo as proof.

Photography was never my strong suit.

Friday: Perception Versus Reality

QB Casting Call

The Temperors held the first of two closed scrimmages on Saturday as even the Temple fans are getting ready. This should be on the Jumbotron pregame for Villanova (our suggestion).

If hint-dropping is taken into account, Frank Nutile would be under center when the Owls travel to Notre Dame on 9/2/17.

Hint 1: Nutile has been taking MOST of the snaps with the first team during camp so far. When Keith Kirkwood, Adonis Jennings and Ventell Bryant are all on the field at the same time, it has been Nutile throwing the ball to them.

Hint 2: On Media Day, Collins said “the team seems to move the ball better with him in there” and “guys tend to gravitate to him when he’s in the room.” That was all on a question about how he got the nickname of Frankie Juice.

Of course, Collins could be throwing us all for a loop and saying these things to throw the speculation one way and then call a play that goes the other. He does not strike me as that kind of guy, though. He did have his first of two closed scrimmages on Saturday night and the word was that “all four” quarterbacks looked equally good.

What Collins does have is not unlike a director looking for a lead man. He has four distinct types.

jimnutile

FRANK NUTILE_ Much more of a “Jim Plunkett” type than the other four quarterbacks. Not very mobile or flashy, but gets the throws where they need to be. Plunkett won a Heisman Trophy and two Super Bowls, so the strong silent type could be what Collins is looking for right now.

ANTHONY RUSSO_ Definitely more flashy than Nutile and called “the light who brightens up a room” by no less a quarterback authority than Trent Dilfer. Russo has been compared to the Atlanta Falcons’ Matty Ryan, because he is a similar “type” quarterback with functional mobility (the ability to get out of trouble in the pocket to make a throw downfield). Ryan, like Russo, is from one of the three Philadelphia City Leagues (Inter-AC, Catholic, Public) and Russo had the better high school stats against better competition. Getting Russo to stay home at Temple was, as Joe Biden might say, a big f’ing deal and Russo’s success with the Owls might have a Pied Piper effect. Temple tried to recruit two players from the Catholic and Inter-Ac Leagues before, one was Ryan and the other was Rich Gannon. Both became NFL MVPs. Russo had a more outstanding Philadelphia scholastic career than those two and his getting on the field sooner than later might to out to be a big benefit for the Owls.

russo

LOGAN MARCHI _ When a group of Temple fans first saw Marchi’s high school film, they pretty much agreed that they were watching Johnny Manziel. The then Texas A&M quarterback used to duck out of trouble, like Marchi did in those clips, and make something happen with his feet—like a big gain in the run game or an explosive play in the passing game, even if the pass was thrown off the back feet. Marchi threw a couple of those back-feet passes in the spring game and was intercepted. Maybe it was more of an aberration than the norm, but he’s had to catch up since.

TODD CENTEIO _ Reminds me particularly of the guy they are trying so hard to replace, Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Phillip “P.J.” Walker. Like Marchi, he has more than functional mobility in the sense that he can get out of the pocket and make a big gain in both the running and the passing game. Walker looked to run a lot in his first two seasons, but enjoyed more success when he became a pocket passer in his final two seasons. Now the Owls are desperately seeking a guy like him and may be forced to burn a redshirt to get another version of Walker.

The first scrimmage, or reading, is in the books. It may take a second casting call before all the characters in this movie are aligned.

Wednesday: Ringing In The New Year

Friday: Perception Versus Reality

 

 

QB Dilemma: Nutile Looks Like The Guy

gelbster

Zach Gelb at the EO interviewing Chris Coyer’s kid back in the day.

Make no mistake, Geoff Collins has a quarterback dilemma.

Not necessarily a quarterback PROBLEM, but certainly a dilemma.

A “problem” is picking between Chester Stewart and Vaughn Charlton. Both came to Temple with dubious credentials, with Charlton throwing for only nine TDs as a high school senior at Avon Grove. The Strath Haven assistant coach who called in track results to the Philadelphia Inquirer had this to say about him: “Mike, what is Temple thinking? That guy blows.”

A little harsh, but Charlton was never a high-end FBS quarterback. Or, in my humble opinion, a quarterback you could win a FBS championship with under center.

These four guys new coach Geoff Collins has to work with all had much better high school careers than Charlton or Stewart and these are four guys Temple can win a championship with now.

This group of guys is a significant upgrade from those days.

The press is allowed only to see the last 10-15 minutes of every practice, so the appearance of the Zach Gelb Radio Show on campus recently gave some clues about what will happen. Two hours of unfettered access on one day tells you a lot more than 10-15 minutes on every day.

