The mechanics were always impeccable for Anthony Russo.
When recruiting the top-rated class in the league mattered to Temple football, Al Golden would get the deep-pocketed donors—and a few guys like me—gathered into a film room on Signing Day to go over the highlights of the various recruits.
At the time, Golden was not shy about mentioning several times during his talk that Temple had the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in the league by two of the three major internet scouting services.
It was all part of his marketing plan to inject some juice into the fan base and needed regional confidence into the Temple football program.
Then the projector started to whiz and each kid’s highlights were shown. Between the oohhs and the ahhs coming from the darkened room, one voice in the back row exclaimed:
“My God, they all look like O.J. Simpson!!”
(He meant the football player, not the murderer.)
Everyone laughed, even Al.
If you did not know it by then, you learned it later. Sometimes film lies, at least the kind where they splice the good plays in and leave the bad ones on the cutting room floor. If not lies, then fibs.
What doesn’t lie is numbers and that’s why I think Anthony Russo will emerge from this spring practice quarterback battle as No. 1 on the depth chart on Cherry and White Day. All we have to go on between Russo, Frank Nutile (pronounced New Tile, not Nut Ill), Logan Marchi and freshman Todd Centeio, who appears to be headed for a redshirt, are the numbers. Freshman transfer Tommy Wyatt is also in the mix. During his senior year at Overbrook (N.J.), he threw for 2,163 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Not Temple numbers, but their numbers against similar competition. Really, the level of high school football played by Russo and Nutile is at Archbishop Wood and Don Bosco is about as good as it gets. In their senior years at those places, Russo threw 35 touchdown passes and 2,452 yards against Nutile’s 13 and 1,458 in his best high school season. Russo was first-team All-State in Pennsylvania, and would join Adam DiMichele (Sto-Rox) and Steve Joachim (Haverford High) as the only first-team AP All-State Pennsylvania quarterbacks to start at Temple. One brought a program back from the dead; the other won the Maxwell Award as the best college football player in America.
That’s pretty good company.
The most important numbers are these: In his last two years as a starter, Russo was 26-1 with one state championship and one state final appearance. Nutile, by contrast, was 7-4 in his only complete high school season. Marchi, who has been called a poor man’s Johnny Manziel, has not played a full season since 2013, his senior year in high school.
That doesn’t mean Russo will be handed the job, nor should he want it handed to him. It also doesn’t mean the other guys are chumps. No less an authority than new offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude has gone on record as saying that Temple fans should have confidence in all of the quarterbacks since he thinks they can all be effective at this level.
Nutile, a second-team All-State (non-Public), had his best season as a junior when he passed for 1,458 yards with 13 touchdown passes.
Marchi has Russo-like numbers playing at a smaller-enrollment high school (St. Paul’s, Bristol, Connecticut), throwing for 3,220 yards and 38 touchdowns as a senior. He is also an accomplished punter (hint: trick play potential?), having had 1,077 yards on 32 punts as a sophomore.
The one thing Marchi has going for him is his elusiveness and Temple might need him if the Owls’ offensive line played the way it did against Wake Forest, which, to be kind, was not good. A lot of that was some incredibly poor coaching as Jahad Thomas and Ryquell Armstead were asked to run behind NFL potential first-round pick Dion Dawkins only once. Dawkins was twiddling his thumbs most of the night as the Owls ran to the wrong side. Stevie Wonder probably could have done a better job of coaching the Owls that night than the group of impostors who showed up.
Since that whole night seemed to be a misnomer, the guess here is that this is Anthony Russo’s job to lose and, knowing the kid’s make-up, he will not lose it.
Wednesday: Workout Warriors
Friday: The Spring Game