In the bible, Isaiah is considered the prophet of hope.
When the persuasive recruiting powers of Matt Rhule lured Isaiah Wright to Temple over a number of Power 5 schools, that hope referred to his versatility and talent in a number of capacities. Wright was (and is) a special talent.
Wright could have been a NFL-level wide receiver (and he still can) but Rhule was so intrigued last year by the true freshman’s talent he tried him in the Stony Brook game at tailback. The experiment was a qualified success: Seven carries, 46 yards in 97-degree heat in a 38-0 win. Wright showed a great first step and, unlike teammate Ryquell Armstead, was a multiple-cut runner who could make a defense miss at the second level. He is like Matt Brown and Jahad Thomas in that respect. Armstead is like Bernard Pierce, a one-cut runner. Now, more than ever, Temple needs to utilize Wright at the tailback position, but does this staff even realize that or know Wright has a short but productive history at that position?
After last year’s Stony Brook game, Rhule said what he found out was that Wright could be a great tailback option should anything happen to his then top two ball carriers, Thomas or Armstead. Since both Armstead and Thomas rushed for over 900 yards last year, that two-headed monster was enough to produce an AAC championship but Rhule still created a role for Wright as the wildcat quarterback and a part-time wide receiver. “We have to find ways to get him the ball in space,” Rhule said.
Rhule, though, always filed Wright in the tailback fallback file. Rhule felt Wright was the tailback of the future. Why Geoff Collins and Dave Patenaude don’t is a mystery to me.
That’s one of the reasons, to me at least, this new staff is so disappointing in so many areas.
Last week, we called out this staff for the underuse of Wright (only two touches in the prior two games) and, shockingly, the emphasis on Wright’s touches changed for the better. Here’s what happened: Wright, only a part-time wide receiver, has led the Owls in receiving in three of five games. His endzone catch for a TD against UMass made ESPN Sports’ Center’s Top 10 plays. Against Houston, he had five catches for 53 yards and six carries out of the Wildcat for eight yards. Those latter numbers were diminished because any good offensive coordinator knows for a Wildcat to work, you’ve got to have the Wildcat quarterback throw up to half the time. Unfortunately, Temple does not have a good offensive coordinator. When the Owls shifted into the Wildcat, you could hear the Houston players from the first row in Section 122 scream “13, 13!!!!” because they knew he was going to run the ball. Have him throw a quick pass and they back off. That quick pass never came.
Armstead is fighting through injuries like the warrior he is, but he is nowhere near explosive as he was a year ago. David Hood is nothing more than a third-down back, ala David Meggett of Giants’ fame. Jager Gardner is injured and out for the season. Collins is talking about using a walk-on who did nothing in the Philadelphia Public League at running back. Ugh.
Wright is the perfect answer to put in that spot, and nobody at the E-O seems to have a clue.
The same thing applies for Nick Sharga, who is being criminally underused at fullback, considering that new head coach Geoff Collins called him the “best fullback in the country.” Sharga is also the team’s best linebacker, but this staff doesn’t seem to know or care about Sharga’s past history at the position–which included an outstanding performance two years ago in a 34-12 win over Memphis. The Owls only have Sharga for one more season and they better be able to use his multiple talents to help this team win. If they are only going to play him 15 plays or less on offense, which they have done in all five games, use him for 15 or more on defense at linebacker. Instead, in the summer, his “position of flexibility” was defensive end, not linebacker. Ugh (again). In no metric world is Sharga a defensive end. He’s a fullback/linebacker. Temple has plenty of experienced DEs; it could use Sharga’s experience at linebacker now.
Put Wright at tailback and Sharga at part-time linebacker and, for Temple, hope turns into a winning reality and a lot of positive plays get made on both sides of the ball.
With this staff, though, do not hold your breath.
That’s why this ECU game will probably go down to a field goal either way and that’s not the kind of result a defending league champion with this much talent returning should ever accept, even grudgingly.
Tomorrow: ECU Preview