Gelb, a Temple grad, got really the first unfettered press access but, despite his pleas of “it’s my birthday” Collins wasn’t going to give him the icing on the cake with a premature anointing of a starter.

Suffice it to say that a parade of guests—heard through the prism of what sounded like someone stepping on the transmission lines—indicated that the guy throwing to the ones (Keith Kirkwood, Adonis Jennings and Ventell Bryant) the most this summer camp was Frankie “Juice” Nutile.

juice

In other words, there is a scrimmage on Saturday at Franklin Field and Nutile (pronounced NEW TILE) would have to throw about three interceptions to cause the quarterback depth chart to shift.

Combine that with the fact that Collins himself let slip the quote “the team seems to move the ball best with him in there” and the unmistakable notion is that in the next week or so Nutile will be named the guy.

Is that reading too much into it?

Perhaps.

True freshman Toddy Centeio also has received high praise from his teammates, but he unmistakably is running with the third team and throwing against third-team DBs. He appears headed for a redshirt.

That leaves Anthony Russo and Logan Marchi and those two mostly with the “twos” (in other words, Jager Gardner is the back he hands off to most, while Nutile hands off to Ryquell Armstead).

Collins told Gelb a lot will depend on this weekend’s scrimmage at Franklin Field (closed to the public) and how they do against live bullets. He also told Gelb that this isn’t a “gut” decision and that he and offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude (pronounced Patton Nude) have set up a baseball-like metrics system that tells them which quarterback moves the team better. That’s comforting to know the decision won’t come down to pulling the name out of the hat.

Other gems from the interviews:

kid

Stadium: All talk, no action.

 

Pat Kraft (Temple AD):

Gelb, who asks the best questions of any of the Temple media (hell, Pravda could learn a lot from his questions), started out by asking Dr. Kraft what he knew about the stadium situation and Kraft said: “You know more about it than me.” Not an exaggeration, since Kraft has been taken out of the loop because, as he explained, a “subcommittee of the Board of Trustees is handling all of that now and that’s where it is.” So, in short, the stadium is all talk and no action.

Scott Walcoff (Temple associate AD): 

The intro at the stadium on the Jumbotron will be new and improved, but he could not spill the beans despite Gelb waving the birthday card. Also, people going to the Billy Joel concert the day Temple plays will get into the Temple game for $10 by simply showing their Piano Man ticket.

Delvon Randall (safety):

Said that no Temple player sits and “chills” during practice, like they did with Matt Rhule, but that the drills going on can look like a cluster. “You want to add another word after that, don’t you?” Gelb said. OK, we’ll say it: Cluster Fuck. That might not be a good thing for game-day preparation, but we shall see. All I want out of Temple practices this year is so much concentration on detail that we will never again see a 120-yard penalty day like we did at Penn State last  year. Matt Rhule screwed the pooch with his preparation the week of that game and it cost Temple a win over a P5 champ.

projectmayhem

Collins:

Said the best thing about being a Temple coach is “being around these kids. They are the best group of kids I’ve been around as a coach anywhere. They are competitive. They love to practice. They love to compete and they love to be coached” and that he doesn’t want to put the pressure of getting another 10-win season on them but “I want to take all of that on myself.”

Monday: Quarterback Casting

 

 

 

 

King Solomon’s Kicking Solution

jones

Austin Jones kicks arguably the most clutch FG of the last 10  years of TUFB.

Other than the quarterback dilemma, probably the toughest decision facing Geoff Collins in these weeks before the Notre Dame game is the kicking position.

Both Aaron Boumerhi and Austin Jones are, by all accounts, even this season.

One is a senior and one is a sophomore.

For the solution, Collins only needs to open the Bible and look for the story of King Solomon.  Two women claimed to be the mother of the same child and the King ordered the child be split in two so that the women could share him. One of the women objected, saying she’d rather see the child live with the other mother than be killed. Solomon saw that and declared her the real mother and awarded the child to her.

Collins should, in reality, split this baby this way: The senior, Jones, should get to kick this season and he should redshirt Boumerhi so he has him two years after that.

That’s the logical way to do it. All things being equal, the guy who put the blood sweat and tears into the program longer should be given the benefit of the doubt and Jones seems to be that guy. It was not Jones’ fault that he was the victim of a cheap shot at Memphis and probably should not lose his job because of it. Boumerhi is good, but I don’t see this as a Wally Pipp/Lou Gehrig-type situation where Pipp lost his job because of injury. Jones is not as bad as Pipp nor is Bourmerhi the Lou Gehrig of kickers.

