Just after the Cincinnati game, a fellow Temple fan who I have known through the dark days said something that gave me pause.
“Without P.J. next year, we’re screwed,” he said.
“Nah,” I said, “(Anthony) Russo’s really good.”
“How do we know?” he said.
“He was probably the best quarterback I’ve ever seen at the high school level.”
“That was HIGH SCHOOL,” he shot back.
“Relax, I know.”
…. And the discussion went on and on like that and he started pissing me off.
My real business, long before getting into this Temple football blogging thing as a side piece, was covering high school football for some 30 years for two local newspapers, the final 15 at the Philadelphia Inquirer. In that time, I’ve gotten very good at separating the wheat from the chaff. I’ve watched 15 Russo games in person and several more on television.
He is the real deal from a great league, much like St. Joseph’s Prep’s Rich Gannon was the real deal before becoming a NFL MVP. I saw Matt Ryan play at Penn Charter and Tom Savage play at Cardinal O’Hara. Anthony Russo on the same level was significantly better than all three and I usually always side with the older guys. He is well-prepared for a great career at Temple.
Trust me, Russo is the wheat and everybody else is the chaff.
While all we know at this point is that Anthony Russo will battle Logan Marchi and Frank Nutile for the starting quarterback job at Temple next year, it really isn’t a fair fight from where I’m standing. It’s a little like Chuck Wepner against Ali (Muhammad, not Kareem). The kid not only has talent, but the moxie, the drive to succeed and the “it” factor other ex-Temple quarterbacks did not have.
Russo excelled at about the highest level of high school football there is. Temple has not recruited a quarterback on his level of achievement ever. A transfer, Steve Joachim, was certainly of his ability and skill set but that was a transfer who played in games for a Top 10 team (Penn State) before coming to Temple. Joachim was a good-enough athlete to be named first-team All-State in both basketball and football. He ended up winning the Maxwell Award as the national College Football Player of the Year at Temple (beating out Heisman winner Archie Griffin of Ohio State).
Russo is an Elite 11 quarterback, who independent of his 35 touchdown passes in his senior year for state champion Archbishop Wood, was given the stamp of approval by none other than Trent Dilfer, who is both an analyst and a quarterback guru. Even though Dilfer is a Super Bowl winner, he is much better at analyzing the quarterback position than playing it. Russo throws a great deep ball and his footwork and field vision is impeccable, allowing him to choose from multiple targets at the exact same time. The best thing about this kid is his humble personality. He does not assume he is better than everyone else and he is willing to compete for everything. Look who is the person (No. 15) at the end of this video congratulating P.J.:
Does this mean Russo will be better than P.J. right away? No, because other factors go into this equation like offensive line play but, by the end of four years, Russo will break a few of P.J.’s records and that will be a good thing for Temple. Another factor that concerns me is that he is opening against Notre Dame. I wish that opponent was Villanova so he could get his feet wet, but those are factors beyond Temple’s control. No worries, though, Anthony Russo will be just fine.
I’m betting on great and it is a house and farm bet. Hell, I’ll throw in the 2004 Chevy Cavalier with 138,000 miles on it.
My friend has agita for no good reason.
Monday: Cherry and White Bowls Matter