Watching Temple head coach Matt Rhule address the media one final time before tomorrow’s 3:30 p.m. showdown with Penn State, people in the media had to be struck by one thing he said about being worried the “moment would be too big” for “the kids.” He said he did not think so but just by bringing it up, the thought must have entered his mind. Nowhere in that statement did Rhule express a concern that the moment might be too big for his coaching staff.
The butterflies will be there one way or another tomorrow (3:30) at Lincoln Financial Field and we are both excited and worried about these five things.
- Offensive Coaching
Excited About: Recognition. Both head coach Matt Rhule and OC Marcus Satterfield seemed to say the right things about the fiasco that was the 2014 Temple offense. Rhule said that he would go back to Temple’s offensive brand, which had been running the ball with a high skill level tailback behind a lead-blocking fullback.
Worried About: Backtracking: Nothing that happened the first two years has indicated Satterfield is comfortable calling that kind of offense. It’s not what he ran while winning all of those FCS National Championships at Tennessee-Chattanooga. (Oh wait. He didn’t win any.) Now they are talking about dropping the fullback concept and going back to being “more multiple.” More multiple was the reason they were 126th and last in FBS third-down efficiency.
Excited About: Experience. All 11 starters from the nation’s fourth-best scoring defense return and all 11 guys are flat-out ballers who do not back away from anyone.
Worried About: Lack of Praise. We’re not talking about endorsements from the media here, but a guy in No. 50, Praise Martin-Oguike, who provided the the Owls with a pair dynamite playmakers at DE with Nate D. Smith. Praise might be out and Nate is tough as they come, but will PSU attack the soft underbelly of the Owls’ defense with sweeps to the other side? James Franklin does not get paid $4.4 million a year to overlook those types of things. Also worried about them not rushing Christian Hackenberg, but I do not think they are stupid enough to take that same passive approach two years in a row.
- Running Game
Excited About: Jager Gardner and Ryquell Armstead. Those are two guys who give the Owls what they have not had since Bernard Pierce: A guy with the speed to take it to the house by merely turning the corner. Home run hitters is what they are.
Worried About: Caution. Jahad Thomas, the starter, does not seem to be a home run hitter but a guy who earned the job by having the fewest summer fumbles. Yet we’ve seen both Thomas (Houston game) and Zaire Williams (SMU) caught from behind and a premier Temple running back (Mike Busch, Tommy Sloan, Bobby Harris, Anthony Anderson, Zack Dixon, Kevin Duckett, Paul Palmer, Stacey Mack, Tanardo Sharps, Elmarko Jackson, Bernard Pierce, Matty Brown, and Montel Harris) simply does not get caught from behind. That is not what we do here at Temple. When we break into the open field, we turn it into six. Williams is now a LB. If Thomas breaks free, he must take it to the house to keep his job.
- Tight Ends
Excited About: Colin Thompson. When was the last time Temple had a four-star recruit from the SEC (Florida) transfer here? Answer: Never. The guy has a four-star skill set: speed, size, blocking ability, great hands.
Worried About: Witness Protection. Evidently, no one told Rhule he was on the roster last year by the few times he was targeted. Why not use him the same way both Al Golden and Steve Addazio used Evan Rodriguez? Short little 5-yard waggle rollout passes to keep the rush off P.J. Walker, ala Chester Stewart at Maryland. Then toss an occasional jump pass in the back of the end zone, ala Stewart to Steve Manieri at the fake Miami a few years back. Both films are in the can at the E-O. Rhule might be wise to dust them off one last time tonight.
- Robby Anderson
Excited About: Everything. This is a big time player who makes big-time plays against big-time teams. If, say, UCF was not a moment too big for him two years ago, Penn State will not be now. He’s got a 44-inch vertical leap, sub-4.5 speed, great hands and great moves in the open field.
Worried About: Rule changes. We’re not talking about Matt Rhule changes, but Anderson might not be aware of all the hand gestures that he made two years ago after big catches—even innocent ones—are now automatic 15-yard penalties. He must be schooled to catch the ball, get to the end zone and simply give the ball back to Mr. Official without any histrionics. You would think Matt Rhule would have talked to him about this already, but one team in the TU-PSU game got a critical 15-yard penalty for a throat slash last year.
It was not Penn State.