Of course, if the reports are wrong out of camp and one is, err, kicking the crap out of the other than that guy should get the job and the other guy should be redshirted but, according to special teams’ coach Ed Foley, that’s not the case. Foley said that both are outstanding and both are doing well.

On the surface this is a tough decision.

King Solomon, though, would beg to differ.

Friday: The QB Dilemma

Double-Jointed

At least the quarterbacks are not being forced to play other positions.

If we take what Geoff Collins has said as Gospel so far, this season should be interesting.

Take a look at his views on “position flexibility” and depth charts.

One, he believes in; the other he doesn’t.

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Collins has so much position flexibility his roster is double-jointed. Wide receiver Keith Kirkwood has played defensive end, as has fullback Nick Sharga. Linebacker Shaun Bradley has played fullback. Wide receivers have played cornerback.

How much flexibility is too much, though?

To me, position flexibility has always been appealing only in certain areas. The offensive and defensive lines should be interchangeable due to depth concerns. Tackles should be able to play guard and guards tackle and there should be a number of guys able to go in if the center goes down.

Other parts of the field, though, and position flexibility gets you diminishing returns.

The NCAA gives you a finite time to practice and having definite units running plays and schemes has to have priority.

Whether this hurts or helps Temple is one of the things that will make this season interesting.

Another is the depth chart.

Collins doesn’t believe in them, only in a vague concept of “being above or below the line.” Above the line means that you will play and below it means you won’t.

Wonder how NBC-TV broadcasters will react when Collins says he can’t give them a depth chart. Walk into any TV booth, as I have done over the  years as a journalist and the two-deep is right there next to the microphone.

I do not know what an “above-the-line” depth chart looks like.

I guess we will find out soon enough.

Wednesday: Getting Their Kicks

Friday: Quarterback Battle Narrows

 

Recruit Edition, Where Are They Now?

Some Sean Ryan highlights from last year are here. 

Most Philadelphia 76ers’ fans of a certain age will remember Brooklyn’s Erasmus Hall as the place where one of that high school’s greats, Billy Cunningham, put the organization on top of the basketball world twice.

Once, as a player for arguably the greatest NBA team ever, the 1967 Sixers, and once as the coach of the 1983 champs.

Now the City of Philadelphia has dipped into “The Hall” to pluck another great athlete, Sean Ryan, and if he has the same effect on the Temple football organization as Cunningham did on the Philadelphia basketball one, it will be a great ride.

erasmus

Ryan, a wide receiver, already has had an impact on the recruiting rankings. He is Temple’s 19th verbal to date and, so far, the highest-ranked player, period, of any position, head coach Geoff Collins has been able to reel in with his first full recruiting class.

More importantly, the class is ranked No. 47 overall in the country by Rivals.com and No. 1 in the AAC. If the Owls are able to hold it together until the early signing date of December 20th, they stand a very good chance of bettering their highest-ranked recruiting class in the last 10 years.

Amazingly, that mark was not set by Al Golden or Matt Rhule, solid recruiters in their own right, but by Steve Addazio (54, also in his first recruiting year). No. 54 was the highest-rated national recruiting class we could find and that was by Scout.com. In his five years, Golden had the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in the MAC three of those years and he sold that ranking every recruiting night.

Why are recruiting rankings so important?

Trust, but verify. If your coach, like Rhule, is identifying the two-star kids and hitting on them, that’s fine. It’s even better if your coach is getting the kids other highly-paid coaching staffs want.

That’s true with most of Collins’ haul and that’s the main reason why Owl fans should be so excited. Another is that he is out-recruiting the Power 5 teams he will face in 2020, like Rutgers and Maryland. This is a guy who is recruiting like he plans to be around for awhile and not live off the Rhule recruits and exit stage right.

That’s a great sign.

Another player, Rondell Bothroyd, out of Connecticut, turned down his hometown school, Yale, and his home state school, UConn, along with Boston College, for the Owls. He projects as a DE and a really good one because he had 13 sacks as a junior.

The Owls need Bothroyd but might need Ryan more.

Ryan is just the player Temple needs now. While the Owls are deep at receiver, Ventell Bryant, Keith Kirkwood and Adonis Jennings will soon be gone and no one would be surprised if it’s to the NFL. Isaiah Wright is ticketed for stardom, but more in the slot than as a prototypical wide out.

Ryan is that prototypical wide out and, by the time he gets here, there will be plenty of opportunity for him to shine.

Just like another Erasmus Hall guy who made it to Philly.

Monday: Double-Jointed